The numbers are in - more and more students in the commonwealth are graduating from high school, and on time. A report out Tuesday from the governor's office reveals the rate is now topping 89 percent.
Graduation rates are rising and dropout rates have declined in the Shenandoah Valley. While educators are excited about these accomplishments, leaders say it's been a collaborative effort, and they still hope to continue the trends.
"Everyone's working together for the same goal, which is for student achievement and student success," said Mark Rowicki, principal of Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton.
Rowicki is proud that his students are excelling as a group. Graduation rates climbed by 10 percentage points over the past five years.
"Everyone's working hard together to help these kids prepare. It's not just for graduation, but for what they want to do after graduation," said Rowicki.
He credits the strides to hard work, but also new programs like plus-block, which builds time into the instructional day for students to seek extra help. Aside from that and the increased collaboration across departments, his leadership focuses on preparing students for the real world.
"Yes, we're a high school. And yes, we're trying to get kids through. But we also want to...let's show them what else is out there, because after high school they got to make a decision what they want to do with their lives," said Rowicki.
In Augusta County, students are graduating at a rate well above Virginia's average. This year, it's hit almost 94 percent.
"That's a testament to the hard work of our staff, our teaching staff, our principals, our instructional aides and others who support our students every day, so we're very pleased with the direction we're going in," said Dr. Chuck Bishop, superintendent of Augusta County Schools.
Bishop also tributes success in his classrooms to more one-on-one attention and enrichment programs, but says there is still room for improvement.
"Just because we improve by 4 or 5 percentage points, we're not going to stop now. We are going to strive for 100 percent graduation rate. And certainly, I think our students and our staff are up to that challenge," said Bishop.
Staunton schools also saw a rise in the number of students earning advanced diplomas and skills-based training.
Waynesboro had a city-wide graduation rate of almost 84 percent - which is below the state average - but it did rise several percentage points since last year.
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