Wake County Schools

Graduation rate, test scores up in Wake schools

Posted July 15, 2011 12:12 p.m. EDT

— Wake County schools' graduation rate has improved in the past three years, and elementary and middle schoolers, particularly minority groups, are scoring better on tests, Superintendent Tony Tata announced Friday.

The four-year graduation rate rose nearly two points to 80.4 percent in 2011 from a year earlier. The rate had been basically stable, around 78 percent, since a three-point drop in 2007.

The largest gain came among Hispanic students, who went from a 51.1 percent graduation rate in 2009 to 64.7 percent last year. Black students also improved, from 63.4 percent to 67.2 percent over the same period.

More than 90 percent of white and Asian students graduated last year.

Tata credited the improvement to schools' efforts to reach out to groups of at-risk students over the past couple years. Staffers identified at-risk students' individual needs, and dozens of community groups and volunteers helped get more resources to the students, he said.

He praised administrators at one elementary school who, when they realized students were being read to at home, set aside 30 minutes each day for students to read independently.

Preliminary results show that grades 3-5 and 6-8 had three-point gains from three years ago in the rate of students scoring as proficient on end-of-course tests. Eighty percent of elementary schoolers were rated as proficient, and 81 percent of middle schoolers.

High schoolers slipped back one point, to 83 percent, in 2011, after posting a five-point gain the year before. Tata said he thinks that dip is temporary and that high school scores will continue to go up. 

The biggest improvement on tests came from Hispanic high schoolers, who turned in an 11-point jump in the number of proficient scores, from 64 percent in 2009 to 75 percent in 2011.

Proficient scores for black and Hispanic students in elementary, middle and high school also went up by more than five points over that same time period.

Scores for white and Asian students remained consistent or posted small gains during that time, with at least 92 percent of students scoring proficient at all grade levels.

Tata singled out 12 schools to recognize for strong growth. Half were in eastern Wake County, where student achievement has been a struggle.

River Oaks Middle School saw a 14-point rise in test scores, while Wakelon and Zebulon elementary schools both posted 13-point gains.

Tata said he believes that achievement growth, particularly in eastern Wake County, will help parents pick schools under a new student assignment policy.

The superintendent cautioned that the state Department of Public Instruction won't release the final scores until next week, but he said the preliminary scores are generally reliable.