Richmond County’s high school graduation rate made gains in 2012 while Columbia County slipped a couple percentage points but still surpassed the state average, according to data released by the Georgia Department of Education Tuesday.
Columbia County fell by two points to a 73.84 percent graduation rate in 2012, which is higher than Georgia’s 69.7 percent – a statewide improvement by two points from 2011.
Richmond County jumped by more than four points from 54.63 percent in 2011 to 59.19 percent last year, but still remains below the state average.
The 2012 results make up the second year all states have used a new formula to calculate gradation rates so that data can be accurately compared across the country. The new cohort method only accounts for students who graduated within four years after entering high school as freshmen. The previous method used in Georgia looked at the percent of seniors who graduated at the end of a year, which some say inflated numbers by counting those who took longer than four years to graduate.
“I am very pleased that our graduation rate continues to increase, no matter how it is calculated,” state school Superintendent John Barge said in a news release. “While our graduation rate is still far too low and we have much progress to be made, we are moving in the right direction. In order to encourage more students to stay in school, we must make high school more relevant.”
All but two Richmond County high schools, Cross Creek and Butler, made gains from 2011. John S. Davidson Fine Arts and A.R. Johnson Health, Science and Engineering magnet schools maintained their 100 percent graduation rates.
The largest improvement came from Glenn Hills High, which jumped 11 points to 57.05 percent in 2012.
Superintendent Frank Roberson said the districtwide improvement is encouraging, especially as teachers have put more focus on data and collaboration to increase student achievement.
“I feel really great about it,” Roberson said. “I point directly to the teachers and the students and the principals, of course, for the work on the ground. It’s teachers giving more attention to background education and skills that students need and working with their colleagues to make certain it penetrates.”
Rates at three out of the five Columbia County high schools ticked up in 2012, while Greenbrier made an almost 13 point drop to 76.1 percent and Lakeside decreased by three points to 76.71 percent.
Burke County High School increased more than seven points to 74.74 percent in 2012.
The 2012 graduation rates will be factored in to the 2012-13 College and Career Ready Performance Index, Georgia’s new accountability report card for schools and districts, which is expected to be released in the fall.
Dana Rickman, the director of policy and research for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said now having two years of accurate graduation data to compare gives useful insight into student achievement.
She said the cohort method gives educators a more real measure of graduation rates. The previous leaver method was based somewhat on estimates of the percentage of students who graduated their senior year. The cohort method uses the state’s new student data system, which assigns each student an identification number so schools can account for those who transferred or dropped out when calculating the graduation rates.
Rickman said incremental gains seen in Georgia are encouraging and should continue over time.
“Year to year you’re really looking at small, incremental improvements,” Rickman said. “I was impressed we got two full percentage points this year (in Georgia). Obviously you want 10 or 20 percentage points, but that’s not realistic. Looking at data over time, as long as you’re seeing steady improvements, you know you’re on the right track.”