The Georgia DOE released new high school graduation data today, showing the state’s rate is now 82%.
Photo: AJC file
Photo: AJC file

Georgia Department of Education: High school graduation rate rises to ‘all-time high’

State says 2019 grad rate reached 82%

The Georgia Department of Education announced this morning the high school graduation rate rose this year to 82 percent – an all-time high since the state began using the adjusted cohort calculation now required by federal law. 

The cohort rate, imposed nationwide in 2011, was seen as a way to create fairer and more consistent graduation counts. Georgia and about half the rest of the states had been using the National Center for Education Statistics "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. 

But critics say the leaver rate allowed states to inflate their grad rates by relying on dubious dropout data. The cohort rate takes the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma and divides it by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, adjusting for transfers in and out, deceased students and others.

So, while Georgia declared its grad rate in 2010 as 80%, independent reviews cast doubts, suggesting it was much lower. And, indeed, after the first year of using the federally required cohort rate, Georgia’s rate fell to 69.7%

However, the rate has steadily increased since then.

Concerns remains nationwide about the validity of grad rates and whether states are pushing teens across the state who should not be there through such last-ditch efforts as credit recoveryInvestigations have found some states pressure teachers to pass students to shore up their numbers.

Among local districts, DeKalb saw its grad rate falter slightly, from 74.9% last year to 73.4%. Cobb’s rate increased to 86.98%, an 1.8-percentage point rise. Fulton's graduation rate was 87.2% while Gwinnett’s was 80.9%. Atlanta Public Schools posted 78% -- down from 79.9% in 2018.

Clayton County came in at 72.7%. Marietta’s rate was 75.7%. City Schools of Decatur had the highest rate in metro Atlanta, and among the highest in Georgia, at 95.2%

See a deeper AJC story on grad rates here.

Here is the DOE release: 

Georgia’s graduation rate has increased by 12 percentage points since 2012, with steady increases each year. 

In 2019, 71 Georgia school districts recorded graduation rates at or above 90 percent. Twenty-four districts recorded rates at or above 95 percent. 

“I’m proud today of Georgia’s teachers and students, who are doing the on-the-ground work that leads to increases in our graduation rate and other indicators – including NAEP and Georgia Milestones scores,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Moving forward, we must continue to focus on offering a relevant education and preparing every child for their future – not a one-size-fits-all system that sends every student in the same direction, but a tailored and personalized pathway based on a student’s academic and career interests and future goals.” 

How Georgia calculates its graduation rate

Georgia calculates a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as required by federal law. This rate is: 

-The number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, divided by

-The number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class

 

Adjusted Cohort Rate Definition: From the beginning of ninth grade, students who are entering that grade for the first time form a cohort that is subsequently adjusted by adding any students who transfer into the cohort during the next three years, and subtracting any students who transfer out. 

Georgia Graduation Rates – 2012 to 2019

2019 – 82.0 percent

2018 – 81.6 percent

2017 – 80.6 percent

2016 – 79.4 percent

2015 – 79.0 percent

2014 – 72.6 percent

2013 – 71.8 percent

2012 – 69.7 percent 

Note regarding federal waiver:

As announced in July 2019, Georgia is seeking flexibility through an amendment to its state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to develop a state-defined alternate diploma for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are assessed using the alternate assessment aligned to alternate academic achievement standards. 

Because in Georgia the regular diploma is considered a property right, the state is constrained from offering the new Alternate Diploma until the 2020-2021 school year, when a new cohort of ninth-grade students begins. In addition to its requested ESSA amendment, Georgia has requested a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education so that it is not necessary to remove students assessed using the alternate assessment from the four-year cohort rate prior to adoption of the Alternate Diploma. 

While this waiver, which would apply to federal reporting of the graduation rate, is still pending, to maintain consistency in its public reporting Georgia is publishing the graduation rate including students assessed using the alternate assessment today.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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