August 24,  2010

Dare’s on-time graduation rate is the best in the state

For the second year in a row, the on-time graduation rate for Dare County Schools is the best among the state’s 115 school districts. At a rate of 90.5 percent, Dare was the only North Carolina school district to break the 90 percent threshold, also for the second consecutive year.

Rounding out the top five districts were Chapel Hill/Carrboro at 89 percent, Newton-Conover at 88.6 percent, and Elkin City and Clay County, both at 86.5 percent. Only 29 of 115 districts met or exceeded the State Board of Education’s target of 80 percent. The average on-time graduation rate for the entire state was 74.2 percent.
For the Class of 2010, Dare County’s bragging rights went to First Flight High School, with an on-time graduation rate of 95.9 percent. Manteo High followed at 92.3 percent. The Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies achieved an on-time graduation rate of 90.7 percent.
Board Chairman David Oaksmith expressed his delight at the stellar showing.

“Dare County has ranked first or second in the state for three years in a row on this measure,” said Oaksmith. “Our superintendent really emphasizes this, with excellent results.”
“All three of our regular high schools surpassed the 90 percent on-time rate,” said Superintendent Sue Burgess, “and Dare County Alternative School helps us get some students through that might not otherwise make it.”
“We follow the academic career of each individual ninth grader who enrolls at First Flight High,” explained Principal Arty Tillett. “We’re responsible to get them across the graduation stage within four years.”
Even if students move away from Dare County after enrolling in ninth grade, school officials must know where the students are and if they are enrolled in other schools or the students count against Dare County’s graduation rate.

“It is one matter dealing with the students who are with you, encouraging them to stay in school or to come back. But it is very difficult to keep track of where everyone moves,” said Manteo High School Principal John Luciano. “Our office and guidance staffs are relentless about finding out where the students go.”
Dare County’s graduation achievements have been recognized at special ceremonies sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh for the last two years. As a result, Dare County personnel have been in demand as workshop presenters around the state on the topic of increasing the graduation rate and on the related topic of lowering the dropout rate.

“Back in 2001,” said Assistant Superintendent John Winston, “Dare County was 96th out of 115 districts in the state for the dropout rate. For the last five years, we’ve been no lower than sixth. When you consider that we are also number one in the graduation rate for two years in a row, it’s no wonder that other districts are asking us to share the secrets of our success.
What is Dare’s secret?

There are no secrets or simple answers,” said Burgess, “other than stressing the importance of completing high school and deciding that each student matters. Our teachers continue to make school an engaging place where learning is relevant and challenging enough to keep students interested.”

Burgess also acknowledged the key roles played by principals, guidance counselors, and Director of Secondary Instruction Nancy Griffin.

“A lot of people have worked very hard to achieve this milestone. And let’s not forget to say ‘Congratulations’ to the Class of 2010 for setting a new graduation record for the State of North Carolina.”

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