By Jared Felkins

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Wilson County Schools’ graduation rate for 2018 dipped slightly from the previous year’s rate, and one high school had a slight increase in graduation rate.

Overall among Wilson County’s four high schools, the 2018 graduation rate was 95.6 percent, which fell 0.6 percent from the previous year when it was 96.2 percent. Out of 1,553 seniors, 1,484 graduated in 2018, compared to 1,553 seniors and 1,512 graduates in 2017.

“In tracking district graduation rates, we have consistently scored above the 95 percent graduation rate each year as set by the [Tennessee Department of Education],” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “ As Wilson County Schools continues to grow, we are committed to ensuring students, parents, teachers and administrators work together so our students can reap the benefits of an excellent education. We also commend each of our high schools for their diligence and commitment to every student in making sure they stay on track to graduate on time and have a postsecondary plan once they graduate high school.”

Lebanon High School was the only high school in Wilson County that had an increase in graduation rate in 2018 compared to 2017. Lebanon’s graduation rate rose 0.3 percent to 93.2 percent, compared to 92.9 percent in 2017. Out of 459 seniors, 428 graduated in 2018, compared to 449 seniors and 417 graduates in 2017.

Mt. Juliet High School’s graduation rate fell 0.4 percent to 98 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. Out of 502 seniors, 492 graduated in 2018, compared to 507 seniors and 499 graduates in 2017.

After it celebrated one of the highest graduation rates in the state and the highest in Wilson County in 2017, Watertown High School’s graduation rate had the most significant decrease in 2018, compared to the previous year. Watertown’s graduation rate fell 1.9 percent to 97.3 percent, compared to 99.2 percent in 2017. Out of 113 seniors, 110 graduated in 2018, compared to 118 seniors and 117 in 2017.

Wilson Central High School’s graduation rate fell 1.2 percent to 94.9 percent in 2018 compared to 96.1 in 2017. Out of 469 seniors, 445 graduated in 2018, compared to 486 seniors and 467 graduates in 2017.

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said the 2017-18 high school graduation rate held steady at 89.1 percent, which is the highest graduation rate on record for Tennessee. This year, more than 56 percent of districts with high schools statewide saw their graduation rates improve when compared to last year’s rates.

“Our schools and districts should be proud that once again we have hit our state’s highest graduation rate on record while still holding our students to high expectations,” McQueen said. “By continuing to raise the expectations, we are signaling that Tennessee students are leaving high school with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce. This graduation rate is a testament to the work being done by teachers and students in schools across the state.”

Under the Haslam administration, Tennessee set high expectations for both students and educators, and students have made significant gains as a result. As part of the work, the state transitioned to a more rigorous calculation for graduation rates in 2011, and even under the new criteria, rates have continued to rise.

Additionally, the state raised the bar for graduation expectations when the state Board of Education included participation in the ACT or SAT as a graduation requirement for Tennessee students. This year’s results are the first to reflect the change in accountability.

For 2018, the most notable gains and overall achievements in the state were:

• 9 districts improved their graduation rates by 5 percent or more. The districts with the most significant gains were Union City at 9.4 percent, Richard City at 8.7 percent, Van Buren County at 8.4 percent, Sequatchie County at 7.6 percent and Bledsoe County at 6.5 percent.

• 44 districts – more than one-third of the districts in the state with high schools –had graduation rates at or above 95 percent, an increase from last year.

• 106 districts – nearly 81 percent of the districts in the state – had graduation rates at or higher than 90 percent, an increase from 98 districts last year. Richard City, Oneida Special School District, Alcoa City and Morgan County all had graduation rates at or higher than 99 percent.

• 22 schools across 15 districts had graduation rates of 100 percent.