It's always nice to be able to share good news about our Wake County public schools. We’re just wondering why the school district isn’t sharing it.
Education Week recently issued its annual Diplomas Count report, which looks at graduation rates among the 50 largest school districts in the U.S. (The report presents graduation rates for the class of 2008, which is the most recent data available.)
It was gratifying to see that Wake County Public Schools ranked third in the nation, with a graduation rate of 78.2 percent (71.7 percent is the 2008 national average, the highest level in three decades).
What is particularly noteworthy is Wake County’s performance relative to per pupil funding.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) have historically outspent the Wake County Public School System. Yet, CMS ranked 30th in the report this year, with a graduation rate of 63.2 percent.
Top ranked Montgomery County, Maryland schools boasted an 85.7 percent graduation rate. Montgomery County's FY 2011 per pupil expenditure was $11,249. Second place Fairfax County, Virginia Schools (85.1 percent graduation rate) spent $12,869 per pupil in FY 2011.
Wake County spent approximately $8,500 per pupil to educate our students this year. Simply stated, Wake's teachers, administrators and staff do a stellar job with a very limited budget. Imagine what could be accomplished if our school system were more adequate funded.
Of course, there’s plenty of room for improvement in Wake County. We’re certainly not suggesting that we rest on these laurels. There are achievement gaps that we must continue to close—in spite of the draconian budget cuts that have befallen public education in North Carolina. But isn’t it nice, once in a while, to remember that our glass is half-full? Let’s not keep the good news a secret. Let’s build on our success.
Patty Williams is Program Coordinator for Great Schools in Wake.