Then there’s Hawkins County.
Even approaching a 90 percent graduation rate is an accomplishment for any county given that students vary widely in ability and effort, but remarkably, Hawkins County has posted a 95.09 percent graduation rate for the Class of 2016.
That is an incredible accomplishment and something county residents can justifiably be proud of. It is the sixth consecutive year that county schools have exceeded a 90 percent graduation rate.
Just 10 years ago when the graduation rate in Hawkins County bottomed out at 74.9 percent, school leaders took action by developing programs which intended to graduate every student. They include:
•Freshmen academies: New freshmen academy wings were constructed in both main high schools to separate freshmen from the rest of the upperclassmen for the purpose of helping them focus on getting their high school careers off to a good start.
•Credit recovery program: If students fail a class and their average is at least a 50, they can take a test and get credit for what they know, and instead of retaking the entire course they’re only working on the deficit in that course. As soon as they can show mastery in all the skills, they’re awarded the credit.
•Diploma on Time: A competency-based program that allows students to earn a state minimum high school diploma working one class at a time at a faster pace. Instead of taking four courses at the same time for an entire semester, they complete one course at a time, and there’s no limit to the number they can complete in a semester.
And what a difference these and other programs made. Since 2004, Cherokee High School has increased its graduation rate by 23.39 percent. In 2016, Cherokee made the biggest improvement in graduation rate from the previous year, increasing from 87.4 percent in 2015 to 94.59 percent.
Volunteer High School recorded its eighth consecutive year with a graduation rate above 90 percent with the Class of 2016 graduating 95.99 percent . That’s 2.39 percent higher than the Class of 2015’s rate of 93.6 percent and 17.79 percent better than the Class of 2004.
We echo Director of Schools Steve Starnes in congratulating “our students, teachers, counselors, administrators and support staff for the work they are doing every day to help Hawkins County Schools achieve our mission of educating and graduating each student. While there is still work to be done, we are excited about and celebrate this accomplishment.”