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Written by:   Crickett Gibbons, Editor, Carolina Parent
Date: August 1, 2010

At some point I stopped tallying the grades my son had successfully completed and started keeping track of how many years are left. It's one way I try to prepare for what's coming. I'm not fooling myself that it won't be a major event when Collin graduates from high school in a couple of years, but by looking ahead I hope to be a bit more accepting when it happens. As a close friend wisely told me, moving closer to high school graduation is better than the alternative.

Unfortunately, too many kids don't make it to high school graduation. In 2008-2009, 19,184 North Carolina students dropped out of school; even one is one too many. Roughly 2,555 are from the Triangle, with more than half from Wake County public schools. The numbers may not be quite as bad as they sound — more than 20 percent of the state's dropouts do so to attend a community college program — but graduation rates aren't stellar either, with anywhere from 11 to 36 percent of the Triangle area's public high school students not graduating in four years, depending on the district.

In Wake County, graduation rates can be ammunition in the debate about school assignment policy, used both to show why a school assignment policy based on diversity — actually household income — failed students and why it works. According to some reports, a decrease in graduation rates coincided with an increase in the number of schools with more than 40 percent of its student population receiving free or reduced-cost school lunches.

As the debate about assignment policies gets more acrimonious and vociferous (good SAT words for my high school junior), it's important to remember that regardless of how concrete numbers can appear, data can be gathered, reported and interpreted in different ways, and number-crunching — while useful — doesn't necessarily tell the whole story.

Regardless of the rainbow of an individual classroom or school, learning about and appreciating other cultures is an important part of learning about the world. Many of today's students will be (or are) interacting with people of different backgrounds — culturally and ethnically — in what is a shrinking and ever-more-connected world. As part of our education coverage in this issue, we talked to educators and parents about how and why they believe multicultural education is important for today's students and tomorrow's leaders. (See page 30 of the print magazine or visit our feature articles.)

With our area becoming more racially diverse, with populations of both white and black students decreasing in Wake County for example, the Triangle is poised to take advantage of opportunities provided by a diverse population.

Whether your kids attend school on a year-round schedule or follow the traditional calendar, a new academic year is a time for a fresh start. In this issue and on our website, we include all kinds of expert advice, helpful tips and local information to help you and your children prepare for and succeed during a new school year. From helping kids of all ages be ready to learn when they enter the classroom to packing — and purchasing — healthier lunches to smoothing the way for a saner family schedule and more, we can help your family welcome a new school year.

Carolina Parent is welcoming a new start as well. Our publisher for 12 years, Liz Holt, is now devoting more time and energy to some of her other passions, including film, dance and yoga. Liz touched every facet of the company during her tenure; she even wrote for the magazine and sold ads before becoming publisher.

We will miss Liz's warmth, trademark laugh and personal perspective (as well as her yoga classes!), but we are thrilled to welcome Brenda Larson as the new publisher of Carolina Parent and CarolinaParent.com. While new to us, Brenda is by no means new to the community or to the media business. She was publisher of niche publications for The News & Observer and, before that, of The Cary News and The Chapel Hill News. She recently consulted for Cary Citizen, an online community newspaper, and also worked extensively in publications in Canada before making the Triangle home with her family seven years ago. As a newcomer to the area with a young child, she says she quickly turned to Carolina Parent for information.

Like families with schoolchildren across the Triangle, we are looking forward to an exciting new year. We didn't start a new grade here at Carolina Parent, but we will be learning new things and exploring new areas in the coming months while continuing to improve the resources, programs and products we have provided for area families for many years.



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