How many Georgia students drop out?

An article by Heather Vogell shows Georgia is likely overestimating the number of students who earn high school diplomas. This means the state’s dropout rate could be much higher than reported.

The paper’s analysis showed that while school officials marked more than 25,000 students as transferring to other Georgia public schools no schools reported accepting these students.

Georgia Department of Education officials reviewed the records and located 7,100 of the students. They said coding errors likely occurred for the other students and that some are dropouts.

This is a problem bigger than just numbers.

We’ve discussed many times before the challenges dropouts face. They’re more likely to live in poverty and to wind up in prison.

Without a true indication of the situation in Georgia, how can anyone go about fixing the problem?

How can teachers, schools and others reach out to these students if we don’t know where they are?

36 comments Add your comment

Joy in Teaching

June 8th, 2009
9:25 am

Hang on there, Laura: Did you just ask how teachers are supposed to reach out to students who aren’t even in our classrooms or schools?

Isn’t that called PARENTING?



June 8th, 2009
9:34 am

I think that this problem starts well before a student actually drops out of school. Many students decide not to farther their education in high school but the problem usually starts in grade school or middle school. Last semester while student teaching, I had a few kids in my 5th grade class that could not read or read well below their grade level. There is no way that these students, continuing at their current pace, will make it through high school. The real question is why were these children allowed to make it to the 5th grade?


June 8th, 2009
9:39 am

Joy in Teaching I agree.
I can only do so much on my end. I need reinforcements at home that can back up the work that I am doing in the classroom.

Hall Co

June 8th, 2009
9:49 am

What about when a system does it on purpose? We have a practice in our district where the highschools transfer the students who are not going to receive a true diploma, for either being Special Ed or not passing the grad tests or end of course tests and only getting a certificate, to our alternative career academy. This is done the week or so before graduation in order to improve the high school graduation rates. Also have heard that dropouts throughout the year get transfered there and then dropped out from that school in order to make the mainstream schools dropout rate look good. I doubt many of those kids ever actually attend the school but the alternative school stays too small to hurt AYP much.
Can’t see how that helps the kids much though.


June 8th, 2009
10:08 am

Tiffany, you’re correct about the children working below grade level, and that’s exactly the sort of situation NCLB was *supposed* to prevent.

Hall Co

June 8th, 2009
10:38 am

How about if the school system is losing them on purpose? We have a practice where the kids who are graduating without an actual diploma, such as special education or a certificate of performance, that would count against the graduation rate are transferred to that alternative career academy right before graduation. This increases all the mainstream highschools graduation rates artificially. I have heard that the highschools also transfer their dropouts to the career academy as transfers and then they are later withdrawn from there instead of the school they actually attended. Most probably never set foot in the career academy. This would make the drop out rate look great at all the main schools. The career academy is small and not expected to do all that well any way so no biggie on AYP there.

Can’t see how it helps the kids though.

reality check

June 8th, 2009
10:58 am

Students do have the right to drop out of school after they turn 16. I don’t know if schools should be penalized for their decisions. Now, sometimes schools don’t prepare them well enough so that students have no choice but to drop out. That’s definitely a school’s problem.


June 8th, 2009
11:12 am

When our students withdraw, they put the reason on the withdrawal form. Often, they are the ones that are saying they are transferring to another school. We actually had a student come back for a certificate of attendance after she withdrew to supposedly enroll in another school. Apparently she never enrolled anywhere else and then tried to get her driver’s license. She couldn’t understand why the school wouldn’t give her a certificate of attendance. At some point, parents need to be held responsible, not the schools. Parents are the only ones that can withdraw a student under 18, why is they question what can schools and teachers do?

