State graduation rate hits record; VWSD continues to improve

Published 7:50 pm Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mississippi’s graduation rate is higher than ever before, but the Vicksburg Warren School District continues to lag behind the state average.

The Mississippi Department of Education said Thursday that 84 percent of public school seniors graduated in the 2017-2018 school year, the highest mark on record. That’s up from 83 percent in 2016-2017 and 74 percent in 2012-2013.

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The mark is equal to the most recent recorded national graduation rate of 84 percent in 2017.

The state says only 10.1 percent of seniors dropped out of high school without earning a diploma. The rest remain in school or earned an alternate credential to a diploma.

VWSD, however, remains in the bottom ten statewide in both graduation rates and dropout rates despite improvement for the last several school years.

According to the MDE, the graduation rate for VWSD was 72.2 percent in 2017-2018, tenth worst in Mississippi, while the dropout rate for VWSD was 21.1 percent, No. 8 in the state.

For the 2016-2017 school year, the graduation rate was 70.6 rate, while the dropout rate for that school year was 20.9, sixth worst in the state.

VWSD school superintendent Chad Shealy said the improvement in the rate cannot be overlooked and has outpaced the state average over the past five years.

“Our graduation rate has increased from 58.5 percent in 2014 to 72.2 percent in 2018 — a 13.7 point increase,” Shealy said. “This outpaces the state average as it increased only 9.5 points in the same time period. We are proud of the progress that has been made and will continue to work to meet our goal of graduating all students college, career and life prepared.”

To work on more improvement, the VWSD has formed the High School Accountability Commission, which includes faculty and administrators who meet once a month. Their primary responsibility is looking at the high school accountability model focusing on graduation rates, college and career readiness and acceleration blocks.

Significant achievement

State Superintendent Carey Wright called the increase “a significant achievement.” She cited several reasons for the improvement, including efforts to expand career and technical education, the increase in the number of Advanced Placement courses and the rollout in some areas of early college high schools that offer dual high school and college credit.

“I think it’s a laser-like focus on instruction,” Wright said. “I think schools are doing a lot more to keep children engaged in and enjoying learning.”

Improvements in the state’s graduation rates have leveled out in recent years, but Wright said there’s still room for improvement. About 20 school districts last year graduated less than 75 percent of their students in four years.

“I think everyone wants to see more and more of their children graduate,” Wright said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.