New federal high school graduation data: Georgia still trails nation

The National Center for Education Statistics released nationwide high school graduation rates this week. Georgia’s 2012-2013 graduation rate of 72 percent ties with Alaska’s and puts us in the bottom of the nation.

The only places with lower grad rates on the list are the District of Columbia with 62 percent, Oregon with 69, New Mexico with 70 and Nevada with 71.

Georgia’s rate is improving.  In 2010-2011, the feds showed our high school graduation rate at 67 percent, so it advanced by five percentage points in two years.

We have a long way to go to catch up to top performing states. The top states for high school graduation are Iowa with a 90 percent rate, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin with 88 percent, and Indiana, New Hampshire and Vermont with 87.

As the state Department of Education notes, Georgia has imposed a higher bar for its students to graduate high school than some other states. For example, Georgia has the same requirements for all students, including special education students, to earn a regular diploma. In some states, special education students may earn a diploma if they complete their IEP.

We may hear some discussion in the General Assembly this session about whether the state needs to reconsider its high school graduation requirements.

Public high school 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) for the United States, the 50 states and the District of Columbia: School years 2010-11 to 2012-13

State Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate
2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
United States1 79 80 81
Alabama 72 75 80
Alaska 68 70 72
Arizona 78 76 75
Arkansas 81 84 85
California 76 79 2 80
Colorado 74 75 77
Connecticut 83 85 86
Delaware 78 80 80
District of Columbia 59 59 62
Florida 71 75 76
Georgia 67 70 72
Hawaii 80 81 2 82
Illinois 84 82 83
Indiana 86 86 87
Iowa 88 89 90
Kansas 83 85 86
Kentucky3 86
Louisiana 71 72 74
Maine 84 85 86
Maryland 83 84 85
Massachusetts 83 85 85
Michigan 74 76 77
Minnesota 77 78 80
Mississippi 75 75 76
Missouri 81 84 2 86
Montana 82 84 84
Nebraska 86 88 88
Nevada 62 63 71
New Hampshire 86 86 87
New Jersey 83 86 88
New Mexico 63 70 70
New York 77 77 77
North Carolina 78 80 83
North Dakota 86 87 88
Ohio 80 81 82
Oklahoma3 85
Oregon 68 68 69
Pennsylvania 83 84 86
Rhode Island 77 77 80
South Carolina 74 75 78
South Dakota 83 83 83
Tennessee 86 87 86
Texas 86 88 88
Utah 76 80 83
Vermont 87 88 87
Virginia 82 83 84
Washington 76 77 76
West Virginia 78 79 81
Wisconsin 87 88 88
Wyoming 80 79 77
— Not available.
1 The United States 4-year ACGR was estimated using both the reported 4-year ACGR data from reporting states and the District of Columbia and using imputed data for Idaho, Kentucky, and Oklahoma for school years 2010-11 and 2011-12, and imputed data for Idaho for school year 2012-13.
2 School year 2011-12 data for California, Hawaii, and Missouri were revised subsequent to the publication of these data in NCES 2014-391. The estimated United States ACGR includes these revisions.
3 The Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a timeline extension for these states to begin reporting 4-year ACGR data, resulting in the 4-year ACGR not being available in one or more of the school years shown.
NOTE: The 4-year ACGR is the number of students who graduate in 4 years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class. From the beginning of 9th grade (or the earliest high school grade), students who are entering that grade for the first time form a cohort that is “adjusted” by adding any students who subsequently transfer into the cohort and subtracting any students who subsequently transfer out, emigrate to another country, or die.
SOURCE: EDFacts/Consolidated State Performance Report, school years 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13, This table was prepared January 2015.


Reader Comments 0


Oregon next to last?  Wait a minute, Oregon has not voted Republican in a presidential election since 1984.  So how can this be since we know that Obama's feds cook these numbers to make red states like Georgia look bad.  I smell a conspiracy.


Isn't that the white elephant in the room, @MaureenDowney ?   Those of you who are Jeffersonians and believe in local control and shun federalism fail to understand that comparative analysis across states is meaningless.   Why should graduation requirements be harder in one state versus another?   Why should academic standards be different in one state versus another?    Herein lies one of the major problems with our outdated education system.

Common Sense Committee
Common Sense Committee

There's some important points that were not brought up in this post.

1. Graduation rates are calculated based on when a student enters high school.  They then have four years to complete their high school education requirements.  If they graduate after that point (I believe after summer school), then they are counted as a dropout.  

2. Students who graduate by completing their IEP diploma goals have that option here in Georgia.  It is referred to as an IED (individual education diploma) and those children are counted as dropouts due to not meeting the graduation requirements.  Unfair?  Yes.  True?  Absolutely.  Does this need to change?  Again, absolutely.

3. It doesn't matter what the passing score is in a state.  Whether we follow the 65% model, the 60% model, or stay at the current 70%, some students will always find a way to put only the minimum into their work.  Shouldn't students be required to demonstrate a solid majority of the material (65% or higher) in order to pass a class?


@Common Sense Committee 

I think it DOES matter with mastery.  Not every child is going to be proficient in every subject.  We should afford them the ability to follow their passion and their promise. A D is fine at university if it's not in your major.  So if I hate literature, I'm fine with a D, as long as I pass. 

I also want to be clear that if we looked at students who failed with a 60-69%, I would wager that we are looking at more than 50% of the students.  Pass them, graduate them, and move them on to follow the passion and the promise.


