A year ago, N.C. Central University's nursing program seemed about as likely to post the highest passing rates in the UNC-system as Florida State now does to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball standings.
With a passing rate of only 66 percent in 1999, the Board of Governors threatened to shut down the program unless their scores improved.
Just a year later, N.C. Central boasted the highest score in the state -- 94 percent passing rate -- on the National Council Licensure Examination of Registered Nurses, referred to as the N.C. LEXRN.
Donna Benson, who served as interim chancellor at N.C. Central in 1992 and worked with officials to raise test scores, said she employed several methods to help the school improve its passing rate, such as new software, external consultants for the test, small work groups of students and tutorial services.
Benson said much of the school's improvement resulted from improved classes and curriculums but added that the students played a vital role.
"The most impressive aspect of this improvement was the students' commitment," she said.
N.C. Central's nursing problems started in the 1980s, when fewer than 90 percent of the school's graduates passed the N.C. LEXRN the entire decade.
The school's score ranged from 46 to 88 percent in 1982-89.
In response to this trend at N.C. Central's nursing school, the BOG threatened to shut down programs with a passing rate of 75 percent or below for two consecutive years.
N.C. Central's passing rate ranged from 100 percent in 1992 to the decade low of 66 percent in 1999. After such an embarrassing year, N.C. Central undertook an aggressive and comprehensive transformation of their nursing program.
Gretchen Bataille, UNC-system senior vice president of academic affairs, added that N.C. Central made a "concerted effort at all levels -- classes, labs, curriculum, etc." to try to improve students' scores. Bataille said the nursing school also sponsored a four-day study session before the exam.
But such methods have never been needed in UNC-Chapel Hill's nursing program.
"UNC has never been in a situation even close to falling below the required scores and generally posts scores above 90 percent," said Linda Cronenwett, dean of the UNC-CH nursing program.
UNC-CH passing rate is 89 percent in 1999 and 93 percent in 2000, which was the second highest score in the state.
UNC-CH has consistently earned one of the highest passing rates in the UNC-system on the N.C. LEXRN.
Cronenwett said the school's success was due to "good faculty, a good curriculum, and adequate resources from the state and federal governments."
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