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Virginia’s Use of Individual Student Identifier Leads to More Reliable Dropout Data

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“The publication of these cohort reports represents a milestone in the commonwealth’s effort to account for every student.”

Of the 96,152 students who began high school in Virginia in 2004 and were scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2008, 8,347, or 8.7 percent, dropped out before earning their high school diploma, according to the latest statistics from the Virginia Department of Education, compared to approximately 82 percent of students who graduated on time.

Because it assigns an individual student identifier, Virginia was able to track students throughout their high school career. “The publication of these cohort reports represents a milestone in the commonwealth’s effort to account for every student,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright. “This is vital information that will shape efforts at the state and local levels to keep students in school and on track toward earning a diploma.”

After analyzing the data, Virginia officials discovered that students who repeated grades, attended multiple schools, and who were frequently absent were more likely to drop out. For example, 58.8 percent of the students who dropped out repeated at least one grade during high school and 37.4 percent repeated their ninth-grade year. Additionally, 29.4 percent of the dropouts had attendance rates of less than 80 percent during the year before they dropped out, compared to only 2.1 percent who earned their diplomas.

The data also helped officials determine when students were likely to drop out. According to the press release, 55 percent of the students who dropped out did so before the eleventh grade, with 26.9 dropping out during ninth grade and 28 percent doing so in tenth grade. A little more than 20 percent of students dropped out in twelfth grade.

“Using the data from these cohort reports, educators and policymakers can now see where interventions are most urgently needed and identify high schools and school divisions that have developed best practices and strategies that others can emulate and adapt,” saidVirginia Board of Education President Mark E. Emblidge.

The press release and links to school- and state-level data are available at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/NewHome/pressreleases/2009/mar31.html.

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