Wake County Schools

Wake County schools graduation rate falls below state average

Posted September 17, 2013

— The Wake County Public School System's high school graduation rate dipped below the state average in the 2012-13 school year, according to recently released numbers from the state Department of Public Instruction.

It's the first time since the state started tracking county-by-county graduation rates in 2006 that Wake County has fallen below average. 

The numbers prompted lengthy discussions at the Wake County Board of Education's work session Tuesday afternoon.

"If we want to stay at the top, then we need to buckle down and redouble our efforts," said school board Chairman Keith Sutton. 

Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, said the graduation rate in Wake County has been holding steady in recent years, and even went up slightly last year to 81 percent.

"The incremental gains we have been making – they are small, but incremental," she said. "We need to accelerate (those gains). We need to be doing better than this."

Superintendent Jim Merrill said principals have offered some ideas for improving graduation rates.

Wake school board member Jim Martin Wake schools look to improve graduation rates

"They thought graduation coaches were very effective, and yet the budget reduced them to half time a few years ago," Merrill said.

School system staff presented the board with graphs showing that improving reading in early elementary school could improve students' chances of getting their high school diploma.

"Are we looking at best practices in our elementary school that are leading to good graduation rates?" asked school board member Jim Martin.

School board member Tom Benton said he would like to see data on whether "there are definite points in the career of a student where we know that if we do not get heavily involved in intervention, their success of graduating becomes very slim." 

The school board plans to discuss the issue at its upcoming retreat.


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  • westernwake1 Sep 20, 2013

    "About a decade ago, Wake Superintendent Bill McNeal had an ambitious goal of having 95% of 3rd and 8th graders reading at or above grade level. He also worked to narrow the achievement gap...." - Karey Harwood

    Let me fix this for you..."About a decade ago, Wake Superintendent Bill McNeal had an ambitious goal of hiding Wake County's student achievement issues by bussing students all over the county to mask the problems at particular schools. This led to a situation where chronic achievement issues in particular racial groups were hidden and never addressed. This is reflected in the graduation rates and test scores of minorities in Wake during his entire tenure."

  • westernwake1 Sep 20, 2013

    Natalie Blake - Thank you for posting the UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute link. Some excellent material.


    It seems that this is more of a situation that the rest of North Carolina has caught up and slighly exceeded Wake County in graduation rate rather than a situation where Wake County has been falling to drop below the state graduation rate average.

  • Natalie Blake Sep 19, 2013

    UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute created an interactive tool that analyzes high school graduation trends in NC and provides some suggestions for understanding changes of graduation rates over time. The research places specific emphasis on Wake and Mecklenburg Counties: http://ui.uncc.edu/story/hs-graduation-rate-north-carolina-trend-map. At the state level, NC has shown dramatic improvement - increasing graduation rates from 68% in 2006 to 82.5% in 2013. This is the highest graduation rate in our state’s history. As stated in the research, Wake County’s graduation rate held steady from 2007-2010, and then increased in 2011 and 2013.

  • seeingthru Sep 19, 2013

    The kids have to want to learn. That's the problem apathy, couldn't care less. Money can't fix that.

  • Karey Harwood Sep 19, 2013

    About a decade ago, Wake Superintendent Bill McNeal had an ambitious goal of having 95% of 3rd and 8th graders reading at or above grade level. He also worked to narrow the achievement gap. The focused energy of that goal brought significant gains for WCPSS students. A similar focus now, with attention to school based solutions, can help improve our graduation rates. Principals and teachers know best what works. Graduation coaches and other innovations are needed, but so is adequate funding and the public's support.

  • Johanna Anderson Sep 19, 2013

    The district is right to pay attention to early grade reading. See more about the effects of third grade reading proficiency on high school graduation rate in this report: http://gradelevelreading.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Double-Jeopardy-Report-030812-for-web1.pdf. Stopping summer learning loss, providing early childhood education, and increasing school attendance are three strategies shown to help. But along the entire PreK-12 spectrum, we know that nothing matters more in school than a quality teacher.

  • hiddentreasurescruecds Sep 19, 2013

    "I know many kids that have been asked to drop out so as to not count against the schools grad rate"

    It doesn't work that way. Any 9th grader who doesn't graduate in 4 years counts against the graduation rate. If he drops out he DEFINITELY counts lol. If he takes 5 years, it counts against the rate. Where do you get your "facts"?

  • josephlawrence43 Sep 18, 2013

    Unless I am mistaken, wasn't it announced not long ago that either Wake Co, or maybe the State was graduating an exceptionally high number of students?? Now this--so what gives???

  • Milkman Sep 18, 2013

    I'm sure the school board and administration dealing with almost losing accreditation, sordid affairs of board members, firing those that disagreed politically, school bus pick up times, etc all helped take the eyes off the ball that graduating from high school was important. Maybe Wake should fire everyone at the top and hire those from Granville or Person County to did better for a whole lot less money.

  • teddyspaghetti Sep 18, 2013

    I recently went to a fast food establishment and paid cash for my order.....the bill came to $13.76, so I gave the kid $20.01.

    He had no clue how to make change for that! He tried to give me back the penny because it made it too complicated!