Early college honored for graduation rate

Published 5:32 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Emily Jones, Samantha Russell, Julien Besnard and Austin Abrams work on a computer at the Virtual Early College. (photo by Lindy Wicklund)

One of 23 in N.C. to graduate 100 percent
Polk County Schools is one of the top school districts in the state in terms of graduation rates.
The Polk County Early College was honored this week as one of only 23 schools in North Carolina with a 100-percent graduation rate last year (2010 class). In addition, Polk County High School was ranked in the top 10 districts in the state with a graduation rate of 86 percent.
Polk County School Superintendent Bill Miller, school board chair Geoffrey Tennant and early college director Mary Greene attended a ceremony in Raleigh on Tuesday, Oct. 11 to receive certificates in honor of the achievement.
Greene said she believes students complete the early college program for several reasons, including small class sizes and teachers being available to the students for both schoolwork and life assistance.
The early college is located on Walker Street in Columbus, in the former Polk County Library building.
Greene said most of the students in the early college are the first to attend college in their families.
Last year, the early college had 53 students (grades 9 through 12) and 14 graduated. Students have the opportunity to attend all four years of early college and receive a high school diploma and several college credits or to attend a fifth year and receive a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from Isothermal Community College.
Another benefit is students can receive a degree, or at least the first semester of credits, by attending the early college; they also get books for free.
Miller said the early college is creating an atmosphere that is working well for students’ academic achievement, as well as personal growth.
“The students and faculty all feel like a big family,” Miller said. “They support each other.”
Miller said he believes the early college achieved the 100-percent graduation rate last year because the expectation from the beginning is to go to college, “so dropping out of high school isn’t an option.”
Last year’s early college was the second graduating class to be produced from the program.
Greene said one student so far has stayed on for the fifth year to achieve an associate’s degree, but many early college students go on to college because they know what it’s like.
Polk County’s program includes tutoring for students, taking them to visit colleges and help filling out applications and other college paperwork such as financial aid forms.
Polk County High School’s overall graduation percentage of 86 percent last year was well above the state average of 74.2 percent.
Dare County had the highest rate at 90.5, followed by Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools at 89 percent, Newton-Conover City Schools at 88.6 percent, Clay County Schools at 86.5 percent, Elkin City Schools at 86.5 percent and Alleghany County Schools at 86.2 percent. Mooresville Graded School District, like Polk, had an 86 percent graduation rate.

Virtual Early College students with the certificate presented to Superintendent Bill Miller and Early College director Mary Greene by the State Board of Education in Raleigh Tuesday, Oct. 12. (photo by Lyndy Wicklund)

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