Georgia shows significant leap in high school graduation rate

Georgia saw a major gain in its high school graduation rate.

The U.S. Department of Education released new high school graduation rates today, and Georgia showed a considerable leap. In 2014-2015, Georgia’s grad rate was 78.8.  In 2013-2014, it was 72.5.

Despite that significant improvement of 6.3 percentage points this year — second only to Washington, D.C., which saw a 7 percent increase — Georgia still trails the national average of 83.2. Nine states and the District of Columbia posted lower rates than Georgia, which has long languished in the bottom tier. However, if Georgia could sustain this rate of improvement or close to it, it would reach the national average quickly.

“The Georgia Department of Education has focused on providing new paths to a high school diploma – one diploma, with multiple paths to get there. Those efforts include strengthening CTAE and dual enrollment, providing assistance to help districts improve the graduation rate for students with disabilities, focusing on foundational skills in the early grades, and eliminating unnecessary standardized tests. We believe these are major contributing factors to the largest single-year graduation rate increase Georgia has seen in many years,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods.

“The 2014-2015 graduation rates released today show progress for all reported groups of students, including students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students continued to narrow the gap between their graduation rates and those of their white peers, even as all groups made progress,” according to the US DOE.

You can find graduation rates and other information about your Georgia school here in the Ultimate Atlanta School Guide.

While most states have seen progress since 2010-2011, the District of Columbia showed the greatest growth last year, improving its 2014-15 rate by seven percentage points from the prior year. However, the District still has the nation’s lowest graduation rate of 68.5, following closely by New Mexico with 68.6. Iowa leads the nation with a grad rate of 90.8.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, “We take great pride, as should students, educators, parents and public schools, in President Obama’s announcement that high school graduation rates have been consistently improving. High school graduation is an important accomplishment and milestone in the path to adulthood. Educators and their students have faced a recession, a changing economy and shifting educational standards over the past several years, and it’s gratifying to see evidence of what we know intuitively—that whatever is thrown at them, they always will try to succeed. Thankfully, there’s more recognition that teaching and learning, not high-stakes tests, are what matter in student progress.”

Four organizations leading the GradNation campaign to raise the high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 – the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education –issued a statement about the rise:

The continued increase of the nation’s high school graduation rate is proof that when people unite behind an ambitious and important goal, anything is possible. The greatest credit for this historic high school graduation rate goes to students (particularly students of color and those from low-income families who are making the biggest gains), families and teachers who are putting in the work and showing great determination and resolve, often in the face of great challenges.

These efforts in households and classrooms are being supported by key leaders in education, business and the nonprofit sector who recognize the importance of a high school diploma to individuals, families, communities and the nation’s economy. Many have joined the GradNation campaign in pushing for a big, national goal.

What makes this new record powerful is that it is an example of a national commitment that spans administrations, parties and ideologies with hundreds of elected leaders at the local, state and national levels stepping up to help us reach our goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, their secretaries of education, and almost half of our nation’s governors – on both sides of the aisle – have put great emphasis on raising graduation rates.

In particular, states and districts around the country are making progress by understanding what works and implementing effective reforms and practices, like using data to make decisions, working to increase teacher quality, raising expectations for all students, paying attention to early warning signs, adding more caring adults into the lives of young people, fighting chronic absenteeism, and eliminating disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact students of color.

Some may question whether the rise in graduation rates is real; some may believe that high school diplomas aren’t a valid indicator of success. We know that the progress is real, and agree that in today’s economy, a high school diploma doesn’t guarantee success. But we also know that the lack of a diploma consigns a young person to almost-certain failure

Here is a chart showing the public high school 4-year rate 2010–11 through 2014–15

