The graduation rate at most western Wake County high schools exceeded the county and state average this year.
Panther Creek led the way, with a four-year graduation rate that exceeded 95 percent. Athens Drive High, which is in Raleigh but enrolls many students who live in western Wake, posted the lowest rate with 75.8 percent.
Three local schools saw increases in the graduation rate – Apex, Holly Springs and Panther Creek. Holly Springs made the biggest gain, with 88.5 percent last year to 91.6 percent this year.
Five local schools saw lower rates. Among them, Athens Drive saw the biggest decline, down from 81.2 percent a year ago.
The Wake County school system’s graduation rate increased slightly from 80.6 percent to 81 percent. But it marks the first time that Wake, the state’s largest school system, has fallen below the state’s average graduation rate of 82.5 percent.
“Graduation rate is a key indicator of our success as a school system, pre-K through 12. Overall, the district has made some progress, but not at the rate we would like to see,” Wake Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore said in a written statement. “We will be working with our schools to ensure that district programming, resources and expectations at all levels are clearly aligned to support an increased graduation rate.”
In 2006, the first year North Carolina reported figures under a new formula, the graduation rate stood at 68.3 percent. Since then, the graduation rate has increased overall and among different subgroups.
The state’s graduation rate for black students is now 77.5 percent, compared to 60.4 percent in 2006.
Half of the western Wake schools posted rates for black students lower than the state average: Apex, Athens Drive, Fuquay-Varina and Green Hope.
For Hispanic students, the statewide rate has risen 23 percentage points in the past seven years to 75.3 percent. All but three local schools had rates that exceed that average – Athens Drive, Cary and Middle Creek.
For economically disadvantaged students, the statewide rate has increased 20.5 percentage points since 2006 to 76.1 percent. Three local schools – Green Hope, Holly Springs and Panther Creek – posted higher rates.
The rate for white students throughout the state is now 86.2 percent, up 12.7 percentage points since 2006. All local schools exceeded that figure.
North Carolina’s overall gain mirrors similar trends taking place nationwide.
In January, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that graduation rates were at the highest rate nationally since 1974. Based on 2010 data, the latest year for which national figures are available, the center reported that 78.2 percent of high school students were graduating on time.
Staff writer T. Keung Hui contributed to this report.