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Graduation rate spikes in Lexington 2, LIFE Scholarships higher

Lexington, SC - A lot of hard work is paying off in the Lexington 2 School District.

The four-year graduation rate jumped four points in a year. It was 88 percent for 2016.

Graduation rate numbers were released by the S.C. Department of Education last week. That news had district officials excited.

“We educate children and this is the best indicator of our product,” said Superintendent Dr. Bill James.“It speaks well of every teacher and every school in Lexington 2.”

James also said the graduation rate is part of a K-through-12 process and it takes dedication at each grade level to succeed.

And not only are there more four-year graduates, they are quality students. Of the district's graduates, 44 percent qualify for the merit-based Legislative Incentive for Future Excellence (or LIFE) financial-aid Scholarships. That's money to attend colleges and universities in South Carolina.

“The graduate rate and the number of LIFE Scholarship qualifiers is above the state average,” said James.

The statewide graduation rate is just under 83 percent and the number qualifying for LIFE Scholarships is 38.6 percent. Lexington 2's rate is better by more than five percentage points in both categories.

“The LIFE Scholarship number for Lexington 2 is substantial,” said James. He said the amount of college money Lexington 2 families are eligible to receive has a significant economic impact.

Getting the district to the level it is at is not by chance.

“We have implemented a strategic and purposeful plan with the specific goal of improving the graduate rate,” said

Dr. Marcella Heyward-Evans, Lexington 2's Chief Instructional Officer.

Part of that plan incorporated high school principals, district staff to include the Early Childhood Coordinator and Adult Education Director, guidance counselors, and graduation coaches. That team met on a quarterly basis and assessed the accuracy of data and evaluated student performance. It also studied early-warning signals to help reduce drop-out numbers.

“We are constantly monitoring to see what works and what does not work,” Heyward-Evans said of the plan.

Joni Coleman, Lexington 2 Director of Career and Technology Education, said vigilance is one of the keys.

“The improvement speaks well of the whole foundation. It's not just a high school issue. “We have to be with these kids throughout. We can't lose them before they get to high school,” she said.

Despite some challenges, James said the goal is to get even better graduation rates. The district has its share of English as a Second Language (ESOL) students. There are over 20 primary languages other than English spoken by students. But James said educators in the district will keep striving to prepare even more students.

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