NC graduation rates top 80 percent mark

Posted August 2, 2012

— High school graduation rates in North Carolina cracked the 80 percent mark in 2012 for the first time, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction said Thursday.

The graduation rate jumped to 80.2 percent, the highest four-year graduation rate ever reported in the state and nearly 3 percentage points higher than the 2011 rate, according to the DPI's annual ABCs of Education report, which shows how students performed on end-of-year and end-or-course tests in grades 3 through 12.

In 2011, the graduation rate was 77.7 percent. In 2006, the rate was 68.3 percent.

State schools Superintendent June Atkinson called the latest numbers historical.

"It means better opportunity and better economic prospects for the thousands of North Carolina's young adults and their families," she said. "I could not be more proud of our young people, their families and especially our teachers and principals. This is a major step forward."

"Every child needs a high school diploma to compete, and that's just the first step up the ladder," Gov. Beverly Perdue said. "None of us are proud of 80 percent, but wow, it's a good day, a great way forward for North Carolina."

The largest gain in 2012 came among Hispanic students, who went from a 68.8 percent rate in 2010-11 to 74.6 percent last year. American Indian students also improved, from 69.7 percent to 73.7 percent over the same period.

Graduation rates were up among other local school districts, including those in Durham, Lee and Wayne counties.

Graduation NC graduation rates top 80 percent mark

Durham Public Schools' four-year graduation rate was 77 percent, an increase of 3.1 percent points from 2011.

Lee County Schools' graduation rate was 84 percent, up from 80.4 percent last year.

Wayne County Schools saw an 80.1 percent graduation rate, compared to 74.6 percent the previous year.

In Wake County, 80.8 percent of high school students graduated, about the same from the previous year.

The improving graduation rate immediately became a question of whether North Carolina's schools were doing better despite recession-era funding cuts that have forced schools to hire fewer teachers even as enrollments increased. About 1.5 million students attend the state's public schools.

NC schools Superintendent June Atkinson DPI releases NC schools proficiency results

"We haven't had the type of fiscal support that we should have had for the last couple of years," state school board chairman Bill Harrison said. "And there is great poverty in this state, regardless of what members of the General Assembly seem to think. There are kids who are in need."

State House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, praised students, parents and school staff and downplayed the role of funding.

"Our graduation rate shows that improving our education system is not simply a matter of dollars and cents," Tillis said in a statement. "We must continue to give superintendents, principals and teachers more flexibility and ensure that education is driven by factors inside the classroom rather than by distant administrations and political rhetoric."

The ABCs of Education report also shows that 79.5 percent of schools met or exceeded their academic growth standards, a decline from 81.4 percent in 2010-11 and 88 percent in 2009-10.

The report also showed nearly four in 10 of the 660,000 students in grades 3 through 8 were not reading and calculating math at grade level.

There was improvement with the 2,500 public schools meeting learning objectives in reading and math for their overall student bodies, while also hitting separately measured goals for minority groups, students from low-income or limited-English households, and disabled students.

Fifteen schools are considered low-performing schools, meaning less than half of students scored at or above achievement level.

Down from six a year ago, three of those schools were in Halifax County, where a Superior Court judge in 2009 ordered the state to intervene because of low test scores.

Halifax County Schools officials say the district has improved by an average of nearly 10 percentage points since 2008-09, and the district's high school graduation rates also jumped from 71.9 percent in 2011 to 75.5 percent in 2012.

The report also included Annual Measurable Objectives scores for the first time, a model that replaced the federal Adequate Yearly Progress standard required by the No Child Left Behind law. North Carolina is among a number of states that have been granted federal waivers from No Child Left Behind requirements.

Under the new system, schools report a total number of specific targets for groups of students along with how many of those target were met.

Under the old performance system, schools were required to meet all targets for groups of students to pass. The new system allows them to show progress in a given number of targets without having to pass every one.

Last year, 1,165 schools in North Carolina, or 46.2 percent, met all their annual measurable objectives.


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  • Sherlock Aug 10, 2012

    Want a good test, just ask anyone of the grads to count money back without looking at the registrater and see if they get it right?

  • Sherlock Aug 10, 2012

    Because the schools are fixing the test scores and the testing..

  • mustainemad Aug 6, 2012

    You guys don't really believe this stuff, do 'ya???? Numbers can be made to say anything you want them to say.

  • beckerboy Aug 3, 2012

    It's interesting how every generation thinks they are the last one who actually had to learn something in school. When I was in high school in the 80s, my parents and grandparents thought standards were too easy and school was a joke. If public schools are so broken, why do so many posters here think that they are so incredibly brilliant? I'd be willing to bet that most of them couldn't come close to passing a current ninth grade EOC in Algebra I, English I, or Biology I. Fortunately, passing judgement and commenting on things you know nothing about requires no formal education whatsoever.

  • Crumps Br0ther Aug 3, 2012

    Great! But do they know anything?

    /congrats class of 2012. Welcome to the real world Muhahahahahaha!

  • bbqchicken Aug 3, 2012

    lazydawg58, The only reason the rates have increased is because students are allowed to re-take classes during the summer online whereas in the past it was simply unheard of. Sure, requirements may have risen, but most students today lack maturity and are often giving second and third chances to "make-up" work. This isn't reality nor does it prepare them for the real world or college.
    Lamborghini Mercy

    There still has been a summer school which students or parents rather would have to pay for. If I remember correct that was only for one class.

  • bbqchicken Aug 3, 2012

    I've flown in airplanes several times. That doesn't make me qualified to pilot a plane or to work on one as a mechanic. beckerboy

    Pretty bad analogy and not even close to relation.

  • Lamborghini Mercy Aug 3, 2012

    lazydawg58, The only reason the rates have increased is because students are allowed to re-take classes during the summer online whereas in the past it was simply unheard of. Sure, requirements may have risen, but most students today lack maturity and are often giving second and third chances to "make-up" work. This isn't reality nor does it prepare them for the real world or college.

  • lazydawg58 Aug 3, 2012

    I'm confused as to where people get the idea that high school has been made easier in recent times. I believe requirements have actually gone up considerably over the years. For instance every student is required to pass algebra now. UNC system admission requirements have gone up so students tend to take more higher level classes to make sure they qualify. Contrary to what some assume, vocational classes require plenty of hard work. Schools aren't giving out diplomas to any and everyone, the students do earn them. I think sometimes we forget that 18 year olds are still works in progress. There is still a lot for them to learn and a lot of growth and maturity that will take place. They might in fact be a lot more prepared for the world that awaits them than many of you were at that age. Most people tend to view their experiences with a great deal of distortion and judge others (educators, students) based on that distorted view, not reality.

  • issymayake Aug 3, 2012


    That's doubtful. We won't see the effects of the budget cuts of 2009-2011 until at earliest next year. If the graduation rate drops back to around 63% where NC has been historically, then we'll have solid proof that the cuts were detrimental.