American Graduate Series

WUNC's American Graduate Project is part of a nationwide public media conversation about the dropout crisis. We'll explore the issue through news reports, call-in programs and a forum produced with UNC-TV. Also as a part of this project we've partnered with the Durham Nativity School and YO: Durham to found the WUNC Youth Radio Club. 

These reports are part of American Graduate-Let’s Make it Happen!- a public media initiative to address the drop out crisis, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and these generous funders:

      Project Funders:

    • GlaxoSmithKline
    • The Goodnight Educational Foundation
    • Joseph M. Bryan Foundation 
    • State Farm
    • The Grable Foundation
    • Farrington Foundation

    More education stories from WUNC

    classroom
    Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

    It’s hard to find bad news in this year’s graduation report from the Department of Public Instruction. More than 83 percent of high school students who began as freshmen four years ago graduated in four years or less. That’s up two points from last year - the previous all-time high.

    Since 2006, the four-year graduation rate has gone up 15 points.

    The Care Center - State of the Re:Union
    Emily Fitzgerald

    Over the next few days WUNC will present a series of American Graduate Specials from State of The Re:Union. These programs air on Thursday at 12N & 9p with a a second program on Friday at 12N & Saturday morning at 6.

    Y.E. Smith Elementary School visit the Nasher Museum
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nashermuseum/ / Photos by Duke Photography

    During the last several years, you may have heard the phrase "School-to-Prison Pipeline" pop up in conversation. It will often be used in discussions regarding the "Zero Tolerance Policy" and armed resource officers in schools. What the school-to-prison pipeline refers to is a number of policies and practices in place that push children from schools into the criminal justice system.

    Each morning the summer literacy program begins with a Harambee, a Swahiliword meaning “let’s pull together”.
    Jeff Tiberii

    Getting kids to read in the summer has long been a challenge for many grown-ups.  With outdoor activities, camps and family trips, too often books remain closed until the fall. For kids who are living in homelessness and in unstable home environments, the challenges can be even greater. A new summer literacy program in the Guilford County Schools is trying to change that. The goal is for students to maintain or even improve their reading level, build confidence and complete six books.

    After breakfast in the cafeteria at Greensboro College about 50 fueled faces file into an exercise studio for an unconventional morning routine. Each weekday for the next month the literacy program begins with Harambee a Swahili word meaning “let’s pull together.”

    Poetic Justice: Words From Phoenix Academy

    Jun 14, 2013

    This past school year, WUNC partnered with the group Sacrificial Poets on a series of after-school writing workshops.  The goal was to help young people tell their own stories using poetry, performance art and now, radio.  This past semester, poets Will McInerney and CJ Suitt taught a small group at Phoenix Academy, an alternative school in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District.  They produced this poetic reflection on the experience.

    Phoenix academy sits on a curve of Merritt Mill Road in Chapel Hill. Many students here will be victims of the school to prison pipeline, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization that render them invisible with no control over how they are seen and in some cases how they see themselves, gifted with vision and insight.

    Teaching Fellows
    Henderson County Schools

    Back in the 1980s, North Carolina had a serious teacher problem. There were shortages in much of the state, but the bigger problem wasn’t how many teachers, but who they were.

    “We had a real need to raise the scholastic profile of candidates for teaching and also to increase the numbers of males and minorities in teaching,” remembers Jo Ann Norris, President and Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina.

    2012 Graduation at Chapel Hill
    Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

    North Carolina’s high-school graduation rate is headed in the wrong direction. In the past two years, the state’s rate has dropped by about one percent. 

    Two years ago, North Carolina beat the national graduation rate average for the first time. Two years later, the state is back below the national average, as rates have gone up across the country and North Carolina’s have dipped.

    Poetic Justice: Graduating High School At 16

    Jun 7, 2013

    This school year, WUNC partnered with the group Sacrificial Poets to host a series after-school programs called Poetic Justice.  They're designed to help under-served youth turn their life-stories into poetry and performance art.

    This semester they were at Northern High School in Durham.  That's where poet Kane Smego, a writer and youth leader with Sacrificial Poets, met Justavis Monique Brooks.  The 16-year-old senior graduates from high school today.

    Hannah Wade takes control of the FAA-approved flight simulator at the Aviation Academy in High Point.
    Jeff Tiberii

    Across the state thousands of high school students will graduate this weekend. About three dozen are from the Aviation Academy at T.W. Andrews High School in Guilford County. It’s one of only a few such programs in the state preparing young men and women for careers in aeronautics and engineering. And after two classes of students, the program’s graduate rate is perfect. 

      

    Jake Henry is overseeing the table program in Guilford County.
    Jeff Tiberii

    Thirteen thousand students in Guilford County will receive tablets computers when they begin school this fall. Last year the county was awarded a federal “Race to the Top” grant for 30 million dollars. Now one of the largest classroom technology initiatives in US history is underway. 

    A student at McDougle Elementary School.
    Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

      A North Carolina House Committee approved yesterday a bill that would provide funding to low income families wanting to go to private or religious schools Host Frank Stasio talks about that and other education-related news with WUNC Raleigh Bureau Chief and Education Reporter Dave Dewitt.

