According to the Virginia Department of Education, the drop-out rate for Charlottesville high school students is 13 percent.
How would you address this question? What measures would you recommend, specifically, to lower the rate?
As of last year, the state is calculating the dropout rate in a new, more accurate manner than in prior years, tracking individual students starting in ninth grade. Obviously the factors leading to a student’s high school success or failure start much earlier than ninth grade; therefore it is impossible to defeat the dropout problem even over several years of making all the right moves educationally. Moreover, because the educational needs of all children start at birth, every positive educational change will ultimately increase his or her chances of remaining in school.
As a public school division, we take all comers regardless of aptitude, educational background, grade level, or other circumstance. While every school division has a set of challenges, Charlottesville’s student population presents a particularly unusual array of educational challenges for a small division.
On the one hand, we have a large number of children who will go on to the finest universities and become doctors, lawyers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and captains of industry. We ensure that these students stay challenged by providing an excellent gifted education program, honors classes, and about 20 AP and dual enrollment courses. On the other end of the spectrum, we have many children with great educational needs. For example, about 10 percent of our students use English as a second language (with about 50 different native languages). Half were refugees arriving with little or no knowledge of English; many had no education even in their own countries. Charlottesville also has a large number of group homes and, sadly, still has a significant population of economically disadvantaged families whose children are statistically at risk educationally.