A word from Superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

Closing thoughts: Why would graduation rates matter to a community?

A word from superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

Graduation rates are something all schools across the nation focus on, especially at this point in the year. For a high school administrative team, there is always a last-minute push for those who are at risk of not graduating. Of course, we want as many students as possible to graduate and to find their “&” along the way. For some students, graduation is not a guarantee though. School districts around Texas and the nation try just about everything we can think of to help students successfully graduate. Victoria ISD has historically had great success with students who are at risk of not graduating and in the past few years, because of additional layers of support, we have recently made progress in graduating even more students. This is cause for celebration.

This year, we are graduating 115 students from our Credit Recovery Program. Students in credit recovery are at risk of not graduating and our program is designed to give them unprecedented levels of support in a non-traditional classroom environment. Credit recovery is especially effective with students who
benefit from more structured learning environments. 115 students are an awesome number and we should be thrilled. Some may go on to work, others may pursue certifications, and some might be heading to college. We are proud of these students. Each of these students should expect better overall health through the remainder of their lives, have increased lifespan, and will report generally being happier than had they not graduated. These trends have been studied and verified for decades.

This year, we began a partnership with Graduation Alliance. I am sure you are thinking every district in Texas has this type of partnership and that is not true. In fact, this is yet another area where VISD is on the cutting edge as there are only two districts in the state that have implemented a program based on the new
legislation from last session (TEC 29.081) around Optional Flexible School Day Program with Graduation Alliance. VISD and Fort Worth are the two districts, and VISD is graduating more total students than Fort Worth (our success rate is about 8 times greater). By every measure, we are the leaders in the state. This
program supports those students who continue to struggle even with the support of credit recovery. In fact, the way a student qualifies for Graduation Alliance is by their intent to drop out. In addition to students with the intent to drop out, Graduation Alliance is committed to recapturing students who have already dropped
out earlier this year and even last year. VISD is disciplined about finding students even after they chose to leave and giving them a chance to come back and graduate. Graduation Alliance is VISD’s way of saying we refuse to give up, under any circumstances, on a student’s future. We simply will not take “no” for an answer.
We are crushing it, largely due to our relentless focus on process improvement. This year, Graduation Alliance is helping us graduate an anticipated 12 students.

127 students have graduated from VISD that were dangerously close to not graduating. This obviously matters to the students, their families, and the school district, but does it matter to the community? This is a fair question. Here is one way to think about it.

I spent some time on the Social Security Administration website this week doing some research for this article. I was curious about the most recent data on the difference between median lifetime earnings for students who don’t graduate high school and those that do. Lifetime earnings are the total accumulated earnings over 50 years from age 20 to age 69. I will be using the most conservative numbers for this article (median lifetime earnings that have been controlled for key socio-demographic variables and probabilities). The difference in lifetime earnings for those who graduate high school from those who don’t is $410,000. Each student receiving a diploma will, on average, realize a difference of over $400k in lifetime earnings.

Think for a moment about that dollar amount and where that money in lifetime earnings will be spent. Restaurants, movie theaters, clothes, houses, cars, etc. Most of it will be spent in our community. A student who was at risk of not graduating and who earns their diploma is an investment in the future of our community. Some of you may have already done the math, but just in case you haven’t and are curious… 127 students multiplied by $410,000 equates to just over $52,000,000 in lifetime earnings that will mostly be reinvested in our own community. This is just one of many reasons every student matters and why we refuse to give up on our kids.

By  Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.