Georgia reports significant rise in high school graduation rate to 78.8 percent

Interesting news from the state Department of Education this morning on the rise in the Georgia high school graduation rate from 72.5 percent in 2014 to 78.8 percent last year.

ddndiplomaartI am interested in what people think is making the difference. If it’s policy changes, which ones mattered? The policies would date back to John Barge’s era over DOE since the data reflect students in school during his tenure.

I would venture parents and students have absorbed the message that a high school diploma is now a requisite and that teens will be doomed with one.

What do you think?

The AJC education team will be reporting on the new rates and looking in depth at what occurred among metro districts. Check back here throughout the day.

Here is the official DOE release:

Georgia’s 2015 high school graduation rate rose significantly, from 72.5 percent in 2014 to 78.8 percent in 2015. This represents the fourth straight increase in the state’s graduation rate.

“The 2015 graduation rate shows that our schools are working harder and smarter than ever to ensure our students receive their diploma, something that affords them the opportunity to move on to postsecondary education, the military, or directly into a meaningful career,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “I expect we will continue to see the graduation rate increase as we provide more personalized graduation plans with multiple paths to graduation.”

“In today’s highly competitive workforce, a high school diploma is necessary to succeed in a growing and changing economy,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “Our state benefits as more qualified Georgians graduate high school and have the opportunity to pursue postsecondary credentials and careers. While there is more work to be done, I am encouraged by our state’s progress as we continue to work together to provide Georgia’s students with a high-quality education.”

This is the fifth year Georgia has calculated the graduation rate using the adjusted cohort rate, which is now required by the U.S. Department of Education. The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate defines the cohort based on when a student first becomes a freshman; it is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years and includes adjustments for student transfers. In contrast, Georgia’s former graduation rate calculation defined the cohort upon graduation, which may have included students who took more than four years to graduate.

This is the first class not required to take the Georgia High School Graduation Test in order to receive a regular diploma, as Georgia moves away from a one-size-fits-all approach to graduation.

There is evidence that focusing less on testing, and more on career education and personalized paths to graduation, opens up opportunities for students. The graduation rate for students who complete a Career Pathway is much higher – at 89 percent – than the rate for students who do not.

Moving forward, the GaDOE will continue to focus on personalized learning rather than a standardized approach – including Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) and core credit flexibility, including the new flexibility that allows students to receive a math, science, or foreign language credit for a computer programming course.

The agency is also working to improve the graduation rate for students with disabilities through a statewide systemic improvement plan which establishes a network of regional support to support local districts in implementing interventions provided by the National Dropout Prevention Center.

All states now calculate the graduation rate using the same formula, but each state still sets its own requirements for students to earn a diploma. Georgia still has some of the highest requirements in the nation for students to graduate with a regular diploma.

More Information:

State Graduation Rates

2015 – 78.8 percent

2014 – 72.5 percent

2013 – 71.8 percent

2012 – 69.7 percent

2011 – 67.4 percent

Reader Comments 0

50 comments
CSpinks
CSpinks

KUDOS  to Dr. John Barge and to the team he assembled at GaDOE.


John's move from The Twin Towers to McIntosh County was a loss for all Georgians except for the people of that coastal county.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Do we have a link to look at ALL Georgia public schools?

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Wascatlady See Ty Tagami's articles. He's good at providing access to these data.

oh Pleese
oh Pleese

Last year's graduating class at my high school produced a roughly

90% rate but I would be surprised if more than a quarter of them could score beyond an 18 on the ACT.

readcritic
readcritic

@oh Pleese

You are so right. Schools make the stats fit the requirement. Numbers lie. Most colleges will show how many so-called high school grads need remediation. Children are taught entitlement on their education. When they get to college, they expect the coddling they got in high school...rude awakening! The diploma just means the administrators found better ways to make the numbers look good.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Moving away from the GHSGT probably explains at least half of the improvement.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady Teachers' discretion on grading probably accounted for the other half. I would LOVE to see these students take the GHSGT - I bet most could not pass it!