I could have helped increase my school's rate by ignoring certain standards - namely that students prove they have mastered content.  I had more than one senior not pass my course last semester despite the myriad of chances I was forced to give by higher ups in the name of getting the rate artificially high.  Some just wouldn't do it.  Is that my fault?


Wait a minute, didn't I read somewhere that the way the rate was calculated has changed over the last couple of years? Don't the feds now look at a "cohort" rate that compares the number of students starting out with the number of students graduating in a given class,whereas before,the number was measured differently?


Why do we concentrate on the graduation percentage?  Each state has different requirements and there's no way of knowing how prepared graduates are for work, college, or trade school.  How about a national graduation test?


How about posting an expose of the "qualifications" claimed by posters vs. reality?  The paper has the information to find out a lot about the "expert" posters who continuously dump drivel on here.


Legislators: Headlines about the sorry state of Georgia's traditional public schools won't stop until you take the initiative to finally force reform on the system.

Please consider empowering parents with tuition vouchers so they can play their role in expanding the marketplace of choices. Short of that, maximize opportunities for charter schools and tax credits for parents sending their children to private schools.

Don't make another generation of Georgians pay the price for inaction!


@EdUktr  In reading over the past posts, you are on this blog multiple times for every single posting.  Do you really not have anything else to do? Your continued one note only rant on the only issue you care about, tuition vouchers is not only boring but completely unproductive.  It may be suitable for metro students who have a number of schooling choices close at hand, but for the vast majority of counties, there is only one, sparsely populated middle/high school and no private school from which to choose.  Furthermore, there are not enough students to populate another school if one were to be created by “market forces”.  Families might drive a few extra miles to go some place they perceive as being “better”, but will certainly not drive 40-50 or more miles to another school. The Legislative body needs to look at what is good for ALL the students in the state, not just those in certain localities.  Now, as has been seen in the past, whenever someone disagrees with you, you resort to ugly name calling.  So proceed accordingly.


@EdUktr You understand schools have been reforming since their inception, blaming public school teachers has been a government norm since 1957, and privatized learning is medieval, not modern, right?


That's amazing considering students are allowed to turn assignments and projects in days/weeks/sometimes months after due dates for partial credit. They have credit recovery labs where students who are behind can take classes online to catch up. Considering they can take the quizzes as many times as they want until they pass...

You have to literally do nothing to not pass classes in this state. Not to mention there is so much paperwork and CYA crap that teachers have to do these days it's easier for the teacher to pass the kid. Not worth the time and effort to fail them.

The fact that everyone, including special education students are on college prep is a joke and it shows in the numbers.

Education in this state is a joke.


The percentage of special education students who are on a Certificate, not diploma track in GA is about 4%.  That becomes significant.  Other states, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and others, have options for special needs student to actually earn a diploma and "graduate" under the Federal definition. Also, many special ed students can remain in school for additional years.  As they haven't graduated, these students still are part of the Adjusted Cohort (i.e. - they are added into the denominator of "Total Students"). 

 Is this semantics?  Yes.  Is it hurting our state?  Yes!  Can the State School Board and/or Legislature fix this issue?  Yes!

MaureenDowney moderator

@EdUktr, I am not sure of your point. Georgia is graduating more kids from high school than ever in its history. In 1950, half of the kids in America didn’t drop out of high school because they never went. When I was checking out this claim, I found the percent was even higher in Georgia. About 60 percent of kids never went on to high school in the "good old days."


@MaureenDowney Excellent point.  When I moved to the N GA mountains in 1973, I discovered that half my children's daddies did not even have a sixth grade education!  Many had only made it to third grade.  Their mamas averaged ninth-tenth grade before dropping out.   I had one student (out of 28) with both parents as high school graduates!  By the way, only one had a divorced parent. These would be people born in the early 1950s.

And of course, there was little offered in special ed.  Those kids dropped out, if they ever started.


If you look at the highest states in graduation, you should also look at what numerical grade it takes to pass the class. 

Iowa?  60%.  If Georgia would follow suit, graduation rates would increase, cost per pupil would decrease, and it wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime.

Not every child has to be average in everything...we can be below average.  Right now we are spinning our wheels offering credit recovery for students who ALMOST passed...They take a test, and they then pass.  Whatsay we just pass them with a D?



@mensa_dropout  This is what we do with Pell Grant recipients, so why not with high school students?  Maybe you have a point.


Do our school administrators trail in making excuses for a half-century of stagnant test scores? Or in their own aversion to accountability?

Parents and taxpayers want to know.


@EdUktr No one is evading accountability and responsibility, except those that are willing to sacrifice the education of all Georgia's children for the benefit of a few. Teachers are constantly held accountable, which would be no problem at all if authorities used data other than what is gathered by multiple-choice exams. But these exams are designed for some to fail and others to succeed; the scores have nothing to do with a % of correct answers. Please don't ignore the historical realities mentioned on this board either. Even the simplest historical reasoning would uncover the purpose of the exams is to destroy public responsibility to educate communities.Teachers will be happy to accept all accountability measures, if the legislators are held accountable for the systems they have rigged to leave so many Georgians in poverty. Schools are more of a reflection of social and cultural realities, than they are an agent of the state. Your vitriol about public education says more about your view of your neighbor, than the worth of teachers.