Arlington School Board boundary adjustments

Arlington School Board members Abby Raphael and Nancy Van Doren.

Arlington Pubic Schools’ efforts to knock down its dropout rate took a step backward over the past year, but school leaders say they expect positive trends to return.

The school system’s dropout rate for 2014-15 stood at 4.2 percent, according to figures reported by the Virginia Department of Education, up from 3.8 percent and a turnaround from efforts that saw the rate cut by two-thirds since 2009.

Speaking to the Arlington County Democratic Committee on Oct. 7, School Board Vice Chairman Nancy Van Doren did not defend the bump up, but said it needed to be taken in context – the number of dropouts last year was 61, compared to 56 a year before.

Efforts are in place to get those students back in class and on the road to a diploma, Van Doren said.

“We take care of those kids every summer to make sure they get past the finish line,” she said.

Cutting the school system’s dropout rate has been a major goal of the school system since it hired Patrick Murphy as superintendent six years ago. The rate by the late 2000s had grown to double digits (11.9 percent in 2009), an embarrassment to school officials who promised “world-class” educational standards and spent more per student than any school district in the commonwealth to achieve them.

Statewide, the dropout rate for the Class of 2015 was 5.2 percent, down from 5.4 percent a year before, according to state officials.

Seventy-three school divisions had dropout rates lower than the state as a whole, and 58 divisions had higher rates, according to figures reported Sept. 29.