watch and see

June 8th, 2009
11:38 am

And it’s just going to get worse…..
Starting with the class of 2012, there is one diploma in GA-college prep. Along with that, all students are required to take 4 years of science and 4 years of math. Nice idea, but let’s face it…not a realistic expectation for all. In GA’s effort to rise up from the cellar, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Even states like New York and Mass. do not require four years of math and science to graduate (they require three). This one size fits all mentality just doesn’t work-watch dropout rates continue to rise. Further, Cobb implemented a new promotion rule with the class of 2012 requiring that a student pass math, science and English in order to be promotedo grade 10(as opposed to the former rule which required a certain number of credits to be promoted). Good idea on the surface, but with this class being the guinea pigs for the “new Math” I curriculum, I have to believe a lot of Cobb students are sitting in summer school…either that or the class of 2013 will be very large. Laura-would love to see numbers on how many Cobb ninth graders were not promoted two weeks ago…..


June 8th, 2009
11:50 am

I have to agree with watch and see.

We did all our students a disservice years ago when we did away with the general diploma. Back then, there were standards for the general diploma, and then if students met certain criteria they could earn college prep and/or career tech “seals.” It was kind of like graduating with distinction. Most colleges expected that college prep seal, and in most schools that’s what many kids were going for.

While I applaud the idea of raising standards, upping the grad requirements isn’t really doing so. We need that general diploma “safety net,” for many reasons. Adolescence is a turbulent time, and a lot can happen, even in the most ideal family situations.

And notice that the teachers/admins in the trenches with the kids are just trying to make it through. They’re being judged so harshly by stats that don’t mean anything that I don’t doubt at all they’re doing everything they can to make their numbers look good. (i.e. hall co’s comments above)

We must bring back the general diploma.

Hall Co

June 8th, 2009
11:56 am

Sorry about the double post. I thought the first one got eaten by the site.

Public school parent

June 8th, 2009
12:36 pm

Watch and See and Elaine are correct. The heightened graduation requirements may encourage dropping out by those students who entered high school unprepared after years of social promotion. I feel that every student should be encouraged and offered assistance to graduate with a college prep diploma but let’s be realistic. The 8th graders who failed the math CRCT (30% of the state) are going to struggle with the new (and unnecessary) Math I, etc. high school courses and are our potential dropouts.

I think as a society, Georgia is making a huge mistake by not offering our high school students who are not college bound a valuable vocational track in high school. Yes, all students need a solid base in reading, math and science but they do not need to complete the equivalent of Algebra II. An excellent business math course plus good technology courses are much more practical.

Europe and Asia do not expect EVERY student to obtain a 4 year college degree. When I went to school in Canada some students graduated after year 12 but those who were college-bound attended year 13 which was VERY hard. Part of this was because college was funded by the government in Canada and they wanted to make sure that students attending college could handle the rigors of the coursework.

Lost in the System

June 8th, 2009
12:52 pm

Someone needs to look closely at what the person from Hall Co. reported because that is happening more and more across the state. State and local Georgia tax dollars are being spent on private alternative programs such as Omsbudsman. When students aren’t going to graduate or don’t meet standards, they are sent to the private alternative program and coded as “Transferred out of state” so they do not impact the dropout rate of the school or school system. Once that happens they may or may not receive a high school diploma from “another state” all at the taxpayers’ expense. We aren’t educating these children or trying to get them a diploma, we are just protecting our graduation rates at the expense of students. Buying out of state diplomas or paying for out of state babysitters with state and local money just doesn’t seem right.

[...] Get Schooled | – [...]


June 8th, 2009
1:15 pm

To Lost in the System: I think that problem, which you accurately describe, is on the table for a fix.

But Hall County: you are absolutely on target and no one is looking at the move of students to alternative schools and then pushing the drop out process without coding them correctly. Forget even attempting an out of state diploma, there are enough administrators out there actively looking to weed out at risk students as they move into high school.

reality check

June 8th, 2009
1:47 pm

There is a difference between requiring 4 years of math/science/etc. and requiring what math/science/etc. are to be taken. Students can have 4 years of mathematics in different ways. So, I don’t see anything particularly wrong with requiring 4 years of math and science. If you are going to argue about it, we should also question why we even require 4 years of English, too.

