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Beaufort County lags on graduating students

By Staff
Initial study measures the on-time graduates
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
Beaufort County’s high schools are lagging behind the state in graduating their students in four years, according to the first four-year cohort graduation rate presented to the State Board of Education this week.
The cohort is the group of students that entered ninth grade in a specific school year and who are expected to graduate four years later. The state has been tracking its first group through high school since 2002.
Last year, a statewide average of 68 percent of those ninth-graders had graduated. While the majority of area high schools met or exceeded that average, Beaufort County’s schools fell behind state averages.
Bear Grass High School in Martin County graduated 66.7 percent of its students in four years — the only high school in the Daily News coverage area with a rate less than Beaufort County’s best.
Northside High School, which had the highest graduate rate in Beaufort County, saw 67.5 percent of its students earn diplomas in four years. Southside High School in Chocowinity graduated 58.3 of its students in four years while Washington High School graduated 59 percent — the two lowest of all 11 high schools in the four-county area.
The study does not mean that, for example, 41 percent of Washington High School students won’t graduate at all. This summer, when statistics on the 2003-2007 group are released, the number of students who graduated in five years will be available, Hodges said.
Williamston High School had the second largest cohort of ninth-graders in the area with 169 students. It had the highest cohort graduation rate in the area with 74.5 percent. Washington High School began the same period with 322 students and graduated 190 of them last year.
Broken down by race, Beaufort County high schools are above the curve compared to state averages. Against a state average of 59.7 percent of black students graduating in four years, Southside High School graduated 69.6 percent of its black students.
More than 64 percent of Southside’s students with disabilities graduated with their group while the state graduated 49.7 percent of disabled students, according to statistics provided by the school system. Washington High School graduated 50 percent of its students with disabilities, just above the state average.