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NC Reports Progress On High School Graduation Rate

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File photo of a classroom. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a classroom. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s high school graduation rate showed improvement again last year, with more than eight out of 10 earning a diploma within four years of starting, the state’s education agency reported Thursday.

The state Department of Public Instruction said 82 percent of students who started high school graduated within four years. That’s up from 80 percent last year and 68 percent in 2006, when the state began reporting the four-year graduation rate.

Minority students showed even greater improvement. Three out of four Hispanic students now graduate in four years, up from about half in 2006, the report said. American Indian students saw their graduation rates improve by 22 percentage points, while black students saw an improvement of 17 percentage points.

The report includes graduation rates for each of the state’s public high schools, for each of the 115 school districts and for the state overall. About 1.5 million students attend the state’s public schools.

State leaders praised the improvement and the state’s teachers, though there’s disagreement over why North Carolina’s schools are doing better despite recession-era funding cuts that have forced schools to hire fewer teachers while enrollments increase.

“These impressive graduation gains are a testament to the hard work and talent of our classroom teachers and school principals who have not taken their eyes off the goal of graduating career and college-ready students,” Gov. Pat McCrory said.

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey, a former congressman McCrory appointed to the position, also praised educators. But the state’s schools aren’t close to ensuring all our students graduate ready for a career or college, Cobey said. More than six out of 10 recent high school graduates are forced to enroll in at least one remedial course after arriving at a North Carolina community college,

“While we should be pleased that the percentage of high school graduates continues to climb, there are indications that a number of the state’s public school graduates have not obtained the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in college or in a career. Quantity is not the same as quality,” said Terry Stoops, who studies education policy at the conservative John Locke Foundation in Raleigh.

The graduation rates are calculated according to federal rules, but state policy considers students who leave high school for a community college general equivalency degree or adult high school program as dropouts. A student also is counted as a dropout if he or she transfers to another high school but the new school doesn’t request the student’s records.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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