03/14/12 — Grad rates shift at schools

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Grad rates shift at schools

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 14, 2012 1:46 PM

The graduation rate at Goldsboro High School jumped by 14 percent from 53.7 percent in 2009-10 to 67.7 in 2010-11 while overall the Wayne County Public School system's rate was nearly flat, increasing by only one percent, from 73.6 to 74.6, during the same period.

The overall rate did not keep pace with the state, increasing 3.7 percent to 77.9 percent, which continues to perform better than the local system. And Wayne slipped from third to fourth place compared to eight nearby school systems.

Wake County led the area with a graduation rate of 80.9 followed by Johnston County, 78.7, and Greene County, 76.3 percent.

Overall, Wayne County's graduation rate has increased by 21.3 percent since 2005-06, when it was 61.5 percent. The graduation rate is based on students who start the ninth grade and graduate in four years.

Those were the findings of the latest "report card" issued by the Wayne Education Network on the status of Wayne County Public Schools.

There also continues to be a disparity among individual schools in the county.

For example, Spring Creek High School's rate dropped by 5.9 percent from 79.5 to 73.6, while Charles B. Aycock's rate increased by 3 percent from 78.2 to 81.2.

The only other increase was Rosewood which went up by 0.1 percent from 83.1 to 83.2.

Eastern Wayne's rate fell 0.7 percent from 84.7 to 83.4 and Southern Wayne's by 0.1 percent from 70.1 to 70.

Wayne Early Middle College High School continues to have a 100 percent graduation rate. Wayne School of Engineering had a 90.3 percent rate for its first graduating class.

"In our immediate area we rank fourth," said Ed Wilson, Wayne Education Network chairman. "Greene County jumped up 13 (percentage) points. So that was a big, big jump. We have somebody checking on that -- to talk with them about what did they do to achieve that kind of result.

"Of course, they only have one (high) school. It is a lot different when you have different high schools like we do. It does make a difference."

The graduation coach now in place at Goldsboro High has made a "whole lot of difference" in improving the graduation rate there, he said.

The coaches help keep the students on track and ensure they complete their senior projects, he said. In prior years, students failed to complete the projects and did not graduate, Wilson said.

"Obviously the school is trying to do things as well," he said. "The whole thing is probably not tied up in the graduation coach, but we do think that is an important factor."

The graduation coach program was expanded in 2010-11 to Southern Wayne High School. The program is administered by Communities in Schools and funded by Wayne County.

It is difficult to pinpoint the reason behind the almost 6 percent decline at Spring Creek, he said.

One issue could be the school's high percentage of Hispanic students, some of whom might return to their native countries before graduating and as such are counted as non-graduates.

"They have a larger mixture of students," he said. "I don't know how they rate on reduced and free lunches, but I bet it is really high.

"They think it (decline) is an aberration with a particular group of students. Nothing was done differently. That was a concern because they had a really great year last year."

Wilson said there continues to be concerns as to how the graduation rate is calculated.

"There are a lot of things that happen that make that number lower than we think it ought to be," he said. "There are kids with disabilities and I don't understand why they have to count those folks because they are not ever going to get a high school diploma.

"Also, Hispanic students when they go back to Mexico -- you are not going to get any information. They have to be counted as non-graduates whether they graduate down there or not."

Students counted as non-graduates are those who:

* graduate in more than four years

* have disabilities and who earn a graduation certificate

* move out of state and cannot be located

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

* earn a general equivalency diploma

* drop out of school, return to school and graduate late.

"I know there was an effort on the part of the Eastern Region Chamber of Commerce group -- we were concerned about that (how the rate is calculated)," he said. "There was an effort made to the Department of Public Instruction and they wouldn't change it.

"I keep this in front of people because it is important. It would be easily, in my opinion, up around 80, 81, 82 percent graduation rate if they would take some of this stuff out. One percent is not great, but it is continued improvement."