MyraBlackmon
MyraBlackmon

I believe it is a combination of policy, practice and local district effort. Getting rid of the graduation test is a huge plus; kids who finish in summer school are now counted and I don't believe they were a couple of years ago; districts are focusing more on helping struggling students with alternative programs, graduation coaches and partnerships with outside organizations that encourage and support kids. That's what I see in Clarke County and it has made a significant difference in our graduation rate, which is above the state average.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @MyraBlackmon


@CLASS80DOG

Your cynicism and hatred for public schools is showing and, yet, I feel that if the same headline was posted for the (for-profit) charter school industry you would be exalting them, not vilifying them.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@sneakpeakintoeducation @class80olddog @MyraBlackmon Look at all the teacher comments - they agree that these are "smoke and mirrors" numbers!  I don't hate public schools per se; there are a lot of good public schools - my kids went to Pope High School and it was a great school.  If a charter school told me they had miraculously increased their graduation rate by 20% right after doing away with their standardized testing, I would call BS on them, too! 

NATIVE_ATL
NATIVE_ATL

As much as I hate to say it probably because 1. more kids drop out of school and are not measured and probably more importantly 2. No graduation test necessary.  How sad

CSpinks
CSpinks

The goal should not be that every high school enrollee would receive a diploma four years later. The goal should be that every high school enrollee would acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for responsible adult living and, thereby, earn a high school diploma.

MyraBlackmon
MyraBlackmon

@CSpinks Yes, but you can't teach attitude. Three reasons kids don't perform: Can't (due to some mental or physical impairment), won't (attitude) or don't know how. The only thing that can actually be taught is the last one.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@historydawg @class80olddog What else is there?  Teacher recommendations? (with administrators standing behind them telling them what to say and teachers too afraid for their jobs to take a stand?)

readcritic
readcritic

Atlanta City Schools are not the only ones who know how to cook the books. Administrators in small city schools have that game down pat. The state wants the graduation rate up, so what easier way to do it than to intimidate, harass, and bully the teachers into making it happen. Here is how it is done... the teacher must allow the students to turn in late work and count it toward the grade (which is usually copied from those students who already did the assignment), the teacher must provide access to extra credit, the teacher must provide parents notification of failing grades/missing work status every 3 weeks or sooner, the teacher must supply the students with endless copies of lost assignments and instructions and post all assignments online, the teacher must be available to provide after school tutoring, the teacher must provide additional copies of assignments the students chose not to do and attach a page of directions and student info for each student (usually that means the teacher make an additional 100+ copies for the 100+ out of 180+ students who don't do any work because they know they have the system beat), the teacher will make himself/herself available during planning periods, the teachers must make arrangements for the students to skip an elective class to make up missing/undone assignments, the teacher will provide missing assignments to an area where students can, at their own volition, go during lunch to make up work and get help doing so (3 students of 98 actuallycared enough to do this), and the teacher will attend after school student activities to make the students feel valued. Above all, teachers will ignore student apathy and discipline issues because those things don't look good on the record. Unfortunately these are just some of the things the teachers must do for those who don't care and don't want to be there, but nowhere is there any accountability for the students or parents. Wow! Administrators have learned how to pass students along to get that graduation rate up! Isn't it wonderful! This is so unfair to the students who do care and choose to apply themselves and submit their work in a timely manner. It is no mystery why more students pass and graduate as administrators learn newer and better ways to make the numbers say what they want them to.  

readcritic
readcritic

@NewName @readcritic And the administrators are praised for their success and rewarded with hefty raises and retirement packages while the teachers are given more and more duties to perform with little or no reward. They have larger classes of students who have major issues and are given no support by the administrators who drive veteran teachers out so they can replace them with the less expensive, new "wonder" teachers. 

readcritic
readcritic

@MyraBlackmon @readcritic

It would shock you to talk to teachers who dare to speak the truth without fear of retaliation from administrators. Wait for some of the tell-all books to come out!

ParentTeacher
ParentTeacher

@readcritic Again this is all true.  Further, teachers are expected/required to give retests and credit recovery at the end of the school year.  If they still fail then students are place in an online class that anyone can pass after taking the same online test 3-5 times.

PJ25
PJ25

And I just struck oil in my backyard.  

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

(1) "Moving forward, the GaDOE will continue to focus on personalized learning rather than a standardized approach. . . ."


