South Carolina’s high school seniors had a higher graduation rate this year than in 2011 according to new data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education. The percentage of students graduating on time in 2012 was 74.9 percent, up from 73.6 percent a year ago.
Graduation rates also improved for African-American, Hispanic, and subsidized school meal students, according to the Education Department. Education officials say those groups had the highest rates since the state began keeping track by racial categories in 2004.
Overall, the rate was the highest since the 2007-2008 school year.
“Students, parents, and teachers deserve the credit for the gains made in graduation rates,” Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said in a statement, “The prospects for long-term economic growth and job creation improve as more students graduate from high school with the skills necessary to compete for jobs in the workforce, enlist in the military, or enroll in an institution of higher education.”
Zais says the improvement comes as the state has a higher percentage of students living in poverty. However, he added that the state still needed to see improvement, noting that 86 of South Carolina’s 219 high schools were below a 75-percent graduation rate.
“Growth is good, but the fact remains one out of every four high school students won’t graduate on-time or eventually drop-out of school. We can do far better as a state and past experience proves we can,” Zais said.
The state Education Oversight Committee also released new annual performance ratings for the state’s schools Tuesday. The agency says the new numbers show a notable increase in the number of school districts receiving an “excellent” or “good” rating this year. 72 districts out of 84 statewide received at least an “average,”
According to the EOC data, 61 percent of students now attend South Carolina’s best-rated schools, compared with 9 percent who attend the lowest-rated.
“”I think the real key to both success and failure in our schools is leadership or a lack thereof,” EOC Chairman Neal Robinson said in a Tuesday press conference, “There’s classroom leadership, leadership at the school level, leadership at the district level. All of those need to be the very best that the community has to offer.”