Last year at this time, Ohio County schools officials had a dismal report on the high school graduation rate. It was at 74.7 percent - below the state average for West Virginia.
But last week, county school Superintendent Dianna Vargo reported enormous progress has been made. This year, the graduation rate is 81.4 percent, she said during her "State of the Schools" address.
Congratulations clearly are in order. The increase is a tribute to the county's dedicated, innovative teachers, principals and administrators.
Especially interesting is the change to which Vargo attributed much of the credit. She explained the new GED Option Pathway program at Wheeling Park High School has helped keep some students from dropping out before they graduate. It allows them to pursue career and technical training, while remaining enrolled in school and pursuing GED diplomas.
So, again, school personnel - and young students who wisely have used the new program to avoid making serious mistakes in life - deserve praise.
Still, much more remains to be done. Even with the increase in graduation rates, nearly one in five children who start school in Ohio County fail to leave with diplomas.
There is also the matter of ensuring those who do earn diplomas have received the educations they need to succeed in the workplace or go on to colleges or universities.
A key measure of student achievement used by the state Department of Education is the Westest 2, taken by students throughout the state. Wheeling Park High School students' average scores on it have fluctuated substantially during the past few years.
For example, while the percentage of WPHS students achieving "proficient" scores in reading on the Westest 2 is about the same as it was four years ago, results are not as good in mathematics, science and social studies. In math, 60.51 percent of WPHS students earned "proficient" scores during the 2008-09 school year, while just 51.12 percent hit that level for 2012-12.
Again, all involved are to be commended for improving the graduation rate. Now, it's time for Ohio County schools to move on to boosting student achievement.