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DPS graduation rate leaps forward despite challenging COVID-19 year

Graduation Rates

Through all the challenges of remote and hybrid learning during the 2020-21 school year, a full-court press by Durham Public Schools teachers and support staff helped last year’s seniors graduate on time from high school at their highest rate since DPS superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga’s arrival.

DPS’s four-year graduation rate leaped forward by 3.5 percentage points to 87.0 percent, which brought the district back on track for meeting its target graduation rate benchmark in the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. This year’s rate surpassed the goal for 2020-21 by 0.4 percentage points.

Four DPS high schools—City of Medicine Academy, J.D. Clement Early College High School, New Tech High School, and Middle College High School at Durham Tech—achieved a breathtaking 100 percent graduation rate. Durham School of the Arts and The School for Creative Studies boasted graduation rates of 97.6 percent and 93.8 percent respectively. Southern School of Energy and Sustainability outraced the pack with the largest year-to-year improvement in graduation rates, rising by 11 percentage points to 87.1 percent. Hillside High School had the second-highest growth, rising by 6.1 percentage points to 87.8 percent.

“This is a fantastic result for our students and teachers, especially in such a difficult year,” said DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga. “During the school year and during our Operation Summer Learning program, teachers and student support staff were tireless in reaching out to our seniors and ensuring that they had everything they needed to cross the finish line. I am excited that our graduates are prepared for the future after such perseverance.”

The graduation rate was reported as part of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s annual release of student performance data. 2020-21 was a school year like no other, and both DPI and the North Carolina State Board of Education warn against comparing the performance results to previous years.

“Our results directly reflect the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite heroic efforts by teachers during remote learning,” said Dr. Mubenga. “They moved mountains to keep our students engaged in learning at home. Returning to in-person instruction while prioritizing health and safety will help regain academic momentum for every child.”

The percentage of students participating in standardized testing dropped significantly, as did results on the required state assessments for 2020-21. DPS’s results are available on the district website here.

To accelerate student learning in 2021-22, DPS is taking advantage of federal COVID-19 relief funding:

  • $30 million over three years has been committed to school-level strategies to support accelerated learning.

  • More than 75 instructional and social-emotional support positions have been added to address additional student needs.

  • Students will continue to benefit from our one-to-one device initiative and access to personal hotspots for internet connectivity at home

  • Ignite! Online Academy is a new school designed for those students who thrive in remote personalized learning

Individual student test results may be found in the PowerSchool Parent Portal beginning Wednesday, Sept. 1, or by contacting the school where the student took the test.