(2) From Dr. Green and the DeKalb County School System: "Schools begin working with students on a graduation plan when they enter the ninth grade. . . . Each high school has individualized support programs for students."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We are finally getting on the right track in traditional public schools in Georgia by "focus(ing) on personalized learning" and by providing "individualized support programs" for students in school systems throughout Georgia, such as those the DeKalb County School System is taking a lead in implementing.


TO DR. GREEN: I continue to have faith that the DCSS will rise to become, again, one of the best school systems in Georgia. As a retired Instructional Lead Teacher (1 - 7) and a high school Reading Department Chair in the DCSS with an M.Ed. as a Reading Specialist, I would urge you to establish a procedure whereby all 8th grade counselors preview the reading grade level scores on nationally standardized tests for all students in 8th grade.  Any student who is reading below 6th grade level in 8th grade should be automatically assigned an elective in 9th grade for a remedial reading course. Ninth through twelfth grade counselors should, also, preview every student's verbal scores on standardized tests such as the PSAT and the SAT.  Students who have low verbal scores, or students who are failing too many classes per semester (and the source of the failure appears to be insufficient reading skills) should, also, be assigned to a remedial reading course as an elective course.  Counselors (perhaps through teachers) should share these verbal scores with parents who should, also, be part of the process of having these students registered for remedial reading classes (and advanced reading classes, by choice) through 12th grade.

Please make certain that every elementary, middle, and high school has a vibrant Reading Specialist at the head of his/her school's Reading Program. Please, also, have that Reading Specialist provide in-service training to all curriculum teachers regarding how to incorporate the teaching of reading skills, easily, within their regular curriculum, whole group lessons.  Students' reading improvement scores will soar throughout the DCSS, if you invest in these suggestions, and you will be glad that you did. 

 Remember, reading was suppressed for generations for black students.  Now, is the time to wisely forge ahead, through innovation, to meet the potential of every student in grades 1 - 12 through pinpointed placement and instruction in reading skills.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaryElizabethSings "Remember, reading was suppressed for generations for black students.  "  So you would think they would want to take advantage of the opportunity to learn it now.

class80olddog
class80olddog

APS can show you how to do it.  They made great strides under Dr. Beverly Hall. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

Also, now, the Georgia Milestones end of course test only counts for 20% of the grade - that leaves 80 % to "teacher's discretion".  No wonder more students are passing their classes.

historydawg
historydawg

@class80olddog so you think one multiple-choice exam should determine the entire grade of a 5th grader? even of a high school student? These exams have never counted 100% of a student's grade. Why should not the teacher be able to give multiple assessments, including writing, etc. Did the writing assessment turn out badly for you back in the old days?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@historydawg @class80olddog "Why should not the teacher be able to give multiple assessments, including writing, etc."  That would assume you could trust the teacher to be honest and not be swayed by their administrators - as we have heard from numerous teachers - that is not possible.  The GHSGT was a very simple. MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS test.  I would bet that most eighth graders could pass it.  When a HS graduate cannot pass it, it is most likely because they did not learn the basic material.  But if there is a problem with the TEST, then change the test, don't eliminate it.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Bigger question would be - how many Georgia diploma holders cannot read above a sixth-grade level?

class80olddog
class80olddog

To what do I think you could attribute this increase?  I think Maureen said it here -

In other words - CHEAT.

"  regard to the state testing requirements, prior to cohort 2015, students were required to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Tests in each core content area to graduate. Based on changes to the state Board of Education policy, these test requirements for graduation were eliminated for the class of 2015; thus allowing some students who may not have earned a diploma in previous cohorts to earn one in 2015."

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Here is what Atlanta Public Schools said about its new grad rate:


Atlanta Public Schools 2015 four-year cohort graduation rate is 71.5 percent, 12.4 percentage points higher than the 2014 cohort-according to a report released today by the Georgia Department of Education.

The state graduation rate rose by 6.3 percentage points, from 72.5 percent in 2014 to 78.8 percent in 2015. As a result, APS closed the gap with the state by 6.1 percentage points.

With large increases and high performance, the following APS schools led the way in the rise in graduation rates: Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy (94 percent), Henry Grady (89.7 percent), North Atlanta (81.5 percent), Benjamin E. Mays (81.9 percent), and the South Atlanta Schools of Health (87.9 percentage points) and Computer Animation and Design (77.8 percent). While the rate for Carver Early College (98.6 percent) did not increase, it continues to achieve the highest graduation rates in the district. KIPP Atlanta Collegiate (92.9 percent) achieved one of the highest rates with its first graduating class.

