Wake County Schools

Wake County schools graduation rate falls below state average

Posted September 17, 2013 10:54 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2013 11:34 p.m. EDT

— 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.

"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.