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It's easy to criticize our public schools.

They tend to be easy targets, and the attacks are well worn.

“The teachers are overpaid and under-worked.”

“The kids are spoiled and lazy.”

“The administration is bloated and unresponsive.”

Valid or not, the criticisms become especially nasty when the tax bills go up or when the test scores go down.

Here in York County, however, the public schools received a desperately needed piece of good news this week.

A new report by GradNation showed that York County schools, as a whole, exceed the average state and national graduation rates.

According to the report, the national graduation average was 82.3 percent for 2014, compared to 85 percent for Pennsylvania.

Most York County school districts, however, did significantly better than that. Twelve out of York County's 16 public school districts exceeded the 90 percent mark, led by Southern York (nearly 97 percent) and Northern York (about 96 percent).

Only four York County districts fell below the state average, and they were just below (Dover and Northeastern at about 84 percent, Hanover at 83 percent and York City at 81 percent).

The good news didn't stop there, either.

York County schools also did better than the state and national average for graduating students from low-income families and for graduating students of color.

The state average for graduating low-income students is 76 percent, while the majority of York County districts boast a graduation rate of more than 80 percent for low-income students. Three local districts topped the 90 percent graduation mark for poor students — Southern York, South Western and Spring Grove.

County districts also topped the state's 72 percent mark for graduating black students. Four local districts saw all of their black students graduate, while only two districts were lower than 80 percent.

The rates for Hispanic students mirrored those of black students. The state average was 70 percent, while the majority of county schools topped 85 percent.

The county numbers can't be considered anything but encouraging.

A high school diploma is the bare minimum needed to get a decent job as an adult. Normally, some kind of post- secondary education is required to find a really rewarding career. But you can't get a post-secondary education without first getting that high school degree.

Fortunately, the schools here in York County appear to be doing a pretty decent job at doing just that.

Is there room for improvement? Of course. Our schools must always strive to do better.

In this case, however, it appears the local critics of public education have little to gripe about.

The numbers show that our local schools are doing their most important job — getting our kids ready for life after high school.

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