2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
United States 79 80 81.4 82.3 83.2
Alabama 72 75 80 86.3 89.3
Alaska 68 70 71.8 71.1 75.6
Arizona 78 76 75.1 75.7 77.4
Arkansas 81 84 84.9 86.9 84.9
California 76 79 80.4 81 82.0
Colorado 74 75 76.9 77.3 77.3
Connecticut 83 85 85.5 87 87.2
Delaware 78 80 80.4 87 85.6
District of Columbia 59 59 62.3 61.4 68.5
Florida 71 75 75.6 76.1 77.9
Hawaii 80 81 82.4 81.8 81.6
Idaho 77.3 78.9
Illinois 84 82 83.2 86 85.6
Indiana 86 86 87 87.9 87.1
Iowa 88 89 89.7 90.5 90.8
Kansas 83 85 85.7 85.7 85.7
Kentucky 86.1 87.5 88.0
Louisiana 71 72 73.5 74.6 77.5
Maine 84 85 86.4 86.5 87.5
Maryland 83 84 85 86.4 87.0
Massachusetts 83 85 85 86.1 87.3
Michigan 74 76 77 78.6 79.8
Minnesota 77 78 79.8 81.2 81.9
Mississippi 75 75 75.5 77.6 75.4
Missouri 81 84 85.7 87.3 87.8
Montana 82 84 84.4 85.4 86.0
Nebraska 86 88 88.5 89.7 88.9
Nevada 62 63 70.7 70 71.3
New Hampshire 86 86 87.3 88.1 88.1
New Jersey 83 86 87.5 88.6 89.7
New Mexico 63 70 70.3 68.5 68.6
New York 77 77 76.8 77.8 79.2
North Carolina 78 80 82.5 83.9 85.6
North Dakota 86 87 87.5 87.2 86.6
Ohio 80 81 82.2 81.8 80.7
Oklahoma 84.8 82.7 82.5
Oregon 68 68 68.7 72 73.8
Pennsylvania 83 84 85.5 85.3 84.8
Rhode Island 77 77 79.7 80.8 83.2
South Carolina 74 75 77.6 80.1 80.3
South Dakota 83 83 82.7 82.7 83.9
Tennessee 86 87 86.3 87.2 87.9
Texas 86 88 88 88.3 89.0
Utah 76 80 83 83.9 84.8
Vermont 87 88 86.6 87.8 87.7




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What about the victims of the non policy of disciplining students of color who do commit the most discipline problems, fights, assaults, rapes.

My child six weeks in has had her hair pulled, followed by a threat to have it cut off with scissors. When she told me, I immediately took her back to the school, and asked to see the school cop to make a report. No you can not do that, you must see the Designated African American AP who will investigate and mitigate. The school can't suspended one in certain demographics. I get a call the next day that the girl admitted to pulling my daughters hair and making cutting motions, but had no scissors. My child told me she had scissors, and had carved up two desks. ( by the next class period the class had two new desks). I even received an email that with a summary of the investigation that said the girl said she and my daughter had been friends ( I replied not ever, my child disputes) and the girl was joking and had only touched my daughters hair and made a scissor movement. My response was you don't touch another child's hair and in my culture you learn that in preschool or kindergarten. Why would my child run out of the room if it was a joke.

Then after two classes, my daughter was between this class and another was shoved into a locker. Her phone in an otter box was broken, not just the glass. My child also had a head injury / concussion. The school has been trying to say this did not happen. Even though the nurse called me to pick up my child. I immediately met with the principal and showed him my child , head and phone.

Then the original AP tried to lie to my face and say the first incident never happened. I told her she was a liar.

The teachers are afraid to take any students or parents side since they all have one year contracts. They have to go with the party line.

They can never find the tape to support a white child. I asked for the tape and got sent the link for the bus tape. What was your child wearing last month?

Now.though my child has a target on her back. Because I dared question these adminirators. Who want to blame the victim.

Even the black mother claimed they did it down at Creekside. Then Friday we hear on the news that APS at Sutton tried to ignore a unloaded gun brought by a student.

Data can be manipulated.


