Graduation rate drops in Rowan-Salisbury School System

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Elizabeth Cook
Salisbury Post
The graduation rate for Rowan-Salisbury Schools did not show improvement in the most recent report from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Only 66.2 percent of students who entered high school four years ago received diplomas in 2008-09, compared to 70.9 percent of the class ahead of them. That’s what the state refers to as the “four-year cohort.”
The rate for students graduating in five years ó the five-year cohort ó fell slightly, from 73.9 percent to 73.1 percent, according to the state.
School officials vowed in a press release to do better.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said improving the graduation rate is a high priority for the school system.
“I want to see all our students stay in school and graduate from high school with a diploma and be successful in their lives,” Grissom said.
“The task of raising the graduation rate requires a joint effort of schools, parents, and our community. We are fortunate to have more and more people coming forward to work with us to achieve these goals for our students.”
Dr. Jim Emerson, chair of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, said the system would keep pushing.
“Although we are not happy with our district’s graduation rate, we do have many programs in place to help students to stay in school and graduate from high school within four years,” Emerson said.
The 2008-09 report showed a greater percentage of girls graduating than boys. Here’s the demographic breakdown for the four-year cohort:
– Male: 61.3 percent
– Female: 71.3 percent
– White: 71 percent
– Black: 54.9 percent
– Hispanic: 55.7 percent
– Multi-racial: 63.2 percent
– Asian: 73.1 percent
– Native American: 66.7 percent.
West Rowan High School had the highest graduation rate, 81.5 percent. Here are the four-year cohort rates for individual schools, from highest to lowest:
– West Rowan, 81.5 percent
– East Rowan: 77.1 percent.
– Carson: 76.2 percent
– South: 65.4
– North Rowan: 61 percent.
– Salisbury, 59.4 percent
– Henderson Independent, an alternative school, 10.4 percent.
Cabarrus County schools had a four-year cohort rate of 74.7 percent, with Northwest Cabarrus graduating 82.6 percent. A.L. Brown High, the only high school in the Kannapolis City system, graduated 69.6 percent.
Statewide, the four-year rate was 71.7 percent in 2008-09, up from 70.3 percent the previous year.
The cohort graduation rate, first reported in 2006, shows the percentage of ninth graders who received a high school diploma four years later.
A five-year rate is also reported because some high school programs are now designed to take more than four years to complete.
Students who transfer into a school are included in cohort graduation rate calculations; students who transfer to another school are removed.
The cohort graduation rate is another academic indicator required by No Child Left Behind for schools that graduate students at the end of grade 12.
The target for a high school to meet this adequate-yearly-progress indicator is 80 percent or an improvement over the previous year’s four-year cohort rate.
Rowan-Salisbury Schools have several initiatives aimed at improving graduation and dropout rates:
– A $6 million federal grant that focuses on at-risk factors and will involve community members working with students to address problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, bullying and gang activity.
– The Rowan County Early College program.
– School-specific programs.
– The district’s alternative school program at Henderson.
– Two dropout prevention grants that offer help from mentors, tutors, flexible schedules and summer academic camps.