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Graduation Rates for Hispanic Students Among Lowest in Virginia: How Do Local School Departments Measure?

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Graduation rates for Hispanic students in Virginia are among the lowest in the Commonwealth, raising questions about the cause of this disparity and what is being done to rectify it.

According to Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) data for the Class of 2022, Richmond City Public Schools (RPS) had the lowest on-time graduation rate for their Hispanic students in the state. According to a recent school board presentation, the school department saw this rate decrease by 13.5% from the previous school year.

“Whether it’s this group or another group or just students, in general our goal is for all students to graduate with the skills they need to be ready for life,” Dr. Thomas Ferrell, Jr., director of high school education for Henrico County Public Schools, said. “If a student doesn’t graduate on time, I think we should all be concerned as a county and think about what we can do to support students and families.”

The on-time graduation rate of Latino students at Henrico County Public Schools is also lower than any other ethnic group in their student body.

The dates by school class for the class of 2022 are as follows:

During a school board meeting in October, RPS officials reviewed student and teacher surveys at George Wythe High School, which had the highest dropout rate in the 2021-22 school year.

According to the presentation, the teachers surveyed cited chronic absenteeism, cultural differences, and a lack of educational, social, emotional, and bilingual resources as factors in Latinos’ on-time graduation rates. Meanwhile, the students surveyed said their parents wanted to be more involved but were limited due to work schedules and a lack of bilingual support.

To address this discrepancy, school leaders said they would connect families with bilingual mental health support and introduce newly arriving families to the US education system. The presentation also noted that the school department would embed bilingual tutors in on-call classrooms throughout the year to support instruction and exam preparation.

Similarly, in Henrico County, Ferrell told 8News that the school department is running a pilot program for newcomers at JR Tucker High School.

“These students later returned to school in their teenage years and in many cases are nearly 18 years old,” he said. “The goal here is to work to improve credit accumulation and also language skills, in addition to providing additional support from a designated school counselor to help with emotional support and instruction.”

Ferrell also cited the coronavirus pandemic as a factor in the school department’s lower on-time graduation rate for Latino students.

“What we’ve seen as a result of the pandemic is we’re seeing more families that are struggling financially, have been displaced and things like that,” he said. “I know the data says that across the country, Hispanics have been hit the hardest. But we have seen some challenges with many of our populations in Henrico County and in other parts of the country.”

Although on-time graduation rates for Hispanic students are among the lowest for any ethnic group across the Commonwealweal, there are other data points that VDOE considers such as: B. Students who are economically disadvantaged, English learners or the homeless.

These dates for the Class of 2022 are below:

  • Chesterfield County Public Schools
    • Economically disadvantaged: 83.9%
    • English learners: 72.8%
    • Homeless: 77.6%
  • District of Hanover Public schools
    • Economically disadvantaged: 88.1%
    • English learners: 70%
    • Homeless: N/A
  • Henrico County Public Schools
    • Economically disadvantaged: 84%
    • English learners: 56.9%
    • Homeless: 71.4%
  • Public Schools in Richmond
    • Economically disadvantaged: 81.2%
    • English learners: 37.9%
    • Homeless: 89.3%

“If you look at our dropout data, there seem to be some language and engagement barriers for our multilingual learners,” Ferrell said. “Additionally, we note that many of these students face the challenge of being economically disadvantaged and, in some cases, potentially dropping out of school to seek employment.”

8News also reached out to Chesterfield and Hanover County Public Schools for information on what those departments are doing to improve the lower graduation rates for Latino students.

Although a spokesman for Chesterfield Schools did not provide specific information for the Hispanic population, a press release said the school department will “continue to devote resources to helping more students graduate four years from now, and students again.” to engage those who have been cut short by initiatives including graduation coaches and reaching out to students who are no longer attending school to help them re-engage with learning.”

In Hanover County, a spokesman said the school department hired two additional teachers in this year’s budget to accommodate the growing number of English learners. This spokesperson also noted that the number of students learning the English language has increased over the past 10 years, nearly trebling in that period.

“We’re working to find different ways to involve our families, such as expanding communications to more languages ​​and more ways, like mentorships, flexible scheduling, and teacher training specific to certain cultures,” said Ferrell of Henrico County Public Schools. “We want all of our students to be successful and achieve the goals they set for themselves.”

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