Other schools that achieved large gains include Therrell School of Health with a gain of 12.4 percentage points and overall graduation rate of 67.1 percent; Therrell School of Law with a gain of 16.6 percentage points and overall graduation rate of 68.6 percent; Frederick Douglass with a gain of 16.2 percentage points and overall graduation rate of 58.7 percent. Carver School of Technology achieved a gain of 17.2 percentage points and overall graduation rate of 64.6 percent; Carver School of Health with a gain of 6.8 percentage points and overall graduation rate of 68 percent. Therrell School of Science Technology Engineering and Math had a gain of 3.0 percentage points with an overall graduation rate of 79.5 percent.

"I am proud of the contributions from all of our high schools in ensuring that more students graduate on time," said Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen. She also noted that a variety of factors contributed significantly to APS' gains. "After carefully verifying our data, it seems clear that while changes in the state testing requirements likely played a role in these gains, targeted district-based efforts were also major reasons for these improvements. Throughout last school year, APS made a strong effort to help our students remain on a path to earning a diploma."

The district-level changes implemented in 2014-2015 to support high school seniors include:
*      APS graduation coaches and counselors had access to a newly designed data management system to track academic process of seniors. The system includes a dashboard application that helps coaches keep track of their cohorts.
*       Counselors completed periodic Graduation Status Reports on each student where they categorized each student as on- or off-track for graduation. The district's Data and Information Group and the Office of High Schools collaborated to design the applications and systems.
*       Many seniors participated in credit-recovery options offered through the Atlanta Virtual Academy. These courses allowed students to make-up credits that they needed for graduation.
*       Some schools implemented drop-out recovery programs.

Additionally in 2015, 14 students received alternative diplomas or certificates that are not credited towards APS' graduation rate, a decrease of 71 from the previous year. That decrease contributes to a two-point increase in the graduation rate. Furthermore, students with disabilities were able to receive general education diplomas due to both state assessment policy changes and improved special education student data tracking.

"I want to commend our class of 2015. Our increased graduation rate is a testament to the hard work of our students, parents, teachers, administrators and partners. While there is still much work to be done, this improvement demonstrates that change is possible," said Courtney English, chairperson, Atlanta Board of Education. "Superintendent Carstarphen and her team are dedicated to ensuring our students get the education they deserve, and I look forward to the district building on this progress."

In regard to the state testing requirements, prior to cohort 2015, students were required to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Tests in each core content area to graduate. Based on changes to the state Board of Education policy, these test requirements for graduation were eliminated for the class of 2015; thus allowing some students who may not have earned a diploma in previous cohorts to earn one in 2015.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

A certain way to increase apparent performance is to quietly lower the standard.

readcritic
readcritic

@class80olddog @BurroughstonBroch

And no one investigates administrative reporting. The teachers should be allowed to give honest feedback without fear of retaliation. The state sometimes asks that surveys be completed by the teachers, but teachers believe that what they say can be viewed by administrators, so everything looks good even though the educational climate is as bad as ever. The teachers know it is all a big show without substance.

That is why administrators make the big bucks. Check to see where all the big salary money goes.

readcritic
readcritic

@BurroughstonBroch The standards in Georgia are now at the bottom and students here still can't pass because they are enabled by administrators to do nothing and still get credit.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@readcritic @class80olddog @BurroughstonBroch  Two daughters teach in the public schools, one in Fulton and the other in Gwinnett. Both say there is hell to pay with the administration and you put your career on the line if you press to hold a child back. We're headed to the Lake Woebegone syndrome where every child is above average.



oh Pleese
oh Pleese

Schools are under political pressure to appear 'successful'.  One way to raise the graduation rate is for administrators to admonish teachers that 'there will be no failures'.  This happened to me at my high school.  Another way to improve the graduation rate is to offer ridiculously easy computer-based credit recovery courses.  No reason for congratulations here, this is just smoke and mirrors.

readcritic
readcritic

@oh Pleese

The ways administrators dream up to make the numbers fit the report are endless and most creative. The teachers know what is going on, but they are not the ones filling out the reports. It is like letting the fox guard the hen house.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator


From DeKalb Schools on its grad rate:  


The DeKalb County School District’s high school graduation rate has continued to grow significantly, according to recently released data from the Georgia Department of Education.  Since 2013, the District graduation rate improved 10.7 points to a current rate of 70.9 percent for the District’s 25 high schools.  During this time, the state graduation rate increased 6.2 points from 72.5 to 78.7. 

