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National education officials have been bragging a lot this week about the fact that 80 percent of high school students received a diploma in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

That’s the highest graduation rate in history. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the achievement “a profound milestone.” He added, “As a country, we owe a debt of gratitude to the teachers, students, and families whose hard work has helped us reach an 80 percent high school graduation rate.”

But that 80 percent graduation rate isn’t as impressive as the graduation rate right here in Wilkes County. A record 90.1 percent of Wilkes students who were ninth-graders in 2009-10 graduated in the 2012-13 school year or earlier. For the same period, the graduation rate statewide was 80.4 percent.

The graduation rate in Wilkes County has steadily climbed over the past five years, from 86.6 percent in 2011-12, 80.7 percent in 2010-11, 74.6 percent in 2009-10 and 70.9 percent in 2008-09. It was a little over 72 percent in each of the three earlier years. The graduation rates for the four Wilkes high schools for the past school year were: East Wilkes, 89.5 percent; North Wilkes, 91.1 percent; West Wilkes, 90.5 percent; and Wilkes Central, 89.4 percent.

The improvement in graduation rates is the result of hard work by parents, educators, community leaders and many others working hard to provide the support and encouragement which students need to stay in school.

Wilkes also has alternative learning programs such as Turning Point and the Student Success Academies. Turning Point, which was introduced in the 2012-13 school year, provides an alternative for middle school and high school students to long-term suspension and various other barriers, such as employment. Many students facing a long-term suspension, or who get a part-time job, leave school before earning a diploma.


Wilkes Journal Patriot