W.Va. high school graduation rate third-highest in nation

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s high school graduation rate of nearly 90 percent was the third-highest in the nation last year, state Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine said Thursday July 12.

The exact number is 89.4 percent, and that puts the Mountain State just behind Iowa, with its 91.3 graduation rate, and New Jersey, which graduated 90.1 percent of its seniors.

That number shows a steady increase. The state’s graduation rate in 1993, for instance, was 79.3 percent.

“Many great things are happening within West Virginia’s public schools that may go unnoticed,” he said.

“It is important to take time to share that information,” he continued, “because there are so many teachers, students and communities working hard for educational success.”

Paine compiled the numbers in “The State of Education 2018,” a 20-page report released Thursday that showed the data and direction behind that effort.

More than 54 percent of those graduating seniors enrolled in college, according to the report.

And 40 percent of those seniors scored a 3 or higher on an advanced placement course, which made them eligible for college credit.

Other benchmarks: A total of 37 percent of students, seniors and otherwise, completed at least one Career and Technical Education course of study in 2017; and 76 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in pre-kindergarten that year.

The state still lags in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in math and reading for fourth- and eighth-graders, Paine said.

Fourth-graders in the state averaged 35 percent math proficiency on the NAEP opposed to national proficiency rates of 40 percent. Eighth-graders here were at 24 percent, versus the national rate of 34 percent.

On the NAEP reading scale, fourth-graders here averaged 32 percent proficiency, with the national proficiency rate of 36 percent. Eighth-graders were off the 36 national proficiency averages, with their collective mark of 28 percent.

The mission now, Paine said, is to turn the math numbers around while changing up the narrative in reading.

In the meantime, education in relatively prosperous Monongalia County is like everywhere else: You get what you pay for.

That’s why the county’s three public high schools earned positive press from U.S. News and World Report earlier this year.

The publication tagged Morgantown High as the No. 1 high school in the state. University High clocked in at No. 3.

Clay-Battelle High School was ranked the No. 13 high school in the state.

Nancy Walker, who serves on the Monongalia County Board of Education, said  area citizens should also get an A for  effort, since they regularly vote yes for the excess levies that help fuel the district learning machine.

“We always have to thank our community for the support it gives us,” she said.

The report and the superintendent’s remarks arrive after a school year that saw West Virginia gain national attention during a teacher-led  work stoppage that turned into a movement.

“Educators, county superintendents, local boards of education, parents and students were more united than anytime I have seen throughout my 30-year career,” Paine said.

Visit to see a downloadable version of “The State of Education 2018,” report.