State Department of Education: High school grad rate rose this year

GaDOE says 29 districts and 89 schools recorded rates at or above 95%.
Georgia saw an increase in high school graduates in 2020. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Credit: Wilfredo Lee

Credit: Wilfredo Lee

Georgia saw an increase in high school graduates in 2020. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The state Department of Education announced today that Georgia’s high school graduation rate rose in 2020. It now stands at 83.8%, which DOE said was an all-time high since Georgia began using the federally mandated adjusted cohort calculation eight years ago. Before that, states applied a variety of formulas to figure out graduation rates, some of which cast the numbers in the best possible light.

The rate last year in Georgia was 82%. Since 2012, the high school grad rate has grown by 14.1 percentage points.

Fulton saw several high schools with grad rates above 95%. Cambridge High School had Fulton’s highest rate with 98.2%. Five other schools posted graduation rates above 95%, Johns Creek (97.3); Milton (96.9); Alpharetta (96.5); Chattahoochee (96.2); and Northview (96.1).

Cobb also had schools with grad rates above 95%. Harrison High School hit 98.3%, the district’s highest rate. It was followed by Lassiter (97.6), Walton (97.5), Hillgrove (96.4), and Pope (95.8).

In DeKalb, DeKalb Early College Academy and DeKalb School of the Arts saw rates of 100%; both of these schools are small with 75 or fewer student in their graduating classes. Arabia Mountain had a rate of 99.7%.

In Gwinnett, the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology also posted a 100% grad rate. North Gwinnett High posted 97%, while Lanier High School came in at 95.2% With 45 graduates, McClure Health Science High in Gwinnett had a grad rate of 97.8%.

In 2020, 29 districts recorded and 89 schools recorded rates at or above 95%, according to DOE.

Here are those districts:

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“I’m very proud today of the class of 2020,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods in a statement. “These students were faced with difficulties none of us could have imagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have shown over and over again -- in ACT and SAT results, in their personal accomplishments, and now in this graduation rate – that they were able to rise above. While these results are positive, we cannot stop here. We must provide tailored and personalized pathways to ensure every student sees the relevance in their education, stays in school, and receives a high-school diploma that prepares them for their future.”

Here is a statement from DOE about this year’s rate:

Part of this year’s increase in graduation rate can be attributed to a waiver GaDOE received from the U.S. Department of Education in 2019. Beginning with this cohort of students (2020 graduates), the waiver allows the state to count students with the most significant cognitive disabilities – those assessed with the Georgia Alternate Assessment, approximately 1% of students overall – in the four-year graduation rate the year they graduate, even if that is more than four years after they begin high school. To be counted, the student’s graduation still must fall within the window for which they are guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

In Georgia, students are guaranteed FAPE through the age of 22. This change ensures schools are not penalized for continuing to educate students with the most significant cognitive disabilities within that window, knowing they may need additional time to master skills before graduating.

In 2020, this change allowed for the cohort of approximately 1,000 students to be reassigned. This accounts for only a portion of the increase – if those students' cohort had not been reassigned, the graduation rate would have increased by 1.09 percentage points, as opposed to 1.80.

CSI – Graduation Rate Exits

Each year, the Georgia Department of Education releases lists of schools identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI), along with a list of schools who have made the improvements needed to exit CSI or TSI status.

Because state assessments were not administered in spring 2020 due to COVID-19, new CSI and TSI lists will not be calculated this year. However, in recent guidance, the U.S. Department of Education informed states they could exit CSI schools identified for low graduation rates if their 2020 graduation rate met the exit criteria.

The following three schools' 2020 graduation rate met the criteria to exit CSI status:

· Columbia High School, DeKalb County Schools

· Stone Mountain High School, DeKalb County Schools

· Zebulon High School, Pike County Schools

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

Georgia Graduation Rates – 2012 to 2020

2020 – 83.8%

2019 – 82.0%

2018 – 81.6%

2017 – 80.6%

2016 – 79.4%

2015 – 79.0%

2014 – 72.6%

2013 – 71.8%

2012 – 69.7%