The Longview School District’s four-year graduation rate rose to 78.9 percent this year, putting the district on the cusp of finally matching the state average, according to preliminary numbers released Monday at a school board meeting.
It’s the third straight year the district has improved upon its four-year graduation rate, which rose from 75.5 percent last year. Overall, the district’s four-year graduation rate has risen by more than 10 percentage points since it stood at 67 percent in 2012.
R.A. Long High School has emerged as a resounding success story, boasting a four-year graduation rate of 90 percent. That’s up from 82.7 percent in 2014.
The districtwide improvement is also due to an impressive turnaround at Discovery High School. Since 2014, the four-year graduation rate at Discovery, the district’s alternative high school, has shot up from 14.3 percent to 43.4 percent.
Credit-deficient students come to Discovery from one of the district’s more traditional high schools and arrive about a year behind their peers. The school serves roughly 70 all-day students and 20 “virtual” students. Discovery students take a combination of online and project-based courses at their own pace, allowing them to recoup credits in a shorter amount of time than it would take at a typical high school.
Jill Diehl, who was the principal at Discovery for the last four years, said in an interview that changing the building’s environment was key to improving its graduation rate.
Diehl and her team adopted several new programs designed to help teachers connect with students on an individual basis. Discovery’s staff also holds regular meetings with the parents of students who struggle, Diehl said. They have also placed an emphasis on attendance, she said.
“We really addressed absences,” she added.
Diehl now has a new role as the district’s career and technical education director.
Discovery’s five-year graduation rate has also improved markedly since 2014, nearly doubling from 22.7 percent to 39.6 percent.
With Discovery’s improved graduation rate, it’s possible the Longview School District could finally surpass the statewide average. The state has not yet released its estimate for the average four-year graduation rate this year. Last year, that number stood at 79.1 percent.
Both Mark Morris High School and R.A. Long High School beat that mark this year. Mark Morris posted a four-year graduation rate of 81.4 percent, down from 86.7 percent a year ago.
The improved graduation rate at R.A. Long is especially impressive given that the school was once known as a “dropout factory.”
According to data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the school’s estimated annual on-time graduation rate was just 52.9 percent during the 2005-2006 school year.
The school’s graduation rate started an upward climb shortly after R.A. Long Principal Rich Reeves was hired in 2008.
Since the 2008-2009 school year, R.A. Long’s on-time graduation rate has improved nearly 30 percent.