The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) announced last week that statewide high school graduation rates have risen to an all-time high of nearly 81 percent. While great for Georgia, the Fayette County School System for the same period showed a metro Atlanta-topping graduation rate of 94 percent.
The county’s individual high schools saw graduation rates ranging from 91-97 percent, according to figures released by the Fayette County School System.
Tops in the county were McIntosh High School in Peachtree City and Whitewater High School south of Fayetteville, both with 97 percent graduation rates.
Next in line were Starr’s Mill High School south of Peachtree City at 94 percent, Tyrone’s Sandy Creek High School at 93 percent, and Fayetteville’s Fayette County High School at 91 percent.
School system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach said Fayette’s graduation rate bested county school systems across metro Atlanta such as those of Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Clayton, Fulton and Gwinnett and Atlanta City Schools by 4.3-27.7 points.
Berry-Dreisbach said Fayette County’s graduation rate has increased by six percentage points over the past seven years.
DOE spokesperson Matt Cardoza said Georgia’s public high school graduation rate rose to an all-time high of 80.8 percent in 2010, representing an increase of two percentage points over last year and more than 17 percentage points since 2003. The graduation rate in 2003 was 63.3 percent, Cardoza said.
Georgia uses the Leaver Rate for calculating actual graduation rates, Cardoza said.
To comply with federal requirements, Georgia uses the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) “Leaver Rate.” It defines a graduate as a student who leaves high school with a Regular Diploma in four years. This does not include Certificates of Attendance or Special Education Diplomas, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA).
The graduation rate formula divides the number of students who graduated with a regular diploma by the number of 9-12 grade dropouts from appropriate years plus graduates and other completers, GOSA said.
The lack of unique statewide student identifiers has not allowed Georgia to track individual students across all four years of high school until recently. Therefore, the graduation rate is a “proxy calculation” and reflects an estimate of the percentage of students who entered ninth grade and graduated four years later, according to GOSA.
“The improvement in our graduation rate is happening across the board for all students in every subgroup,” state School Superintendent Brad Bryant added. “We are making steady progress and giving more students than ever the tools they need to be successful after high school.”
Cardoza said Gov. Sonny Perdue set a goal of reaching the 80 percent rate by the time he left office.
“There is nothing greater we can do for a young Georgian than encourage them to stay in school,” Perdue said. “We did something no other state had even thought of; put a graduation coach in every middle and high school and focused their efforts on students at risk of dropping out. Even with our dramatic enrollment growth, 4,000 fewer students dropped out this year than in 2003.”