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NEWS RELEASES 2008-09

NEWS RELEASES 2008-09 :: AUGUST 7, 2008

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2008 COHORT GRADUATION RATE RELEASED

State's graduation rate up slightly for four and five year rates

Slightly more high school students are graduating in four years or less, according to North Carolina's four-year cohort graduation rate for the graduating class of 2008, presented by the NC Department of Public Instruction to the State Board of Education today. In 2008, 69.9 percent of the students who started ninth grade in 2004-05 had completed high school in four years or less. The four-year cohort graduation rate in 2007 (for those students who entered ninth grade in 2003-04) was 69.5 percent.

Some students require a fifth year of high school in order to complete graduation requirements. The five-year cohort graduation rate for students who entered ninth grade in 2003-04 (class of 2007) also was presented today, showing a five-year graduation rate of 71.8 percent, up from the five-year rate for the 2002-03 ninth graders (Class of 2006) of 70.3 percent.

Graduation Awareness Week is Sept. 7-13 in North Carolina, and State Superintendent June Atkinson encouraged school districts and communities to use this observance to draw attention to the importance of high school graduation and to the need to improve North Carolina's graduation rate. Efforts to drive home "Message: Graduate!" include a press release, a proclamation by Gov. Mike Easley, a community support agreement, local graduation benchmarks, student pledge cards, and other resources.

"Students in North Carolina need to hear one message from kindergarten all the way through school. And that message is: graduate!" Atkinson said. "This needs to be the minimum expectation for every student."

Since the fall of 2002, local school districts have been keeping a careful accounting of each ninth grader as he or she moves through high school. This record keeping provides the state with an accurate count of how many students graduate with a diploma in four years. Today's report provided four- and five-year cohort graduation rates for each of the state's regular and charter public high schools, for each of the 115 school districts, and for the state overall.

North Carolina is one of the first states to comply with the agreement of the National Governors Association compact, a plan begun in 2005 by the nation's governors to implement a common formula to calculate each state's graduation rate. In 2008, 16 states are using the NGA Compact formula.

Results show a range of four-year cohort rates:

 
All Students 69.9 percent
Asian 80.9 percent
Black 62.3 percent
Hispanic 56.2 percent
Multi-Racial 68.4 percent
Native American 55.7 percent
White 75.2 percent
Economically Disadvantaged 58.7 percent
Limited English Proficient 49.6 percent
Students with Disabilities 56.2 percent

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee challenged schools and communities to provide the encouragement, support and expectations students need to stay in school. "The world is going to be a very tough place for young people who enter the workforce without a high school diploma. In reality, a high school diploma is a minimum requirement. Students are going to need additional schooling and training in order to support themselves and their families," Lee said.

While 69.9 percent is the current four-year cohort graduation rate, that does not mean that 30.1 percent of the students have dropped out. There are students who remain in high school beyond four years, and it is likely that some of them will be counted in the next five-year cohort graduation rate when it is reported in 2009.

Each state sets its own rules about meeting high school graduation requirements. In North Carolina, students who leave high school for a community college GED or adult high school program are counted as dropouts under state policy. Also, the cohort graduation rate does not count students with disabilities who complete the 12th grade but do not qualify for a standard diploma and instead earn a Certificate of Achievement or Graduation Certificate. In addition, school officials only identify a student as a transfer to another high school when the receiving school requests the student's records.

North Carolina has a number of efforts underway to help strengthen the high school experience for all students. These efforts include Learn and Earn/Early College high school programs, which provide students with the opportunity to pursue a rigorous five-year high school curriculum in which they can earn both a high school diploma and an associate's degree or two years of college credit. Eighteen new Learn and Earn schools will open this fall with a total of 60 operating at community colleges and universities across the state. Through the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, North Carolina also has created New Schools Project high schools that are designed to be more focused and rigorous in smaller learning communities for students and teachers. For 2008-09, there are 42 of these redesigned schools in operation, including schools focused on engineering, health care, and biotechnology.

Seventy-five low-performing high schools and 40 low-performing middle schools are receiving additional targeted assistance through the State Board of Education's Turnaround Initiative, and the 200 lowest-performing middle schools have 21st century literacy coaches to help ensure that students have the reading skills they need to succeed in high school. Local districts also are implementing ninth grade academies, career counseling and course credit recovery programs, to address the needs of their students.

The full report on the state's cohort rate is available online. District graduation (xls, 32.5kb) reports are available, and school graduation reports (xls, 93.5kb) are available. For more information, please contact the NCDPI Communication's division at 919.807.3450.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.


For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.