Hall Co

June 8th, 2009
1:50 pm

True Parent. I have heard of schools in this district that tell students that are newly enrolling that are behind that they can’t enroll at the high school and must go to the alternative school and register. Mainly Hispanic kids from what I know of.

watch and see

June 8th, 2009
2:00 pm

Reality Check,
New requirements for the class of 2012 (as of right now) will require Math I, Math II, Math III and Math IV(with the sole exception of special ed students who will be allowed to count one math support class toward that requirement). Of course in that Math III and Math IV haven’t even been taught yet(and are still in the development stages from what I hear), I would bet this is subject to change. There may be more leeway with science in terms of what courses may be taken to meet the 4 credit requirement but as of now, and again, starting with the class of 2012, the math requirement offers no flexibility(other than acceleraed or on level). Now, once all of this starts to backfire (ie it would be enormously interesting to know how many kids across the state failed their Math I course this year despite the fact that the EOCT is not being counted), I would bet we’ll see the state rethink things.

Turd Ferguson

June 8th, 2009
2:40 pm

Just put these loser/drop-outs in jail or the nuthouse, where they belong.

Turd Ferguson

June 8th, 2009
2:46 pm

One can also thank Roy “lipstick” Barnes for an increase in the dropout rate.


June 8th, 2009
3:18 pm

This problem is not unique to GA as every state faces the same challenges, how do you determine the graduation rate. Everyone has different rules regarding how this is measured.

A possible solution would be to create a ‘national id’ for every student once they enter school and maintain it in a nationwide database. If they transfer anywhere within the continental US, one ’should’ be able to track them for statistical purposes. This would be required for attendance in any school. Anyone want to consider this? Sounds a little ‘Big Brother’, doesn’t it? If the goal is to have accurate measures, we may have to consider something like this, with transparent rules for everyone to see.


June 8th, 2009
3:48 pm

We also do something like Hall Co discusses. It is a blantant attempt to manipulate the data to look better than reality.

In addition, one thing not examined is the poor quality of the computer software we use. I check the data on the kids I serve at least a half a dozen times a year, and each time there are new problems that arise. For example, in August I pull the data and check it. I tell the data clerk the mistakes and she corrects and reprints. Then, later in the year, she runs it again and additional kids show up as in my program (who have been exited for years) that did not show up in August. Sometimes it IS poor data entry, but the Powerschool software has many many problems that result in incorrect information and repeated corrections (time wasted). I have complained for years about this, to no avail.

I agree with the others on moving away from tech programs. In addition, the continued passing on of kids operating 2-3 years below grade level is a travesty. “Needs based” instruction cannot “make up” the deficits as you continue to pile on additional instruction that the child is unprepared for. And the teachers are blamed. Yet these administrators should know that, for example, you cannot do long division if you cannot subtract.

Finally, it is ludicrious that teachers are blamed for students’ lack of attendance. It is also crazy that it can take ALL SCHOOL YEAR to get truancy addressed by the school and court system. I saw this firsthand this year. The mother was finally compelled to appear with one week of school left, and told she would go to jail if she did not get her third grader to school. He made it 4 of the last 5 days, but nothing will happen unless that is reported to the judge this summer. Kid ended up missing nearly 60 days, with no penalty. He’d been truant every year prior to third grade. Guess what happens next year when we start all over?


June 8th, 2009
5:23 pm

School systems also tell students to instead of dropping out, enroll in a homeschool. When the student does this, the withdrawn form says transferred to homeschool. Let’s just manipulate the data.


June 8th, 2009
5:49 pm

I’m sorry, but am I the only one here who isn’t terribly interested in keeping students in class who don’t want the be there. Will there ever be a day when someone will consider the kids who work hard and achieve and who actually have a chance to go out there and create jobs for the rest of the population? Must we spend precious education dollars constantly chasing after kids who couldn’t give a rip and who more likely than not just don’t have the IQ to move much past 10th grade? Will we ever spend any significant amount of money/attention on above average kids?

