New formula lowers Richmond County graduation rate

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 3:18 PM
Last updated 7:48 PM
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Richmond County’s high school graduation rate is significantly lower under a new formula adopted to uniformly compare four-year graduation rates across the nation.

According to the four-year adjusted cohort rate, Richmond County had a 54.6 percent graduation rate in 2011. Under the previous calculation, known as the “leaver” rate, it would have been 80.7 percent.

Georgia’s graduation rate was 80.9 percent under the leaver rate, but just 67.4 percent under the new formula. Columbia County’s rate was 76 percent, compared to 84.9 percent under the old calculation.

The Georgia Department of Education released the numbers Tuesday. Federal education regulations call for all states to use the adjusted cohort rate to report graduation statistics.

The biggest reason why graduation rates changed so drastically between formulas is the difference in how cohorts, or groups of students, are tracked.

The new method divides the total number of students who earned a diploma at the end of 2010-11 by the number of first-time ninth graders in fall 2007, accounting for students who transferred in and out, and died during the four years.

The leaver rate, used by all districts in Georgia, took the number of diplomas awarded in a given year and divided by the total number of 12th-graders, so the graduation rate included students who might have taken more than four years to finish.

Tara N. Tucci, a senior research and policy associate at Washington-based advocacy group Alliance for Excellent Education, said the new formula provides a more accurate representation of education in the country.

“(It is) pretty widely known to be the gold standard in the calculations,” Tucci said. “You’re setting the group of students at the very beginning of their time in high school and you’re literally following all those students through each of those four years.”

Tucci said drastic drops in graduation rates in a given school district between the two formulas can be explained by flaws in the previous method.

The leaver method essentially bloated numbers because it did not accurately reflect the number of students who dropped out before 12th grade or if a student took longer than four years to graduate. Districts with a large number of dropouts or fifth-year seniors would have a larger difference between the two formulas, and districts with fewer of those two types of students would have a smaller gap, she said.

Tucci said the change should not be seen, however, as a drop in achievement but, rather, a more accurate way of keeping track of data.

“Don’t lose hope by these numbers going down,” she said. “It really is just a change in calculation. Hopefully using this calculation … can galvanize efforts, because now we know really what we’re working with. It’s definitely causing a lot of people to pause and think about what’s really going on in their schools.”

Carol Rountree, the Richmond County school system’s executive director of student services, said that even though the new data show a lower success rate than previously reported, the figures provide a more accurate way of looking at students.

“I think it’s fair that we are all now using the same formula,” Rountree said. “To know Georgia and Richmond County is now on a level playing field with every other state in the union makes sense to me.”

The revised calculations pulled rates down at several local schools that have been working to produce more graduates through teacher training and academic programs.

George P. Butler High School, using federal Race to the Top money to improve achievement, had a drop of 41.4 percentage points with the new formula. Glenn Hills High School dropped by 40.2 percentage points, but Principal Wayne Frazier said the new formula is not a good fit for all populations.

In Columbia County, Greenbrier High fared best under the cohort rate with 891 percent, which is just 3.4 percentage points less than with a leaver calculation. Harlem High dropped 14.1percentage points, from 73.3 percent in the leaver rate to 59.2 percent using the cohort calcuation.

In Richmond and Columbia counties, which have significant transient pupil populations in large part because of a large military community, Columbia County schools Title 1 Director Lisa Soloff said the cohort rate does provide a more accurate method to gauge schools dealing with numerous transfers each year.

The move to a uniform graduation rate formula began in 2005 when the National Governors Association recommended the standard after a proposal by the National Center for Education Statistics, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

With states using different methods to calculate graduation rates, the federal government did not have consistent data to compare one state to the next.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education amended regulations to require all states receiving Title I funds for students in low-income households to use the cohort formula for 2010-11 calculations.

The federal education department now requires all states to use the four-year adjusted cohort method to report graduation rates.

The formula will be used for federal accountability among states and school districts, but Georgia received federal approval to use a five-year cohort rate next year for accountability purposes.

