Fewer local students making it to graduation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
The four-year graduation rate at Rowan-Salisbury high schools fell this past school year, and only one school met the federal graduation target.
The four-year graduation rate ó 67 percent ó lags behind the statewide number by about 3 percentage points, according to data released Thursday by the state and the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
After a year in which graduation rates improved in Rowan-Salisbury schools, local numbers dropped again. Two years ago, 67.6 percent of students graduated high school after four years. The number rose to 70.3 in 2007.
In 2008, Henderson Independent School had the lowest four-year graduation rate ó less than 32 percent.
South Rowan High followed with 62.3 percent. Thatís a drop of almost 8 percentage points from the prior year.
South had the biggest drop behind Henderson, which fell more than 11 percentage points from the prior year.
Only two schools increased their four-year graduation rates ó East Rowan and Salisbury.
Federal No Child Left Behind standards call for an 80 percent graduation rate. Carson High was the only school in the Rowan-Salisbury system to reach that goal. The school had a four-year graduation rate of 86.6 percent.
But even Carsonís rate fell more than 5 percentage points from the prior year.
Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education President Dr. Jim Emerson said the school system ó and parents ó have some work to do.
ěUntil we get parents saying that dropping out is not an option, weíre going to have kids who refuse to (stay in school),î Emerson said.
Emerson hopes a $6 million grant to Rowan-Salisbury schools to fight risk factors among students will help turn around dropout rates. Those risk factors include alcohol and drug abuse, bullying and gang activity.
The money is coming from a Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, in connection with the U.S. Department of Education. The school system will get nearly $1.5 million this school year.
Statewide, the four-year graduation rate rose slightly, from 69.5 percent in 2007 to 69.9 percent in 2008.
Rowan-Salisbury schools Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom was not available Thursday. In a press release, Grissom stated, ěOur graduation rate continues to stay on the front burner as we move forward in developing new programs and partnerships to work towards meeting our childrenís needs in school. … I want to see all our children graduate from high school and be successful in life.î
Since 2002, North Carolina has been tracking four-year graduation rates, starting with ninth-graders.