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From the Desk of ACS Supt. Burleson: 95 Percent Cohort Graduation Rate Likely Highest Ever in NC School System

Sept. 22, 2014. Dear Editor:

Last week the North Carolina State Board of Education released statewide accountability data for the 115 school systems in our state. Within that release, Avery County was ranked number one in the state earning a 95 percent cohort graduation rate.

This rate measures the percentage of students who start as ninth graders and finish high school in four years. To our knowledge, this is the highest graduation rate ever achieved by a North Carolina school system. We are extremely proud of setting the standard for North Carolina, but nothing compares to the pride we feel for our students and community who have helped us achieve this status.

Supt. Burleson
Supt. Burleson

Personally, I would like to thank our dedicated staff from Pre-K through twelfth grade for their efforts to build relationships with students and foster availability. Our parents have offered support and love, which has positioned students to graduate from high school. Our community, school board, county commissioners, agencies, businesses, and many stakeholders have stood in the gap ensuring that any necessary services were in place for each child. Most importantly, I want to thank our students who embraced responsibility and maintained accountability for their education. Earning a 95% graduation rate was truly a community effort and one that we will work tirelessly to obtain and improve.

Our mission as a district is to ‘graduate every student from high school’. Our goal is to reach a graduation cohort of 100%. I would like to mention a few important initiatives that have helped our students gain momentum to ensure graduation. First, Avery Schools recognizes that early literacy is imperative for a successful foundation for school. Our six Five-Star Pre-K classrooms and our mobile Pre-K classroom, SCOTTIE, offer a state-endorsed curriculum where literacy is the primary focus.

Secondly, the Viking Academy is aggressive and proactive to ensure that each student advances to the next grade level on time. Next, the Blue Ridge Academy has provided young people with a more flexible approach to obtain their high school diploma and, at the same time, gain some valuable work skills and experiences while attending school.

Partnerships with High Country Council of Governments and Mayland Community College (MCC) have offered opportunity for internships, on the job training, and dual enrollment vital to student progress. (Currently, there are 152 Avery High School students enrolled in 38 different MCC classes.) Additionally, four years ago our visionary School Board of Education and County Commissioners approved funding for a one-to-one technology program where every student, K-12 is issued a computing device to use as a primary tool during the school day. Again, many efforts in many areas contributed to this successful graduation percentage.

In closing, I would like to make you aware of several important dates:

  • Saturday 9/27 Avery High Band Classic, 2 p.m. featuring the Viking Marching Band and ten others from across the state
  • Friday 10/10 Avery Homecoming where the Vikings take on the Henderson Bearcats. The Homecoming parade will begin at 4 p.m. and our schools will be dismissing at 1 p.m. (Newland Elementary School will dismiss at 12:30 p.m.).
  • Monday, October 20th Parent-Teacher Conference Day

Again, the support from our parents and community is greatly appreciated.

Mission of ACS: To graduate every student from high school globally prepared for life in the 21st century through supportive relationships with students, parents and community.

Avery County School Accountability Measures 2013-2014

  • Four Year Graduation Cohort 95%, first in the state
  • CTE (Career Technology Education) WorkKeys Assessment-78.9 percent 2014 Graduates were awarded Silver Level Career Readiness Certificates, #8 in the state
  • AMO% Academic Targets Met for Subgroups-84.9 percent, #19 in the state
  • ACT College Readiness – 64 percent of 2013-14 juniors made 17 or above; #26th in the state
  • District Yearly Attendance Average – 95 percent


David Burleson