Arlington school officials are being pressed by one board member to be more specific in analyzing data related to graduation and drop-out rates of minority students.
School Board Vice Chairman Tannia Talento says minority students – those classified as black, Latino and Asian – could end up “falling through the cracks” if more attention isn’t given to their individual cases.
Talento’s main concern centers on minority students who are proficient in English but face challenges related to getting to graduation day.
Arlington’s on-time-graduation rate for the Class of 2018 varied by racial and ethnic group: 99 percent for white students, 96 percent for Asian students, 94 percent for black students and 82 percent for Latino students. What those broad-brush figures do not show is the differential in rates between students who are new to the U.S. and the English language, and those who are proficient or native speakers of English.
“We need to break this out,” Talento said of the data. “Are we actually meeting the needs of all our students who are Hispanic – same with the Asian population and the black population? Is there a way we can see that data?”
“A lot of people assume that if you’re Hispanic in APS, you are an English-language learner,” Talento said, but pointed to herself as an exception: She is native-born and grew up proficient in English, but still faced headwinds learning in Arlington’s schools – dropping out at one point and garnering a high-school diploma through one of the school system’s alternative programs.
Laura Newton, the school system’s director of student services, said Talento’s own experience was emblematic of how the school system should be operating.
“Individualized or personalized learning is the answer,” Newton said, pointing to a range of efforts that have been put in place in recent years to cut drop-out rates and increase the number of students who graduate high school in four years.
Though not without bobbles up and down, the efforts seem to be working. The 2018 on-time-graduation rate marked the sixth year in a row it stood above 90 percent, and the dropout rate of 5 percent was the lowest since a rate of 3.8 percent was reported in 2014.