“We know that not all students are the same and not all will graduate from high school in four years, so we asked for the U.S. Department of Education’s permission to use a five-year cohort graduation rate for federal accountability purposes,” State School Superintendent John Barge said in a news release. “Ultimately, our goal is to ensure each child will graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and a career, regardless of how long it takes.”

Columbia County Bureau Chief Donnie Fetter contributed to this article.

GRADUATION RATE

Comparisons between formulas for 2010-11 graduation rate

SCHOOL OLD LEAVER RATE NEW COHORT RATE

Richmond County (district) 80.7% 54.6%

Academy of Richmond County 73.5 59.5

Butler 88.7 47.3

Cross Creek 82.6 66.2

Davidson 100 100

Glenn Hills 86.1 45.9

Hephzibah 70.9 50.5

A.R. Johnson 100 100

Josey 83.4 46.7

Laney 71.4 47.3

Westside 77.7 57.9

Columbia County (district) 84.9% 76%

Grovetown NA 67.5

Harlem 73.3 59.2

Lakeside 90.1 79.8

Greenbrier 92.4 89

Evans 83.9 76.2

Georgia (state) 80.9 67.4

SOURCE: Georgia Department of Education

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kiwiinamerica
924
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kiwiinamerica 04/10/12 - 03:31 pm
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ROFL...........a drop from
Unpublished

ROFL...........a drop from 80.7% to 54.6% when they quit using their phony math?? That is a HUGE drop!!! Wowzer!!

The new number sounds much more realistic and notice that the truly good schools (Davidson, Johnson) are not affected by this return to reality.

This simply confirms my own experience of the public education system in this county which is that all sorts of shenanigans are used to pad the numbers and make a disastrous situation look respectable.

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 04/10/12 - 03:31 pm
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Atrocious. Unexpectedly

Atrocious. Unexpectedly atrocious.

Who's going to explain the discrepancies between the leaver and cohort rates for the system and for most of the RCSS HSs?

Riverman1
79223
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Riverman1 04/10/12 - 03:31 pm
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Like Richmond County schools

Like Richmond County schools need criteria to make them look worse. Hey, four or five years, if the kid stays, behaves, works hard and learns something, it should all be a positive.

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 03:42 pm
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If they force the get a

If they force the get a diploma in four years rule, then the schools can get higher graduation rates by encouraging those students who will not make it in four years to drop out just in time to be subtracted from the denominator.

It's not good to change formulae all the time, because you cannot examine trends.

I guess it's like putting those asterisks in the baseball record books.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 04/10/12 - 03:49 pm
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Can someone explain how

Can someone explain how Davidson and AR Johnson have 100 percent graduation rates?

Every year, the senior class is a whole lot smaller than the freshman class from four years earlier.

How does that work?

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 03:54 pm
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Well, Insider, Davidson and

Well, Insider, Davidson and Johnson apparently do a better job of counting up the people coming in and those leaving the school. If you don't perform at a magnet school, they kick you out to your zoned school. If they kick you out, you get subtracted from the denominator. The smaller the denominator, the higher the rate.

raul
4121
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raul 04/10/12 - 03:55 pm
1
1
Did I understand correctly?

Did I understand correctly? Under the old method they didn't count the number of those who dropped out before 12th grade? It seems that would be critical in determining graduation rate. I think President Obama should redirect his emphasis from producing more college graduates to producing high school graduates.
This is awful. To me, it shows even more of a need to possbily limit high school to 10 grades and then either choose a technical/trade emphasis or an academic emphasis continuing in high school in preparation for university.

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 03:56 pm
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I wonder how they calculate

I wonder how they calculate the graduation rate from the Tubman Alternative School?

seenitB4
81170
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seenitB4 04/10/12 - 04:01 pm
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omg omg...the truth shall set

omg omg...the truth shall set you free.....now it will be tough for ctyman to fudge this.

