12/22/10 — Council: Graduation rates still challenge

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Council: Graduation rates still challenge

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 22, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County's high school graduation rate for 2009-2010 showed a slight improvement over the previous year and is just four-tenths of a percent below the state average.

However, even with the 73.8 percent rate, up by 1.8 percent over the previous year, people concerned with education remain disappointed, said Ed Wilson of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Wayne Education Network.

"I think the (school) district going up by 12 percentage points since 2005 is pretty good. It has made some real progress," he said.

One bright spot is that the county's career and technical education students graduate at a higher rate, 86.3 percent, compared to their counterparts in regular programs.

Among surrounding counties, Wayne's graduation rate ranks third behind Wake County, 78.2 percent, and Johnston County, 74.4 percent.

"(Graduation rates) went up a little bit, but are still slightly below the state average," Wilson said. "It continues to show an increase over the years. Out of eight, they are third for surrounding counties and just right below the state average."

Goldsboro High School jumped from 44.8 to 53.7 percent, an increase of 8.9 percent. Spring Creek High School showed an increase of 8.1 percent climbing from 71.4 to 79.5 percent.

Rosewood High School showed a 2.4 percent gain from 80.7 to 83.1 percent.

There were declines as well: Charles B. Aycock High School had a4.5 drop from 82.7 to 78.2 percent; Eastern Wayne High School fell 6.4 percent from 91.1 to 84.7 percent; and Southern Wayne High School fell 0.8 from 70.9 to 70.1 percent.

The Wayne Early Middle College High School rate remained at 100 percent.

Students counted as non-graduates include students who:

* graduate in more than four years

* move out of state and cannot be located

* transfer to a community college's adult high school education program and graduate with a North Carolina high school diploma

* earn a general equivalency diploma

* who drop out of school, but return later and graduate late.

It also includes students with disabilities who earn a graduation certificate.

"I still have a real problem with the graduation rate they use because when you can't find somebody you can't count them," Wilson said. "A lot of these people who move out of state, in particular, some of these kids who go back to Mexico, you don't get anything from them and they may end up graduating and we not know it. Still, it is a fair comparison because everybody has to use the same numbers."

A new report being issued by the Wayne Education Network concerns the performance of career and technical education students.

With a graduation rate of 86.3 percent, these Wayne students ranked third among surrounding school systems and only two-tenths of a percent below the state average of 86.5 percent.

Wake County's graduation rate was 88.1 percent followed by Sampson County at 87.7 percent.

"They have their own standards which have to do with the federal Perkins Act which funds career and technical education," Wilson said. "They have some benchmarks that they have to meet in that. I think they are awful low, but that is what they have. We exceeded the benchmarks for language arts and actually exceeded the one for math, but just by a little bit."

Wayne was third in language arts at 47.6 percent following behind Wake at 57.3 percent and Sampson at 53 percent. The state average was 45.2 percent and the federal benchmark was 35.2 percent.

In math the state average was 78.2 percent compared to 71.9 percent for Wayne County. Wayne ranked eighth among surrounding counties: Wilson, 87.1; Sampson, 82.8; Pitt, 82.3; Johnston, 81.7; Wake, 80.8; Lenoir, 79.9; and Greene, 77.5.

The federal benchmark was 71.2 percent.

"Just looking at this data they perform well and more of them graduate," Wilson said. "Our reason for doing this (report) is there were some comments about kids being in technical education programs. We wanted to look at that data and a higher percent of them graduate than students that are in regular programs.

"I always felt that way. When we had students in co-op at the (Wayne Community) college, the graduation rate was much higher. Most all of those kids graduate. Getting kids involved that is why we are doing the career fair (for middle school students) to try to get these seventh- and eighth-graders to try and understand if they are ever going to be anything that they have to get their high school education."