I couldn’t give a rip about the graduation rate frankly. If a kid can’t figure out that they need to learn something by age 18 it is unlikely that they will ever figure it out.

You can take a horse to water, but you just can’t make him drink.

concerned teacher

June 8th, 2009
9:12 pm

Amen flipper. However, it seems that AYP percentages are all we’re concerned about anymore. We call students at home when they don’t show up for state tests, and I’ve even heard higher ups at my school talk about picking kids up and bringing them to school. Are you kidding me?!? Now that we’ve done away with a career tech diploma, we’re basically screwing over kids who can not or do no WANT to go do college. ALL students are forced on the college prep track, and if you don’t make it, then you’re what, a failure? Simply not true-these students should be given the opportunity to follow another, more suitable path. But, hey, who am I kidding. Most of them will make it through because of the pressure to meet those AYP graduation rates!!

V for Vendetta

June 8th, 2009
10:47 pm

Without a REAL technical track, the dropout rate will continue to climb. Pity the politicos and educrats haven’t figured that one out yet.


June 9th, 2009
12:06 am

I don’t need any of my tax dollars going for school in the first place. It’s my money.


June 9th, 2009
8:07 am

We need to keep kids in school. We all benefit from an educated population.

Turd Ferguson

June 9th, 2009
8:37 am

Push the failures out of school. Dont let them drop-out, EXPEL them so the ones that want to learn are able to do so.

William Casey

June 9th, 2009
10:56 am

The problem isn’t the “dropout rate.” It’s the fact that non-academic teens have nowhere to drop out to. I suggest an apprentice type program. Learn how to fix my air conditioning unit, a valuable skill. Or live in your mom’s basement til she dies. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a d*mn.

concerned in Gwinnett

June 9th, 2009
11:07 am

Turd you are correct, many of the dropouts do end up in the prison system. As a result, Georgia has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Somebody is making a lot of money off this fact. I also agree with Tiffany, with the problem being children need more effective reading programs, and they need them early. Children learn to read up until the third grade, after that they read to learn.

I also agree with Hall county and I challenge someone to follow the trail of students attending, or who have little choice but to attend, alternative schools. That is where numbers are being manipulated. Gwinnett county charges much $$$ for open record requests regarding the alternative schools and more.

jim d

June 9th, 2009
12:39 pm

Based upon high stakes test scores here in Georgia, I’d say not nearly enough drop out.

fair annie

June 9th, 2009
2:22 pm


My son was recently promoted to the 11th grade at Parkview High School. He is a good boy, kind and considerate, but like most teenagers, he loves his social life and fails all of his test. I am old fashioned; therefore, I believe that if you fail all of your tests, it means that you do not know the material or something is wrong.

My problem is not my son. My problem is with schools that considers a failing student academically ready for the next set of learning skills. My problem is with teachers who hand out worksheets instead of teaching class, so they can use that time to email their friends. My problem is with school principals and guidance counselors who cannot recognize that if there are more than four failing children in one class, then maybe that teacher is doing a good job. I have a problem with a school system that boast academic greatness while covering up the fact that the only real difference between school districts is the economic divide between the parents that can afford outside tutoring services and those that cannot.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is probably one of the most diverse school districts in the state and thereby a good marker for a true test of how well any educational system should work. However, are the children in Gwinnett learning more in school than other children do? No. The truth is that the “parents” in Gwinnett invest in outside tutoring. My son is not getting a good education, and I do not believe it is totally his fault. The schools are not doing a good job of teaching our children, and I do not believe it is totally their fault.

Why are the children failing? In the last ten years, we as parents have had to make adjustments to help our children get the education we feel they need.
I.e. Learning a language is most beneficial during pre-k thru 1st grade, before formal education. Math skills can be easier to develop with an appreciation of Music. Art has been shown to benefit children with behavior problems.
Those of us who cannot afford to pay for these skills, our children fall behind, our children will not learn how to draw, or sing, “Pop goes the Weasel” or know that “gracias” is how their neighbor says “thank you”. On top of all that loss, now we also have to give up P.E. and cursive writing…STOP! Cursive writing? I thought the cursive alphabet was part of America, as an institution. Is the future America planning to discard the need for signatures too?

