Posted on 10/29/2017
Jackson Middle School student using her laptop while sitting on the window sill.

Roanoke City Schools are making the grade, especially when you compare us to other urban school systems in Virginia.  These significant accomplishments were highlighted in an op-ed piece in The Roanoke Times, written by School Board Vice-Chairman Mark Cathey.  Below is Mr. Cathey's commentary from the newspaper: 

By Mark Cathey

Cathey is Vice Chairman of the Roanoke School Board.

Roanoke City schools are on a winning streak. If you haven’t been paying attention, we want to remind you that RCPS is even better than you think.

Our on-time graduation rate is 89.7 percent. We think this fairly rounds up to 90 percent. We are thrilled to have 9 out of 10 of our students graduate on time. Our on-time graduation rate for white students is 87.8 percent and our on-time graduation rate for African-American students is 90 percent. 83.16 percent of Roanoke City students are eligible for free lunch (eighth highest in the Commonwealth); of the top 30 free lunch percentage districts in Virginia, we are fifth in accredited schools and eighth in on-time graduation rate.

Also, 95.8 percent of our schools are fully accredited. Of our two high schools, five middle schools and seventeen elementary schools, only one elementary school is partially accredited. That school has received special care over the summer and a new principal, and we are shooting for 100 percent accreditation by the end of this school year.

Virginia schools receive accreditation based on their SOL test pass rates (high schools also must meet a “graduation and completion index”). Our expedited SOL retake efforts were addressed in a recent article in the Roanoke Times. Our retake efforts were created by the General Assembly and were properly and lovingly administered by our very fine teachers and professional staff. As often happens, our efforts in this area will serve as a model for other districts.

Almost 12 percent of our students are English Language Learners. Our English language learners have an incredible 95.6 percent graduation rate. 2.97 percent of our students are homeless; our homeless students have an 80 percent graduation rate.

Also, 15.04 percent of our students are special education students; 87.9 percent of our special education students graduate on time.

As you can tell by all of the numbers above (numbers you can check for yourself on the Virginia Department of Education website) our district’s success is supported by hard data. Another way that we look at this hard data is that we compare it to demographically similar school systems: Lynchburg, Richmond, Hampton, and Norfolk. We also compare to our neighbor, Roanoke County:

Accredited School Percentage / On Time Graduation Rate

Roanoke 95.8% 90.0%

Hampton 65.5% 91.4%

Lynchburg 43.8% 86.4%

Norfolk 61.4% 81.3%

Richmond 40.9% 76.6%

Roanoke County 100% 94.2%

Our system understands that success for students is not possible without a strong and resilient staff of educators and administrators. We have incredible teachers in Roanoke City; highly educated, deeply committed and hard-working. We have a very strong slate of dedicated principals and administrators, including skilled instructional coaches and subject matter leaders.

We serve all kids and strive for preparedness in all fields. College bound kids can apply for CCAP, the Community College Access Program, which provides free tuition at Virginia Western Community College. Workforce-bound kids at both high schools can receive valuable career and technical education industry certifications from ROTEC. Our Roanoke Valley Governor’s School is an award-winning high school academic program with a 100 percent college placement rate. Virginia Living magazine recognized both William Fleming and Patrick Henry high schools as top high schools in 2017. Our kids who need a lift or a hand in high school can attend our excellent Forest Park Academy. All of our students have superb opportunities to participate in fine arts and athletics.

We are not coasting on our progress. In addition to getting our last elementary school accredited, we have approved construction of a new gym at Hurt Park Elementary and an entire new Fallon Park Elementary school. We are figuring out how to keep our teachers and staff well paid and provided for. We are working hard not to lose any ground in testing.

Roanoke City Public Schools is having an unprecedented level of success. We’re on a winning streak, and we are probably better than you think.

40 Douglass Avenue NW, Roanoke, VA24012 Phone 540-853-2502