The state released the recalculated figures of high school graduation rates yesterday. While many school districts across the state struggle to come to terms with graduation rates in the sixty percent range, Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) is patting itself on the back. At 82.6%, Wake County has one of the highest graduation rates in the state, second only to Chapel-Hill/Carboro at 90.2%. But before the folks at WCPSS get carried away by their success, I’d like to serve up some humble pie.
An 82.6% graduation rate still means that almost 1 out of every 5 students is not graduating in four years. While better than the state average, those statistics are far from acceptable.
At closer look at the numbers reveals large discrepancies between subgroups, in particular
Students from the three risk groups (students with disabilities, students eligible for free or reduced lunches, and students with limited English proficiency) had graduation rates that were substantially below those of other students.
The graduation rates for these three subgroups were 62.8 (disabilities), 59.1 (free/reduced lunch), and 51.5 (limited English).
These new finding confirm that poverty has a significant impact on school success. Students whose families are struggling economically are also struggling academically.
I suspect that if we looked at these figures across the state, we will find that the counties with the lowest graduation rates also have the highest poverty rates.
If North Carolina wants to improve its academic performance then, ultimately, poverty must be addressed. Raising the minimum wage was a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to guarantee that all households enjoy a living income. A State Earned Income Tax Credit is another proven means of reducing the poverty rate that could, it seems fair to say, have a positive impact on the number of students graduating with a high school diploma.