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 04:03 pm
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Not to worry. If the Feds

Not to worry. If the Feds make them change the graduation rate formula, the school system gets to adjust its graduation rate goal also. Just move the goal down to reflect the formula, and you still have the status quo. That's just fine.

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 04:05 pm
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I knew there was something

I knew there was something fishy when they announced last year that Butler had a higher graduation rate than Westside and Richmond Academy.

Riverman1
79223
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Riverman1 04/10/12 - 04:23 pm
4
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I was kind of figuring-hoping

I was kind of figuring-hoping Butler was kind of on the edge. I mean we all know what's happening. I kind of like the technique of avoiding all the hard facts. You know, kind of a Countyman-like reasoning to make Richmond Cty schools look better.

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 04:30 pm
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Tracey McManus wrote: With

Tracey McManus wrote:

With states using different methods to calculate graduation rates, the federal government did not have consistent data to compare one state to the next.

First thing, the federal government comes in and forces the schools to change their graduation rate formulae. The next thing you know they will come in and make everybody buy health insurance.

Wait a minute . . . . . . . .

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 04:32 pm
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They could start giving out

They could start giving out honorary diplomas to get the rate numbers up.

csraguy
2094
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csraguy 04/10/12 - 04:37 pm
1
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Kudos to Davidson and AR

Kudos to Davidson and AR Johnson - all public schools could take a lesson from them. They are VERY STRICT, will remove those who don't wish to learn and will provide for those who wish to excel.

I don't necessarily believe in throwing the bumbs out attitude but those who cause disruption continually need to be removed.

crackertroy
540
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crackertroy 04/10/12 - 04:38 pm
0
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AR Johnson and Davidson
Unpublished

AR Johnson and Davidson students who "drop out" do not leave school and not graduate. In the past they would leave AR Johnson and Davidson so they could be the Valedictorian or Salutatorian at a non-magnet school that was less competitive. Graduation rates calculate students who leave school and do not graduate. Even the students who enter Johnson or Davidson and eventually do drop out, usually transfer to their zoned schools before actually dropping out, so that dropout will affect the last school they attended's number.

crackertroy
540
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crackertroy 04/10/12 - 04:38 pm
0
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AR Johnson and Davidson
Unpublished

AR Johnson and Davidson students who "drop out" do not leave school and not graduate. In the past they would leave AR Johnson and Davidson so they could be the Valedictorian or Salutatorian at a non-magnet school that was less competitive. Graduation rates calculate students who leave school and do not graduate. Even the students who enter Johnson or Davidson and eventually do drop out, usually transfer to their zoned schools before actually dropping out, so that dropout will affect the last school they attended's number.

fsurock38
3
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fsurock38 04/10/12 - 07:16 pm
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csraguy: Yes Davidson and

csraguy:

Yes Davidson and Johnson do great jobs at educating students. It is extremely important though to remember that they are able to select the cream of the crop students from our county to attend these magnet schools. They get to pick the best and brightest students our county has to offer...so of course they are going to do a good job at producing successful students.

Davidson and Johnson are not doing anything special to graduate their entire class. Any high school in Georgia could pull the smartest students from their county and succeed. These students are smart, they want to learn, and they have parents who are actively involved in their child's education.

Don't confuse these attributes with the quality of the school itself. If the under performing high schools could simply "kick out" students who don't keep their grades up or have other behavior issues, then they would also be extremely successful. So I would say that other high schools can't learn much from Davidson and Johnson...other high schools have totally different sets of issues and students to educate.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 04/10/12 - 07:53 pm
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I don't mean to pick on

I don't mean to pick on Davidson and Johnson, but they highlight the problem with graduation rates.

If any school starts with 200 freshmen and four years later less than 100 graduate, how is that 100 percent?

If that is 100 percent, then I know how to raise the graduation rate.

Graduation rates should be about graduating and not about weeding people out to create the illusion of graduating.

csraguy
2094
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csraguy 04/10/12 - 10:16 pm
1
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FSurock38, I understand but I

FSurock38, I understand but I was simply trying to say something positive about our miserable school system. We are failing to prepare our youth for the future and it is deplorable.

