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NC reports progress on high school graduation rate

GREENVILLE, N.C. -

North Carolina's high school graduation rate is showing more improvement, with more than eight out of 10 earning a diploma in four years.

The state Department of Public Instruction said Thursday that 82 percent of students who started high school graduated within four years. That's up from 80 percent last year and 68 percent in 2006, when the state began reporting the 4-year graduation rate.

The report includes graduation rates for each of the state's public high schools, for each of the 115 school districts and for the state overall. About 1.5 million students attend the state's public schools.

There's disagreement over why North Carolina's schools are doing better despite recession-era funding cuts that have forced schools to hire fewer teachers while enrollments increase.

In Pitt County that number is up as well at 77 percent and at South Central High School, where teacher Nicki Griffin calls home, it's close to 86 percent.

We asked Griffin what worked and what didn't in her social studies classroom.

"The whole idea of what teaching and learning is about has changed," said Griffin.

Technology, a key element she says gives her students a voice like never before. While the voice advocating standardize testing grows quiet.

"We're getting away from some of it and I think it's the realization that standard testing doesn't measure everything students learn," said Griffin.

What Griffin can't measure outside the classroom, new "graduation coaches" can by looking at other factors like home life and extra-curricular activities.

"There is a lot of pressure from graduation rate. Nobody will deny that. And I think all of us, as teachers, have probably had the conversation, ‘is this a student you need to pass?' You know, they've got a 65 do they need a 70?"

It's a pressure not always coming from administrators but, Griffin says, from what teachers put on themselves by caring for their students. She says they add those extra courses to help students pass.

"I don't know that everybody would go home from their job and spend another two hours online with students. That is not part of your workday," said Griffin, "but I think the ultimate goal is the education of the students and I think what we're doing as a whole group is trying to speak to that whole picture."

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