“We are headed in the right direction with improved graduation rates because of our laser focus on student achievement,” said Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green.  “Much more work needs and will be done to ensure our students are ready for career and college opportunities.

“Combined with the recent 103-point increase in SAT scores for our college bound students, it is clear that we are on the right path,” Dr. Green added.  “Our students are taking advantage of the rigorous curriculum and instruction they experience each day in the classroom.”

Other significant findings in the 2015 graduation rates report include:

  • The DeKalb School for the Arts has a perfect 100 percent graduation rate.
  • Two schools have graduation rates of 90+ - DeKalb Early College Academy and Arabia Mountain.
  • Four schools have graduation rates of 80+ - Chamblee, Lakeside, Redan, and Tucker.  Redan and Tucker are also Title I schools.
  • 22 of 25 schools improved their graduation rates from 2014-2015.  The three that have declining scores included Arabia Mountain with a rate of 97.2, DECA with a rate of 97.7 and Dunwoody with a rate of 77.9.
  • Seven schools have double-digit increases including Clarkston, Cross Keys, Destiny Academy, Gateway to College, Miller Grove, Towers, and Tucker.
  • 9 high schools have rates above the state average – Arabia Mountain, Chamblee, DeKalb Early College Academy*, DeKalb School for the Arts, Druid Hills, Lakeside, Miller Grove*, Redan*, and Tucker*. (* indicates Title I schools)
  • Out of 19 Title I schools, 18 schools increased their rates and six schools experienced double-digit growth.  The one Title I school that did not demonstrate improvement was DECA, which had a graduation rate of 97.7; last year their rate was 100 percent.
  • All 14 of the schools that are considered at-risk schools (OSD, Priority, Focus) had improved graduation rates with five schools showing double-digit increases.

“In addition to elimination of the state graduation test, the primary reasons for these strong improvements include doing a better job of providing accurate data to the Georgia Department of Education and an intentional, comprehensive scope of graduation services,” said Dr. Green.  (See below.)

Dr. Green also pointed to how District students narrowed the achievement gap between District and statewide scores from 2013 to 2014, based on the College & Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). DeKalb middle schools narrowed the achievement gap by 6.4, or nearly 44 percent, from 14.9 points in 2013 to 8.3 points in 2014.  Elementary school and high school scores showed gap reductions of 26 percent and 29 percent, respectively, between District and state scores.

District Graduation Services

Schools begin working with students on a graduation plan when they enter the ninth grade.  High school students are advised annually to ensure that they are earning the credits to move from one grade level to the next.

Each high school has individualized support programs for students.  Post-secondary transition specialists are housed in eight of the lower-performing high schools to add an extra layer of support for students.  These staff monitor at-risk students to assist them to remain on schedule and in school.  Some of the services include attendance monitoring, online academic credit support, post-secondary option exposure and mentoring.

Students begin testing to determine post-secondary options in the 10th and 11th grades.  They are given information regarding PSAT, ACT, ASVAB, and Industry Certification exams.

Seniors receive advisement at the beginning of the 12th grade and are closely monitored to ensure that they progress toward graduation at the end of the school year.  If a student is failing a course that is needed for graduation, notification is sent to parents making them aware of the issue in time for remediation to occur.

If a student fails a course needed for graduation, options are given to the student for earning the credit.  Options include the DeKalb Online Academy, Georgia Virtual School and local academic credit recovery programs.

Students not meeting graduation requirements by May are advised about options for recovering credit during summer months.  Summer school options and requirements are shared with the respective parents and the student.  A summer graduation ceremony is held in August to allow students the opportunity to celebrate their achievement. 

bu2
bu2

@MaureenDowney Lakeside was 62% just about 3 years ago.  Its hard to believe they are now over 80% without either that 62% rate being really sloppy bookkeeping or that over 80% being smoke and mirrors.  Similarly Druid Hills has gone from 62% to above the state 78% average.  Those sorts of improvements are not quick and easy.