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Charlottesville, Albemarle high schools set graduation rate records

Nearly 94% of area high school seniors graduated within four years, with half earning advanced diplomas, according to data recently released from the Virginia Department of Education.

As it has previously, Western Albemarle High School led all the area high schools with 99% of students who started high school in 2017 graduating on-time.

Charlottesville High School posted its highest graduation rate ever at 96.4%, and Albemarle High School had its highest in more than a decade, graduating 96.1% of its senior class — a seven-point improvement from last year. Virginia has been tracking graduation rates since 2008. Both are the most diverse high schools in the area.

“Obviously, last year was not the senior year we or the students wanted, but our students showed resilience and persevered,” CHS Principal Eric Irizarry said in a news release. “We can all learn from the Class of 2021.”

High schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle County resumed in-person classes for most students in spring 2021.

Statewide, 93% of seniors graduated, up slightly from 92.3% in 2020, and 4.3% of the students dropped out. Across the region, several high schools saw graduation rates rebound after a dip last school year. Students in the Class of 2021 were in the middle of their junior years when schools first closed because of the COVID pandemic.

“In addition to congratulating our 2021 graduates for their perseverance under extraordinary and challenging circumstances, I want to thank the state Board of Education for the emergency guidance it approved last fall that allowed for greater flexibility in the awarding of verified credits toward graduation,” state schools Superintendent James Lane said. “The board’s action — and the emergency waivers I issued last year — ensured that students were not prevented from graduating by pandemic-related factors beyond their control.”

Usually, graduation rates are part of the equation for a high school’s accreditation status with the Virginia Department of Education; however, that rating system has been waived this year because of the pandemic.

Disparities in graduation rates and the types of diplomas earned by different student groups continued locally and throughout Virginia, as they have in previous years. Students can earn either a standard or advanced studies diploma, the latter of which has more rigorous course requirements.

About 52.8% of students in Virginia earned advanced diplomas, while 38% received a standard diploma. Students with disabilities also can earn an applied studies or modified standard diploma.

Those who earn the GED or complete high school without receiving a diploma are not included in the graduation rate calculations, according to the release.

In Central Virginia, graduation rates dropped in six school systems — Buckingham, Fluvanna Greene, Louisa, Madison and Orange counties, though several were higher than the state average. Albemarle County, Charlottesville City and Nelson County saw their graduation rates increase compared with 2020.


At Charlottesville High School, a higher percentage of Black and Hispanic students than in previous years left with an advanced studies diploma.

This spring, 93.8% of Black students graduated on time with 37% earning advanced studies diplomas, which is up from 25.5% in 2019. Among Hispanic students, 90.2% graduated with 48.8% earning advanced studies diplomas. In 2019, 39.3% of Hispanic students earned the advanced studies diploma.

Statewide, 37.4% of Black students and 39% of Hispanic students received the advanced studies diploma.

Overall, 60.9% of CHS students received an advanced studies diploma — up nine percentage points from 2020 — including 69% of Asian students, all of whom graduated on-time. Among white students, 99.1% graduated and 81.2% had advanced diplomas.

“Congratulations to our students and the teachers, staff, and families who supported them from pre-K or kindergarten until they crossed the graduation stage,” Irizarry said. “Our school counselors, social workers, and senior mentors deserve a lot of credit. And we also want to thank the Joint PTO for their generous financial assistance that directly supported some of our seniors.”

Charlottesville set a record in 2019 when 95.7% of the graduating class earned diplomas. The School Board and division leaders have focused on graduating more students for several years and point to CHS’s track record as a bright spot in efforts to close the achievement gap.

In 2008, 74.6% of students graduated on time and 13.2% of students dropped out, according to division data. This year, 2.2% of students dropped out.

“We are so proud of our students, families, and staff members who have worked so hard to stay connected and make progress throughout the pandemic,” Acting Superintendent Jim Henderson said in the release.

Albemarle County

By graduating 96% of its Class of 2021, Albemarle High School reversed a several-years decline in graduation rates. In 2017, 95.7% of AHS students graduated on-time and that figure has steadily dropped since.

AHS also graduated 100% of its Asian students, 95.8% of its Black students, 93.50% of its economically disadvantaged students, 87% of its Hispanic students and 90% of those with disabilities.

A little more than a third of Black and Hispanic students earned advanced studies diplomas compared with 77.06% of white students and 89.8% of Asian students. Overall, 64.97% of AHS students earned advanced studies diplomas.

At Monticello High School, 95.1% of students graduated within four years. That includes 97.8% of Black students, 89.1% of Hispanic students and 98.1% of those with disabilities, which is up from 78.9% in 2017.

About 56% of Monticello seniors earned advanced studies diplomas, including 41.3% of Black students, 32.6% of Hispanic students and 65% of white students. The school did not have enough Asian students in its graduating students for the data to be publicly reported.

The Community Lab School, the division’s charter school that serves students in sixth through 12th grade, graduated 83.3% of its 12 seniors. Last year, the school posted its highest graduation rate in recent years after 95% of students graduated. But, that graduating class was larger than the Class of 2021.

At Western Albemarle, nearly three-quarters of the 99% of students who graduated on-time earned advanced studies diplomas, including 73% of white students. The school also graduated all of the Asian students and those with disabilities in the Class of 2021, though the percentages for advanced studies diplomas were not publicly reported.


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