WHEELING - Nearly all local school districts scored above the national average in 2009-10 when it came to graduating high school students on time, according to data from the West Virginia and Ohio departments of education.
Ohio County Schools was the only district in the local region to score below the national average that year, as in 2009-10 it graduated 77.3 percent of its students on time. According to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Education for the class of 2010, 78 percent of all high school seniors that year graduated on time.
On a state basis, 78 percent of West Virginias 17,651 public high school students in the class of 2010 graduated on time and 81.4 percent of 123,437 students in Ohio graduated on time. West Virginias 2011-12 graduation numbers show marked improvement from 2009-10 for all Northern Panhandle schools. Tyler County had the highest graduation rate at 94 percent and Hancock County was the lowest at 80 percent.
Ohio County Schools jumped from 77.3 percent in 2010 to an 81.4 percent graduation rate in 2012. Superintendent Dianna Vargo cited the expansion of program opportunities at Wheeling Park High School and more parental involvement as the reasons behind the improvement.
"The programs of study at Wheeling Park High School offer many opportunities for student achievement. Theres been a focus on parent involvement and a focus of guidance counselors working with students," Vargo said. "We always like to say whatever students are looking for, they can find it at Wheeling Park High School. One program that is fairly new is the GED Option Pathway program and that program allows students to remain enrolled at Wheeling Park High School and to prepare for the GED test while completing a career and technical program."
Local school districts in Ohio did well compared to state and national averages in 2010. Martins Ferry City, St. Clairsville-Richland City, Barnesville Exempted Village, Buckeye Local, Steubenville City and Switzerland of Ohio Local school districts all had 90 percent or more students earn their diploma in four years. Steubenville City Schools pulled the highest average at 100 percent of students graduating in 2010, as did the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District.
Barnesville Superintendent Randy Lucas cited lack of attendance of one of the primary reasons students fail to graduate high school. According to Lucas, Barnesville graduated 92 percent of its students in 2012, an increase from 90 percent in 2010.
"A lot of times students have the ability to graduate, but they get disinterested and withdraw - lack of attendance gets in the way of graduating," Lucas said. "Our principals and curriculum director worked to make sure students got here every day. An area weve been working on is identifying at-risk students and having conversations with them and giving them a plan to graduate."
Buckeye Local Superintendent Mark Miller said his schools try to offer students a safe environment in which to learn since many kids who do not graduate on time may be affected by their home life or outside influences. Buckeye Local Schools graduated 91.4 percent of students on time in 2010 and 94.5 percent in 2012.
"We have a great staff and good administration that care about the kids. One of the goals of the school is to produce educated citizens to be a productive part of society. With that, we know full well if you dont have a high school diploma, it is going to be difficult to excel in society, so our staff takes a lot of pride to see every student that enters the high school graduates," Miller said.
The dropout rate among students in West Virginia and Ohio public schools remained unchanged from the previous school year at about 4 percent, higher than the national rate of 3.4 percent.