How's the *Drop-out Initiative* Workin' Out?

Dear Dr. Brandon, Members of the City of Richmond School Board: 
I know things have been really hectic and stressful of late, but I have left repeated messages asking for a comment on the dramatic increase in the drop-out and truancy initiative data and have not yet heard back from either you, the School Board or the RPS public relations officer. 
As I have noted before, one would think that after being caught and castigated so many times before for submitting false or no data to VDOE, and for posting inaccurate information on its own website, that you -- and the members of the Richmond School Board -- would be in a "take no prisoners" frame of mind concerning information that is released with your imprimatur.  
Rather than fire the lawyers who continue to give you and the SB colossally bad advice, it is apparent that you appear to prefer eliminating teachers and teacher aides, instead of kicking the  $1,000 a day legal habit RPS has with the Harrell Chambliss Law Firm. 
The RPS website contains a pair of amazing statements: One admits that RPS is violating Virginia law; the other denies that Richmond’s drop-out initiative has led to a huge increase in drop-outs.

I’ll quote the statements in full:

Richmond Public Schools' on-time graduation rate was 68.67 percent for students in the 2005-2009 cohort. This figure represents close to a three point gain from the 2004-2008 cohort rate of 65.8 percent.

Richmond Public Schools' dropout rate has declined from 15.27 percent in 2003-2004 to 4.25 percent in 2008.

Richmond Public Schools' four-year cohort dropout rate declined from 16.2 percent for 2004-2008 to 14.8 percent for the 2005-2009 cohort.
In Richmond, students with ten or more unexcused absences are considered truant.

Richmond's truancy rate was 8.85 percent during the 2008-2009 school year, down from 9.13 percent for the previous school year.

Va. CODE § 22.1-258 requires each school division to create an attendance plan for any student with five unexcused absences and to schedule a conference after the sixth absence.  The statute then requires that, upon a seventh absence, the division either file a CHINS petition or prosecute the parents.  The Richmond court records show that Richmond is generally ignoring the seventh-absence requirement.

Now we have RPS’s admission that students are not “considered truant” until after “ten or more unexcused absences,” notwithstanding the Virginia law that requires a judicial proceeding after the seventh absence.  Having noticed that ten is greater than seven, we are left to wonder when the Board of Education will discharge its duty to enforce § 22.1-258.

Click on these links to see the data on the VDOE website concerning drop-outs and graduation data.

John Marshall