    Arapahoe Charter School
    Dave DeWitt

    This is a story about choice. And it starts in the lunch line at Arapahoe Charter School in Pamlico County when students choose between pizza and french fries.

    And while that choice may seem easy to make, the choice to offer it is a little more complicated.

    Charter schools aren’t required to offer meals, even to kids who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. But Arapahoe does – and sixty percent of the students here qualify.

    NC Legislative Building
    Dave DeWitt

    Charter schools have been around in North Carolina for about a decade and a half, and for most of that time, the relationship between charters and traditional public schools has alternated between frosty and hostile.

    “One of the fundamental reasons for introducing charter schools is to put an element of competition into the education arena and let parents make the choice,” says Baker Mitchell. Mitchell opened his first charter school in 2000 outside of Wilmington and a second six years later; he has a third opening this fall.

      County School Boards have long since been in charge of school construction. However, the Senate recently passed a bill that would hand over school construction to county commissioners in 10 North Carolina counties. Many people who oppose the bill argue that county commissioners may have experience building prisons but not schools. This is one bill out of many that have been progressing through the Senate recently.

    State Senate chamber
    Dave DeWitt / WUNC

    Being on a school board is a little like being the head chef at the local Applebee’s. You don’t get to choose the ingredients and it’s not your recipe, but if someone doesn’t like the Bourbon Street Steak, you’re going to hear about it.

    In other words, school boards in North Carolina have relatively little power but plenty of responsibility. And it’s been that way for a long time.

    N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
    Dave DeWitt / WUNC

    The State Senate is scheduled to debate a bill tomorrow that creates a separate board to oversee the growing number of charter schools in North Carolina.

    Senate Bill 337 has gone through several revisions since it was introduced by Republican lawmakers two months ago. One of the provisions in an earlier bill, for example, removed the requirement that charter school teachers be college graduates. That requirement has since been re-instated.

    Students in a Guilford County school classroom on computers.
    Guilford County Schools

    This fall about 13,000 middle school students in the Guilford County Schools district will receive tablets. It’s part of a $30 million Race to the Top grant that Guilford won last year. Administrators and teachers will receive training from a company called Amplify in the coming months. 

    NC Legislative building
    NC General Assembly

    State lawmakers in the Senate have approved a bill that would change how leaders of the Wake County school board are elected.

    Senate Bill 325 would scrap the current boundaries for board seats. It would also move board elections from odd to even-numbered years, when voters choose their representatives in Congress and the General Assembly.

    School bus
    Dave DeWitt

    A change may be coming to how local school boards and boards of county commissioners negotiate over school funding. 

    Local county commissioners control the purse strings in all 115 of the state’s school districts. Often, the school boards and county commissioners disagree over the amount of money allocated to schools.

    Ethics Bowl
    Parr Center for Ethics, UNC-Chapel Hill

    Sandhya Mahadevan doesn’t come off as someone who is likely to back down from anyone. She’s whip-smart, looks you dead in the eye when she’s talking to you, and can’t wait to engage on the events of the day.

    But after a few years on her high school debate team, even she was looking for something a little less combative. That’s when she heard about the Ethics Bowl. 

    Wake NC State STEM Early College High School

    Leaders in Science and Math have created a scorecard to gauge how North Carolina moves forward in connecting a STEM education to new economy jobs.  STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  Sam Houston is president and CEO of the North Carolina Science, Math and Technology Education Center.  He says the scorecard measures the state against itself and how to better link education to the jobs of the future.

    Gov. Pat McCrory
    Governor's Office

    As he unveiled his proposed $20.6 billion dollar budget yesterday, the banner behind Governor Pat McCrory trumpeted the three initiatives he wanted to emphasize. It read: “Economy. Education. Efficiency.” In reality, though, education should have been number one, because it’s by far the largest expenditure and the area where the biggest fights are likely.

    NC Center for Safer Schools
    State Dept of Public Safety

    Governor Pat McCrory has introduced a new initiative to improve school security.  He has created the North Carolina Center for Safer Schools within the state Department of Public Safety.  McCrory says the center will work with school administrators, law enforcement and state mental health experts to minimize serious threats in and around schools.

    N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
    Dave DeWitt / WUNC

    Educators don’t often get a chance to celebrate publicly, so it was understandable when State Superintendent June Atkinson stood up at a news conference last fall and bragged a little about North Carolina’s 80 percent high school graduation rate.

    “This is excellent news for our state and one more step toward ensuring that all of our students graduate from high school career, college, and citizenship ready,” said Atkinson.

    A controversial charter school that was approved to open its doors in Chapel Hill this fall has hit a road block. The managing company that was supposed to run the day-to-day operations of the Howard and Lillian Lee Charter School has pulled out.

    National Heritage Academies, Inc. runs more than 70 charter schools across the country, including six in North Carolina. The Lee School would have been number seven, but NHA has backed out of the project.

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