Lexington Two excels in graduation, LIFE Scholarship rates

The four-year graduation rate for Lexington County District Two schools is 88 percent.

That’s a jump of four percentage points in just one year for the district.

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

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Graduation day 2016 at Brookland-Cayce High School. (Photo by Terry Ward).

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, officials said. Of the district’s graduates, 44 percent qualify for the merit-based Legislative Incentive for Future Excellence (or LIFE) 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 Two’s rate is better by more than five percentage points in both categories.

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

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

“We have implemented a strategic and purposeful plan with the specific goal of improving the graduate rate,” said Marcella Heyward-Evans, Lexington Two’s chief instructional officer.

Part of that plan incorporated high school principals, and district staff including 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 Two 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 for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students. Currently, there are more than 20 primary languages other than English spoken by students district-wide. But James said educators in the district will keep striving to prepare even more students.

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