Administrators, teachers, students and parents all need to be held accountable for their actions. If they are not part of the solution, then they are part of the problem.

Every student deserves an opportunity to learn in a safe and secure well-disciplined environment and this is not the case in Richmond County High Schools.

class1
299
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class1 04/15/12 - 08:09 am
0
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I am surprised that the

I am surprised that the numbers aren't lower now that there isn't any graduation test!

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 04/11/12 - 07:30 am
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In fairness to the

In fairness to the administrators in several of these RCSS high schools, they were not appointed to their positions until after the Class of 2011, the class whose data were utilized in this study, had already entered high school. Each administration deserves four years of incumbency at its school before it's judged on the success of the school's students in graduating on time.

lifelongresident
1317
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lifelongresident 04/11/12 - 07:45 am
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dear fsurock,
Unpublished

dear fsurock, davidson/johnson do not pick!!! it's the parents who choose to send their children there, i have a good frien who sent their children there and she explained the whole process to me. it's mandatory parental involvement, homework, and high expectations that is the recipe for success. no need to single out the high performing schools why not single out the under-performing or bad schools!!!

hey class1 i agree just think what it would have been if there was still a graduation test...this is what you get when education and parental involvement is de-emphasized for the sake of the friday nite football game

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/11/12 - 08:02 am
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lifelongresident wrote: dear

lifelongresident wrote:

dear fsurock, davidson/johnson do not pick!!! it's the parents who choose to send their children there,

Students and their parents have to apply to the school, and this includes interviews and auditions. More students apply than there are slots. Therefore, in the end, it is indeed the school that picks the students.

Insider Information wrote:

If any school starts with 200 freshmen and four years later less than 100 graduate, how is that 100 percent?

It's all about the formula and the school policies. If a student breaks school rules or does not live up to school academic standards (i.e., grades), then the student is transferred to the zoned school. Therefore, that student is subtracted out of the denominator. So, by the time the student graduates, the school has accounted for the entire cohort. Davidson & Johnson get to remove the non-performing students from their denominator, but those non-performing students are added to the denominators of the zoned schools. Therefore, the 100% graduation rates of Davidson & Johnson actually cause the graduation rates of the zoned schools to be lower!

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/11/12 - 08:04 am
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Craig Spinks wrote: Each

Craig Spinks wrote:

Each administration deserves four years of incumbency at its school before it's judged on the success of the school's students in graduating on time.

Well then, the secret to a successful career in school administration would be to shuffle administrators around to the various schools every three or four years so that no administrator is ever deemed responsible for anything.

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 04/11/12 - 10:47 am
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LL: It's called "the shuffle

LL:

It's called "the shuffle of the lemons."

Little Lamb
43821
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Little Lamb 04/11/12 - 10:57 am
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Mr. Spinks, do you know the

Mr. Spinks, do you know the details in these two competing formulae, Leaver vs. Cohort?

Am I guessing correctly that the Leaver formula omits dropouts from the denominator and that the Cohort formula counts dropouts in the denominator?

Riverman1
79223
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Riverman1 04/11/12 - 11:07 am
1
1
Give me the right

Give me the right demographics of students and I'll use a tent for a school and have them unmonitored for attendance and behavior while receiving TV instruction from India or some other place and turn out superior students. The schools mean little.

prov227
2924
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prov227 04/11/12 - 11:38 am
1
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Eliminate the Federal Dept.

Eliminate the Federal Dept. of Education. These formulas are designed by education bureaucrats to shift Federal money around. I like the idea expressed in this thread that would have students make a decision at the 10th grade to opt toward college prep or trade school (this isn't new). The idea that high school should prepare every student for college level work is absurd. This idea came from the Federal government to buy votes.

Riverman1
79223
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Riverman1 04/11/12 - 01:26 pm
0
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Prov227, exactly!!!

Prov227, exactly!!!

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