A little history on the tracking of graduation rates.  Prior to 2010-2011, there wasn't a standard reporting method - schools, systems, and states all had different calculation methods. In 2010-2011, the Federal government set the graduation rate based off the number of students who started in a school in 9th grade and graduated within 4 years.  Schools "own" a student until such time as the student officially withdraws and/or transfers.  This calculation method took effect immediately; there was no phase-in. I have to wonder if for those first 4 years, if some of the increase is just better record keeping.

Now, for a discussion of the calculation - while having a standard calculation is great, it doesn't take into account students - largely special needs - who may not be able to earn a diploma.  States like Georgia with a single diploma, have many students who count in the denominator, but will never count in the numerator.  Other states have multiple diplomas, so they aren't automatically starting in a hole.  It would be an interesting to see an analysis of how different diploma options impact graduation rates.  For example, I've heard that almost 5% of GA students cannot earn the state's diploma; therefore the highest graduation rate GA can earn is 95%.  

@MaureenDowney - do you have anyway to confirm the percentage of GA students that cannot earn a diploma, and thus, count as dropouts?


Why doesn't the "Ultimate Atlanta School Guide" include statistics on students by race? 


Lower the bar and declare victory - the educrat measure of success.


More made up government nonsense to make itself look good. If grad rates are so good why is the rate of  students  needing remedial courses when entering college skyrocketing? Why can't employers find HS grads with just basic skills? Why has the value of a college degree  dropped? Why is a Master's the new norm of a decent education and that is quickly deescalating?  Since grad rates are tied into pay and jobs the meaning of the rate is useless.


This is why the eduacracy fears accountability so much - if there are true measures, it shows how little benefit (if any) we have gotten from our 400% increase in per-student spending over the past 50 years (adjusted for inflation).  So they rely on sleight-of-hand (read: cheating) to make it look like progress is being made.


What a farce. 


@PJ25  Yes, just like the people who tell you that student outcomes have been improving - they have been for the best students, but have gotten significantly worse for the students trapped in failing schools (you know, the one the OSD will take over.


The graduation rate is up? Do you read the AJC? An article yesterday pointed out how easy it is to "recover credit" online; they highlighted a kid who finished a chemistry class in three days. Give a meaningful graduation test, so employers can rely on a high school diploma that means something.


@Starik  Ah, yes, Credit Recovery - the latest in the legal ways to cheat.  Why didn't Beverly Hall think of that? Untold amounts of erasers could have been saved.


Based on the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, Alabama's gains look highly suspect. 


You know, they could easily get Georgia's Graduation rate up to 100% by giving out diplomas as the student registers...


8th grade Math NAEP  2009 - 67% scored above Basic - 8th grade NAEP Math 2015 - 67% scored above Basic.  I see a LOT of reason to cheer the improvement in our students! 


Average SAT score in Georgia 2009 - 1460.  Average SAT score in Georgia in 2015 - 1450.


It would be interesting to see how much the scores improved on first-pass testing via the GHSGT over the past five years.  Oh, shoot, that's right, they did away with that, so there is no way to actually measure if students have improved or not.  Dang it! 

MaureenDowney moderator

@class80olddog You can look at the EOC tests. The GHSGT was considered an easy test with the exception of science. The EOCs are much tougher tests. 


@MaureenDowney @class80olddog  EOCT - So looking at one score on Math II - Spring 2010 State Summary - Mean Score 405, Spring 2014 - Mean Score 388.  Yeah, I see, huge increase.  BTW, my kids all referred to the GHSGT as "ridiculously easy", and yet some could not pass it even after multiple tries?  No worries, they were GIVEN diplomas anyway.


This increase was just after Georgia did away with their High School Graduation Test. Amazing how that happens.  How much has Georgia's NAEP scores gone up?  There is at least one girl out there with a High School diploma who could not pass the GHGST after repeated tries - even though her teachers GAVE her grades that amounted to a 3.6 GPA.  Maybe this girl should be designing the bridges that you drive on every day!  She might even apply to work at our company, but we will not hire her if she cannot fill out the application in our office (we DO have Standards and we hold people accountable to them - unlike the CC).