08/09/13 — County graduation rate drops

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County graduation rate drops

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 9, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County Public Schools' four-year cohort graduation rate dropped 2.5 percent for 2012-2013, from 80.1 percent to 77.6 percent, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

By contrast, the state has shown improvement, with more than eight out of 10 earning a diploma within four years of starting high school. DPI said 82 percent of students accomplished that, up from 80 percent last year and 68 percent in 2006, when the state began reporting the four-year graduation rate.

The report reflected graduation rates for the 115 school districts and the state overall. An estimated 1.5 million students attend the state's public schools.

In recent years, the WCPS rate had shown a steady increase. It had risen from 73.6 percent to 74.7 two years ago, then spiked last year to 80.1 percent.

Ken Derksen, director of communication services, pointed out that while the overall percentage for the district fell slightly, since 2006 the local rate has climbed 16.1 percentage points, in contrast to 14 percent for the state.

"Wayne County Public Schools also saw an increase in the five-year cohort graduation rate, which rose to 81.5 percent, just 1.6 percent below the state's five-year average," he said.

Wayne Early/Middle College High School, introduced on the Wayne Community College campus in 2006, has led the school system and held steady in the past few years with a graduation rate of 100 percent.

Of the remaining seven public high schools in the district, four others also met the federal standard of an 80 percent cohort graduation rate: Charles B. Aycock, with 82.3 percent; Eastern Wayne, 84.5; Rosewood, 85.6; and Wayne School of Engineering, 97.4. Goldsboro High's rate was 72.7 percent. Southern Wayne came in at 70.6 percent and Spring Creek High at 75.7 percent.

"While we are disappointed that our overall percentage fell this past year, we are pleased to see that several of our schools have continued to exceed the federal goal," said Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent. "Five of our eight high schools met the federal goal of 80 percent, and an additional school, Goldsboro High School, increased its graduation rate to 72.2 percent, its highest rating since the state began tracking this statistic.

"We will analyze the data carefully to determine factors contributing to changes in cohort rates for each of our schools and work diligently to identify strategies for improvement. It is important to note that some students require a little extra time to complete the graduation requirements, and we are pleased to see the increase in our five-year rate."

The graduation rates are calculated according to federal rules. But under state policy, in North Carolina students who leave high school, even if they attend community college, attain a GED or adult high school diploma and complete graduation requirements, are considered dropouts. Students can also be considered a dropout if a transfer to another high school is not confirmed.

The state report also showed that minority students showed marked improvement this year. Three out of four Hispanic students now graduate in four years, up from about half in 2006, the report said. The rate for American Indian students went up 22 percentage points, while black students had an increase of 17 percentage points.

State leaders praised the improvement and the state's teachers, especially during a climate fraught with funding cuts that have forced schools to hire fewer teachers while enrollments increase.

At the same time, Bill Cobey, state Board of Education chairman, pointed out that the state's schools aren't close to ensuring every high school graduate is ready for a career or college. More than six out of 10 recent high school graduates are forced to enroll in at least one remedial course after arriving at a community college, he said.

--The Associated Press contributed to this story.