Most schools in western Wake County performed better on standardized tests than the county and state average last school year, according to data recently released by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
The overall passing rate for 2013-14 was 56.3 percent for the state and 66.6 percent in Wake County.
Forty-seven of the 57 schools in Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Morrisville and Fuquay-Varina boasted passing rates higher than the Wake County average.
Some of the highest performers were in western Cary, where Davis Drive and Highcroft elementary schools were the only schools in the district with passing rates above 90 percent.
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Six of the 10 local schools with passing rates below the county average are in the Cary area: Dillard Drive Elementary, Kingswood Elementary, Northwoods Elementary, Reedy Creek Elementary, Dillard Drive Middle and Reedy Creek Middle.
The four other local schools with rates below the county average are in Fuquay-Varina – Ballentine Elementary, Lincoln Heights Elementary, Fuquay-Varina Middle and Fuquay-Varina High.
Each of the 11 schools in Apex boasted a passing rate higher than the county average.
Despite posting passing rates lower than the county average, nine of the 10 western Wake schools met or exceeded academic improvement expectations. A total of 28 local schools exceeded performance expectations.
Alston Ridge Elementary, Cary Elementary, Swift Creek Elementary, Reedy Creek Middle and West Cary Middle were the only Cary-area schools that failed to meet performance expectations. The expectations are based not on how many students pass at a school but whether their scores have improved enough to have statistically shown at least a year’s worth of growth.
Apex Elementary was the only school in Apex that didn’t meet performance expectations, while Holly Grove Elementary was the only southwestern Wake school that didn’t meet academic growth goals.
Reedy Creek Middle was the only local school to post low passing rates and also fail to meet performance expectations.
Overall, most average test scores improved across the state compared with the prior year thanks in part to a new scoring scale that makes the tests easier to pass. Under the system in place last year, Wake’s passing rate was 55.8 percent.
Wake school leaders recalculated the passing rates from last year to match the new scoring system, rather than claiming growth of more than 10 percentage points. The recalculated numbers show Wake’s passing rate rose 1.8 percentage points from 64.8 percent for the 2012-13 school year.
School system officials said the steady growth is encouraging because the state instituted tougher standards two years ago.
They highlighted the gains seen at individual schools such as Athens Drive High, which enrolls many Cary students. The school saw an 11.5 percentage-point increase on the passing rate for students who are career- and college-ready on the state’s Math I end-of-course exam.
James Hedrick, principal of Athens Drive, credited part of the gains to recommending that teachers develop plans to help students who are in danger of failing classes.
Under an “academic recovery plan,” Hedrick said teachers were encouraged to do things such as offer students tutoring during lunch periods, allow students to retake tests and allow work to be handed in late with a reasonable penalty.
Thursday’s data release also includes the most recent graduation rates. For the 2013-14 school year, 82.2 percent of Wake seniors graduated in four years, up from 81 percent the previous year and the highest rate in eight years.
In western Wake County, graduation rates ranged from 78.9 percent at Fuquay-Varina High to more than 95 percent at Green Hope High in Cary.
Athens Drive, Cary and Fuquay-Varina were the only high schools in the western area with lower graduation rates than the county average.
While Athens Drive showed an improvement of 5 percent over last year’s graduation rate, four of the area’s eight high schools – Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs – had lower graduation rates this year.
Rates slightly improved at Middle Creek High and Green Hope High, while the rate at Panther Creek High stayed flat.
“We’re not where we need to be on that metric, but we are steadily improving,” said Brad McMillen, Wake’s assistant superintendent for data, research and accountability.
Staff writer Sarah Barr contributed to this report.