VWSD graduation rates improving

Published 6:51 pm Monday, February 19, 2018

The Vicksburg Warren School District’s graduation rates continue to move in the right direction, but still have room to improve.

In data released by the Mississippi Department of Education Feb. 15, VWSD showed a nearly 2 percent increase in graduation rate for the class of 2017 compared to the class of 2016 as the district improved its graduation rate from 70.6 percent to 72.4 percent.

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The increase in graduation rate continued an upward trend for the district over the last five years, from a low point of 58.5 percent for the class of 2013.

“While we are encouraged by the steady increase in our graduation rate and pleased that the rate is higher than it has been in many years, there is still more work to be done,” superintendent Chad Shealy said. “The VWSD is dedicated to graduating all students college career ready and prepared for life.”

The graduation rate is measured by tracking the number of students who graduate within four years of starting ninth grade. The current graduation rate is based upon students who began ninth grade during the 2013-14 school year and graduated by July 31, 2017, Shealy said.

Despite the increase, VWSD still lags behind the state average, which is an 83 percent graduation rate. Over the last five years, the state average has climbed from 74.5 percent to 83 percent.

“VWSD has made gains since 2014, and is steadily closing the gap between the district’s four-year graduation rate and the state’s average rate,” Shealy said. “Each year, the district has moved closer to that number and that trend is expected to continue. VWSD is improving more rapidly than the state. While the state increased 7.5 percentage points between 2013 and 2018, VWSD increased 12.6 percentage points during the same time period.”

VWSD had 623 graduates in the class of 2017. Vicksburg High School had a graduation rate of 71.3 percent and Warren Central had a graduation rate of 73.6 percent according to numbers provided by the district.

Of the 623 graduates, 570, or 91.5 percent, of all graduates were considered to be “economically disadvantaged” by MDE

“The district is always working to expand educational opportunities for all our students and targeting students with greater needs,” Shealy said. “Our graduation rate for students who are identified as economically disadvantaged is actually higher than that of the district as a whole as 74.7 percent of our economically disadvantaged students graduated while the rate for the entire district is 72.4.”

Although VWSD saw an increase in graduation rate, the district still had the sixth highest dropout rate in the state at 20.9 percent. According to numbers provided by the district, Vicksburg High’s dropout rate was 22.6 percent and Warren Central’s was 19 percent.

Shealy said they are working to improve the graduation rate and decrease the dropout rate by implementing new programs such as Leader in Me, which was rolled out districtwide this school year, and the career academy programs, which will be fully implemented at the high schools next year.

“The District is building relevancy into the high school experience by transitioning both Vicksburg High School and Warren Central High School into academy models,” Shealy said. “The Vicksburg Warren College and Career Academies are transforming how high school students learn and lead. We are restructuring key aspects of our high schools by integrating curriculum, schedules, on- and off-campus experiences and family and community engagement within our high school structure.”

The district has also implemented a program called STAR academy geared towards assisting junior high students who have fallen or more years behind grade level. Shealy said they also expect the continual expansion of pre-K programs to pay dividends down the road.

“The addition of pre-K programs will have a direct impact on graduation rate and dropout rate by increasing exposure of students at an earlier age to literacy, a key to both increasing student success toward graduation and reduction of dropout rates,” Shealy said.

MDE also reported that the district had the sixth worst graduation rate for students with disabilities at only 9.5 percent.

“Our district begins early intervention for students identified as disabled even prior to the third birthday to ensure that students are receiving supports to foster a nurturing educational environment conducive to overcoming areas of deficit which gives them a greater opportunity to catch up to peers otherwise identified as non-disabled,” Shealy said. “Our district has increased the opportunity for all students to be included in all general education settings to ensure exposure early on to the general education curriculum.”

The graduation rates released by MDE Thursday will be used as part of the metric to determine VWSD’s 2018 accountability score. The full report can be found at mdereports.mdek12.org/report/report2018.aspx.