The state’s high school graduation rate continues to climb in North Carolina as eight in 10 students entering ninth grade in 2008-2009 completed high school with their peers in four years or less.
In 2005-2006, the first year for which the state cohort graduation rate was calculated, just over two-thirds of North Carolina students (68.3 percent) graduated in four years or less. Today that rate has climbed to 80.2 percent.
Laila A. Bell, the director of Research and Data at Action for Children North Carolina, said “in an increasingly competitive global economy, a high school diploma is a prerequisite for future life success.”
Bell also said “these new data indicate North Carolina is headed in the right direction toward helping students in our state reach the first marker on their journey toward career, and college, readiness, a high school diploma.”
The report also shows improvements in graduation rate by race and ethnicity. However, there are several disparities that remain between the sexes, language barriers and socio-economic differences.
For example, female students (84.3) are more likely to graduate high school in four years or less than male students (76.3 percent).
Also, only 49.7 percent of students with limited English proficiency graduate on time with their peers.
Economic disadvantage continues to present barriers to graduation for students in North Carolina, with 74.6 percent of low-income students graduating on time. As defined by North Carolina, an economically disadvantaged student is a student who qualifies for free and reduced price lunch.
“These disparities highlight the importance of critical investments in programs that help vulnerable students succeed,” said Bell.
Jason Krider, principal of Ashe County High School, attributes good graduation rates to a group effort. Krider stated “everyone here at the school plays a part in whether or not a student graduates.”
High school graduation isn’t the only academic achievement that is improving. The number of college graduates is increasing in Ashe County, although not at the same rate as the rest of the United States.
In 1970, 3.6 percent of adults 25 years of age in Ashe County had college degrees. By 2010, that percentage had jumped to 17.2 percent.
Using the same criteria, the United States (on average) has grown in college graduates from 10.7 percent in 1970 to 27.9 percent in 2010.
Even though the overall percentage of college graduates is increasing, it is increasing at a slower rate than the rest of the country.
Mark Partridge, an economist at Ohio State University, said that rural communities in the south and west often have a more difficult time attracting adults with college degrees. However, the entirety of rural America has caught up in every other measure of education, he said.
For example, in 2010, 27.4 percent of rural adults had gained some amount of education after high school without earning a college diploma. That level of education was close to the national average of 28.1 percent.