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Grad rates up at West Charlotte High
Results a 15% jump for Project LIFT anchor
 
Published Friday, August 9, 2013 12:57 pm
by Herbert L. White

Improving the graduation rate at West Charlotte High School required breaking with tradition.

During the 2012-13 academic year – the first in the experimental Project LIFT program – students who had fallen off pace to graduate on time participated in afterschool and Saturday classes tailored to their situation. As a result, WCHS’s graduation rate improved to 71 percent from 56 the year before, according to N.C. education figures. Although West Charlotte still trails Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ overall rate of 81 percent, it’s enough to encourage district officials.

Project LIFT, a five-year experimental program to boost academic achievement in Northwest Corridor public schools, has a goal of pushing West Charlotte’s graduation rate to 90 percent. 

“The job is still not done,” said Denise Watts, Project LIFT’s superintendent. “There is work to do. We are acknowledging a 15 percent increase and we are excited about that, but we have way more kids we need to ensure they walk across the graduation stage in years to come.”

When Curtina Stokes enrolled at West Charlotte as a junior, some of her credits from Fairfax, Va., didn’t transfer, leaving her 14 short of graduating on time. But LIFT Academy, which emphasizes academic recovery through smaller class settings, helped her make the grade. Project LIFT emphasizes individualized instruction, afterschool and Saturday classes to help students reclaim credits by testing to at least 80 percent mastery in courses. West Charlotte’s credit recovery program had roughly 250 students last year, with 169 completing it.

“I was not in a four by four school,” said Stokes, referring to North Carolina’s maximum number of credits for high school seniors. “You take seven classes all year. …so I would have to re-take most of my classes.”

LIFT Academy helped Stokes catch up, and in the process helped her develop confidence in her abilities. In the first semester, Stokes earned four credits in traditional classes, and another through credit recovery. She earned the remainder in the second semester. 

“With the help of my teachers and credit recovery, I graduated on time,” said Stokes, who starts classes at Central Piedmont Community College next week. “When it first started, I wasn’t that confident, but as time went on, I started to gain confidence in what I was doing and that I was going to graduate on time.”

Last year’s success is an important first step for the Project LIFT zone, which includes elementary and middle schools that feed West Charlotte. Graduating high school, WCHS Principal John Wall said, is as much an economic accomplishment as an academic achievement.

“For every student that comes through the doors of West Charlotte, getting a diploma is absolutely critical for them,” he said. “Without a high school diploma, they close the gateways to all the opportunities they need to have in order to be successful in their lives. We all understand the financial impact of not graduating high school.”

 

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