The Wake County school system’s high school graduation rate shot up this year, but test results were mixed with fewer schools meeting the state’s targets for academic improvements.
Data released Wednesday at the State Board of Education meeting shows that Wake’s four-year graduation rate increased from 82.9 percent to 86.1 percent. Wake’s graduation rate is now back above the state’s average, which rose from 83.9 percent to 85.4 percent.
Wake’s graduation rate is also the highest it’s been since the state began tracking the data nine years ago.
Wake school officials called the news a good first step toward the recently adopted goal of having at least 95 percent of students graduating by 2020.
“This news is an excellent way to welcome all students and staff back to school,” said Wake Superintendent Jim Merrill in a press release. “It reflects the dedication our teachers, staff and students put into their work, and we look forward to continued success."
But Wake’s test results from the 2014-15 school year were not as positive. That matched what took place statewide.
Click here for a N&O database for school-by-school results for all of the state’s schools.
Out of 167 Wake schools, 61 percent met or exceeded academic growth goals on state exams. That compares to 82 percent of Wake schools meeting or exceeding goals in the 2013-14 school year.
Wake’s overall passing rate on state math, reading and science exams went up slightly from 66.6 percent to 66.7 percent.
Results on individual grade levels varied. For instance, the passing rate on reading exams went up in fourth-, sixth- and seventh-grades. They declined in 3rd-, 5th- and 8th-grades and English 2.
In the math exams, the passing rate went up in 5th-, 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grades and Math I. It dropped in 3rd- and 4th-grades.
As for school performance grades, 10 Wake schools received an A+, six received an A, 62 received a B, 69 got a C, 19 got a D and Hodge Road Elementary School in Knightdale got the lone F. This means that Hodge Road will have to send notices to the school’s parents about the F grade.
The A+ grade is new and for schools that got an A and didn’t have significant graduation and/or achievement gaps.
Wake had fewer schools get a grade above a C than compared to the previous year. In the 2013-14 school year, 16 Wake schools got an A, 70 got a B, 61 got a C, 19 got a D and none received an F.
The schools were graded on a 15-point scale where an A is 85 to 100. The state was supposed to switch to a 10-point scale where an A is 90 to 100, but the General Assembly passed a bill to delay the change for two school years.
If the state had gone ahead with the original plan to move to a 10=point scale for the 2014=15 results, 89 of Wake’s 167 schools would have gotten a D or F.
Like the state data, the school grades show a strong correlation with poverty levels at schools. Schools with fewer low-income students are more likely to have higher passing rates and higher letter grades.
Wake’s press release focused almost exclusively on the graduation rate increase, calling the district’s performance on state exams “steady.”
Wake school officials pointed to how graduation rates increased for all student subgroups with the gains being the strongest among those with the lowest historical rates.
▪ Limited English Proficiency students: up 13.4 percentage points
▪ Students with disabilities: up 10.4 points
▪ Economically disadvantaged students: up 6.3 points
▪ Hispanic/Latino students: up 5.8 points
▪ African-American students: up 4.8 points.
Wake school leaders will discuss the results further this afternoon.