Vance County sets graduation rate record of 73 percent
The Class of 2014 made Vance County School’s four-year cohort graduation rate a record high this year. And that has teachers, administrators and staff feeling encouraged, according to administrators.
About a year ago, Superintendent Ronald Gregory blasted the county’s performance after the Department of Public Instruction released data showing only 64.9 percent of its 2013 senior class graduated — the worst rate among all 115 school districts in North Carolina.
This year, he said he was pleased.
“I think overall we did very well,” he said. “At least we are not dead last like reported before.”
The number of students who entered high school in 2010-2011 and graduated on time increased 8.1 percentage points and now rests at 73 percent — the district’s highest rate since DPI changed the methodology nine years ago.
Vance County is 110th of the 115 school districts in the state. Thirteen school systems were at 90 percent or higher, 56 equaled or bettered the state’s record average of 83.8 percent, and only seven were at 75 percent or less.
Eighty-two school districts were at a rate of 80 percent or higher, and none were below 70 percent for the first time.
“We are excited,” said Trixie Brooks, an assistant superintendent. “Everything is moving along.”
Still, 139 seniors who entered the ninth grade in 2010 didn’t graduate this past spring. That makes for more than 900 students in the last five years who didn’t enter and exit high school within four years.
“We have some schools who have done very well and some schools are still struggling, but the bottom line is we have to look at how students are faring,” Gregory said.
Brooks said it will be hard work catching up with the state’s rate. But small improvements encourage teachers and administrators to keep going.
“Our goal is to continue to narrow the gap between the state’s graduation and our graduation rate,” she said. “It’s definitely going up. Of course, our real goal is to have 100 percent of our students graduating.”
State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a release Thursday she was proud.
“In today’s world, graduating from high school is a minimum requirement for students who hope to be competitive in the workplace,” she said in the release. “Congratulations to our students for their hard work.”
Northern Vance High School, which graduated 71.7 percent of the 2010 freshmen, and Southern Vance High School, which graduated 78.4 percent, were still listed as DPI’s low performing schools. Vance County Early College checked in at 84.4 percent and Western Vance, an alternative school for at-risk students, was greater than 95 percent.
Brooks said it important for the district to utilize the career and technical training options, such as the medical and fire and rescue academies, now offered.
“If students don’t understand the practical application of what they are learning, then we lose them,” she said. “If one students drops out, it’s one too many.”
Vance’s rate passed Warren County’s, currently at 71.7 percent — down from 75.3 percent last year.
Granville County had a graduation rate of 79 percent. Franklin County, Vance’s other border neighbor, had a rate of 84.4 percent.
J.F. Webb Health and Life Sciences had a graduation rate of 89 percent. J.F. Webb High was at 70.5 percent. In Warren County, the early college high school had a rate of 88.5 percent, Warren New Tech was 88 percent and Warren County High was 62.6 percent.
Brooks said Vance County Schools will continue to implement its credit recovery programs — such as the online programs held after school and during the summer — but plans to put more emphasis on students keeping up rather than catching up.
She said by tracking their progress throughout the school year and educating eight-graders about the credit system before their freshman year, the district will continue to improve.
“Our students are hungry for success right now,” she said. “So they are willing to take the additional courses and extra steps, and they are willing to do what they need to do.”
Gregory said he wants the district to stay focused.
“I think the bottom line in all of this is to be focused on what school is all about and giving students hope,” he said. “Once they have hope, then our students will know that they can do this. “
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COHORT GRADUATION RATES
CLASS OF 2014
• Top 10 percent
Avery County 95.0
Dare County 93.3
Union County 92.6
Newton Conover 92.5
Alleghany County 92.2
Yancey County 92.1
Caldwell County 90.9
Catawba County 90.8
Chapel Hill-Carrboro 90.7
Cherokee County 90.7
Clay County 90.7
Burke County 90.3
• Bottom 10 percent
Hoke County 70.7
Northampton County 70.7
Warren County 71.7
Vance County 73.0
Halifax County 74.6
Rockingham County 75.4
Bladen County 76.0
Hertford County 76.0
Person County 76.0
Nash-Rocky Mount 76.7