Atlanta sees big improvements in high school graduation rates

Photo courtesy Atlanta Public Schools

Photo courtesy Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta’s high school graduation rate reached 72 percent this year, up 12 percentage points from last year, according to new state data released Monday.

That means about 7 out of 10 Atlanta Public Schools students who entered high school in 2011 graduated this spring.

Georgia’s statewide graduation rate rose too, rising 6 percentage points to 79 percent.

In Atlanta,Early College High School at Carver had the highest graduation rate—99 percent. Graduation rates at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Academy High School, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate and Grady High School also topped 90 percent.

Mays High School showed the most improvement.

This was the first year students were not required to pass Georgia High School Graduation Tests in each content area to graduate.

Atlanta officials estimate that change was responsible for about half of the district’s improvement—but not all of it.

Among the reasons for Atlanta’s improvements, district officials said, were efforts to better track students’ progress towards graduation, locate students who dropped out or moved away, and give students who failed classes more chances to earn credit.

At some schools, counselors tracked down students who stopped coming to school on social media, associate superintendent Timothy Gadson said. Others put up “wanted” posters in schools to enlist other students in locating “missing” students.

And in a major change, every high school offered credit recovery courses during the school day—rather than only after school or on weekends, he said.

“We’re not exactly where we want to be,” accountability chief Bill Caritj said. “But certainly seeing a big bump in the graduation rate is encouraging.”

But the improvements also come as APS employees continue to report pressure to cheat. Earlier this year, staff reported questionable grading practices involving online credit recovery programs. And new reports of pressure to award students grades they did not earn have surfaced too.

“Some of the problems that were reported out were simply because that credit recovery platform was in transition and was new to us,” Caritj said.

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