Without a doubt, the world is getting smaller, but our school systems are providing less and less education. How will our children be ready? It appears that the schools are more concerned with big salaried administrators than the children. It appears that we are investing more money into schools but those investments are not trickled down into better-educated children. 40 percent of Georgia’s children fail to graduate. It is reported that Gwinnett has only a 1% failure rate. My son is failing. (He must be that 1%, but then again, they passed him anyway) There are no resources available for failing children. If 40% of our children are more likely to become prisoners or suicide victims, then high school graduates, then we are failing them. We have the technology to help our own children or allow our children to learn as much as their little hearts desire, but the school board has many obstacles that prevent the public from getting access to the resources. We can stop building school buildings and ripping out trees to publish textbooks, today!

Please make all education free and available to every American child. The World Wide Web is available, make an education accessible to every child – FREE.
We can no longer sit by and blame each other or wait as our children waste away while the government argues in defense of this failure. Maybe it is not anything they can do. However, it is obvious that paying money to fund another program will not work because it has not. The cost of education is ridiculous. We have nurses, and psychologist and a whole gamut of professionals who we pay a full time salary who may work a few hours a day. If they are used a full day then let us see the proof. These are $60,000.00 and up salaries. Just put the classes on line. How much will that cost? Cancel all new book purchases to pay for it. It will pay for itself in no more than 2 years. Will this cost teachers their jobs? No. We still need someone to teach the classes, but maybe we can get all the education we need and want if we can save on the expense of administrating all those buildings.

Just think, sick children can learn even when they have a runny nose, Gay children can be who they are without having to tolerate the jocks in the hall. No more racism, no more distractions from the kids who confuse drama class with chemistry. The school boards limit the number of classes a child can take. What is that about? Let the school board continue to test, and have sports, and plays, and proms, and classes every day. Open up the learning opportunities in case a child missed something or just in case, the teachers are not doing a good job.

The children of the world can speak our language, sing our songs and will be our doctors and architects. They have learned all about us online. We have to give our children more. Give our children the world. Make it free. The world is waiting to socialize with our children. They are ready as well.

Please help? Anyone who really wants to advocate for all the children please email me. I need all the advice or help I can get.
CCC – Gwinnett
Concerned Citizens Coalition


June 9th, 2009
5:25 pm

Annie – I couldn’t agree with you more. Many of our schools have become giant jobs programs – especially at the administrative level. I know of so many people taking home six-figure salaries who could barely make $50k in the “real world”… Sadly – it’s our kids who are the meal tickets for these folks. Streamlining and putting more teachers in the classrooms instead of such heavy admin would be a step in the right direction. All we REALLY need is good teachers, a counselor, a nurse, a librarian and a principal. A superintendent with a very streamlined office staff could provide oversight and monitor the budget. All these other folks are waste and bloat and serve to bleed resources from our students.

BTW – the State of GA has a fabulous virtual academy – you should check it out. DCSS has one too – and you can take classes even if you live in another county – but the States program is much better.


June 10th, 2009
9:38 am

At what point will students and their parents become accountable for their learning? Too much attention on graduation rate has diminished the value of a high school diploma. Adminstrators are resorting to unethical practices to make sure grad. rates go up and not down. One poster mentioned an apprentice program in a post above- don’t think this is a viable option for most dropouts as they don’t want to do anything. When our government stops paying out billions to unwed teenage moms and their “baby daddies” we will see people become aware of the value of education. These people will need to graduate to get jobs to pay bills. Subsidies do nothing to help the graduation rate or the educational level our society.


October 5th, 2009
7:08 pm

People need to GO to school and FINISH it!!!