Randolph-Henry High honored with state improvement award

Published 8:11 am Saturday, July 22, 2023

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Randolph-Henry High School (R-H) keeps improving. Test scores are getting better, graduation rates are growing and the school’s dropout rate keeps falling. All of those improvements were recognized this month by the Virginia Department of Education, as R-H became one of only 93 schools in the Commonwealth to receive a Continuous Improvement Exemplar Award.

“We are very proud of the efforts of Randolph-Henry High School’s students and staff that have resulted in the school earning this recognition,” said Dr. Robbie Mason. He works as superintendent of Charlotte County Public Schools. “Our graduation rates have been consistently high for a long time, but in a small school, each additional graduate significantly impacts the overall percentage. Some of our students have had to overcome significant obstacles to graduate and this recognition is a testament to their resilience, as well as the mentoring provided by R-H staff.”

The graduation rate is a focus because it’s higher than the state average. In Virginia, the average graduation rate is 89%. Randolph-Henry High finished this last semester with 92% of seniors graduating on time, a trend that’s been growing even through the pandemic. It’s something that R-H Principal Erin Davis is extremely proud of.

“It takes a strong collective effort to help each senior cross the stage in May,” Davis said. “Our teachers, case managers, school counselors, coaches, support staff, and administrators invest in our students and build strong relationships with them over their four years in high school.”

A senior effort

One of the things Davis and her staff focus on is finishing strong. During a student’s senior year, people check in to see how they’re doing with grades and any other requirements, to make sure each of them crosses that stage.

“During senior year we meet with our seniors frequently to discuss their progress and to ensure that they are on track to meet state requirements,” Davis said. “When a student falls behind in one area, everyone pulls together to help that student recover and regain good standing. It is through great determination and collaboration that each student meets those requirements and takes their place on stage.”

With a school of just over 500 students, Davis says that small size is a benefit in these situations.

“The beauty of working in a small school is knowing your student body, their families, and your staff very well,” she added. “We are able to work together for each and every student. I think our seniors will tell you that even at times where they might be willing to throw in the towel, there are several adults rallying behind them for the last leg of the race. My office has seen a combination of tears, tough conversations, happy dances, and celebratory calls to parents as each box is checked. While graduation can be a stressful time within a high school, working with these students is extremely rewarding.”

Randolph-Henry High improves

But the Exemplar Award isn’t just given for graduation rates. To be eligible, a school has to show improvement in math, reading and science each of the past three years, with a total increase of ten points or more. Now this year’s award removed the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, due to the fact many districts didn’t keep track of those statistics early in the pandemic. But for Randolph-Henry, the growth has been pretty steady.

For the 2021-22 school year, the last one we have full data for, a total of 93% of Randolph-Henry students passed or showed significant improvement on English. By comparison, that’s nearly 20 percentage points higher than the state standard of 75%. The school was well above state standards in math too, with 84% passing. The state standard is 70%. And the numbers were similar in science, with 80% passing. The state standard there is also 70%. Mason said all of these improvements connect with the higher graduation rates.

“Graduation rates are a reflection of the entire high school as graduation represents a four-year journey,” Mason said. “High graduation rates require a commitment from staff and an excellent working relationship with students and their families.”