3/22/12 State is key to increase in U.S. graduation rate

State is key to increase in U.S. graduation rate
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 3/22/12     
Reprinted with permission.

ABSS Graduation Rate
   North Carolina is one of the key states contributing to an increase in the national graduation rate, a student advocacy group said this week.

   And just as the state has succeeded in keeping more students on track to graduate from high school in four years, so too, has the Alamance-Burlington School System.

   A report issued this week during the Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C., said North Carolina has been the fifth-most successful state in increasing its high school graduation rate since the early 1990s — from 68.2 percent graduating in four years in 2002 to 75.1 percent in 2009.

   That put the state in line with the national graduation rate of 75 percent in 2009. The summit and report are the work of America’s Promise Alliance, founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

   The local school system has seen a steady improvement in its four-year graduation rate. Figures available beginning in 2005-06 show the rate increasing from 66.7 percent that year to 75.5 percent in 2010-11.

   While those years do not correspond entirely to the ones the study uses to show progress in the statewide and national rate, they do show significant improvement in recent years. By 2010-11, the statewide graduation rate had improved to 77.7 percent, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

   Within the Alamance-Burlington system, graduation rates vary widely among the six traditional high schools based on the percentage of students who graduate on time after entering high school together as freshman four years earlier:

  • Cummings High School had a 70.6 percent graduation rate for 2010-11, up from 70 percent in 2009-10.
  • Eastern Alamance High School had an 86.7 percent graduation rate for 2010-11, up from 76.6 percent in 2009-10.
  • Graham High School had a 66.4 percent graduation rate for 2010-11, up from 65 percent in 2009-10.
  • Southern Alamance High School had a 76.8 percent graduation rate for 2010-11, up from 74.7 percent in 2009-10.
  • Western Alamance High School had an 86.6 percent graduation rate for 2010-11, up from 84.3 percent in 2009-10.
  • Williams High School had a 75.9 percent graduation rate for 2010-11, down from 81.8 percent in 2009-10.

   During the past several years, school system administrators and local educators have attributed the higher graduation rate to factors including a slow economy that makes it harder for dropouts to find work, as well as extensive efforts within the system to encourage students to stay in school.

   Eastern Alamance principal Dave Ebert said guidance counselors and others there review at the beginning of each school year a list of students who are on track to graduate.

   “The counselors all get together to make sure that everybody’s on track for that to happen,” he said, checking to see that students have signed up for needed courses. All staff members at the school, Ebert said, are matched with three — or in a few cases, two — students to give them support and monitor their progress.

   The school is aggressive in working with students who have dropped out to get them to return. In some cases, dropouts need less than a semester’s worth of classes to graduate.

   “I wanted to come back, but I didn’t know how,” Ebert reported one student as saying.

   — The Associated Press contributed to this story.