Feds release new high school grad data using common yardstick; Georgia’s rate is 67 percent, putting us among bottom three.

Remember when Georgia used to say “Thank God for Mississippi and Alabama”?

With the release of new national high school graduation rates today, Georgia is now extending its thanks to Nevada and New Mexico, the only two states with lower graduation rates than Georgia.

Georgia has a 67 percent overall high school graduation rate, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Education under a new nationwide measurement formula.

For the first time ever, the cohort method will allow apples to apples comparisons since every state is using it to calculate how many of their seniors graduate in four years.

And those apples aren’t pretty for Georgia, which is among the bottom three.

Among states, only New Mexico, 63 percent, and Nevada, 62 percent, posted lower rates. (Also below Georgia were Washington, D.C., 59 percent, and the Bureau of Indian Education, 61 percent.)

Prior to the cohort method being adopted, states used a hodgepodge of methods — and a bit of voodoo math –  to calculate their grad rates, often favoring formulas that provided too glowing a picture of how many kids actually received diplomas in four years. Georgia was among them, touting a grad rate of 80 percent.

Georgia does not fare well compared to its Southern neighbors. For example, Alabama has a 72 percent grad rate, while Mississippi has a 75 percent rate and Louisiana has a 71 percent rate.

South Carolina has a 74 percent rate, and North Carolina has a 78 percent grad rate. Tennessee has an 86 percent rate, which puts it among the top performers in the country. Virginia has an 82 percent rate.

Here is a link to the list of states.

What hurts Georgia’s ranking is its acute failure to graduate students with disabilities and students with limited English. Only three out of 10 students in those two categories graduates, putting us well behind most of the nation.

If I were DOE, I would be looking for explanations for why Georgia does so poorly with these kids. Yes, they are among the most challenging students to educate, but other states are doing far better with them, so there must be strategies we ought to consider.

Here are the Georgia grad rates broken down by demographics:

Asians: 79 percent

Black students: 60 percent

Hispanic: 58 percent

Whites: 76 percent

Students with disabilities: 30 percent

Limited English: 32 percent

Economically disadvantaged: 59 percent

According to US DOE:

The U.S. Department of Education released data today detailing state four-year high school graduation rates in 2010-11 – the first year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure.   The varying methods formerly used by states to report graduation rates made comparisons between states unreliable, while the new, common metric can be used by states, districts and schools to promote greater accountability and to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide.

The new, uniform rate calculation is not comparable in absolute terms to previously reported rates. Therefore, while 26 states reported lower graduation rates and 24 states reported unchanged or increased rates under the new metric, these changes should not be viewed as measures of progress but rather as a more accurate snapshot.

“By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Ultimately, these data will help states target support to ensure more students graduate on time, college and career ready.”

The transition to a common, adjusted four-year cohort graduation rate reflects states’ efforts to create greater uniformity and transparency in reporting high school graduation data, and it meets the requirements of October 2008 federal regulations. A key goal of these regulations was to develop a graduation rate that provides parents, educators and community members with better information on their school’s progress while allowing for meaningful comparisons of graduation rates across states and school districts. The new graduation rate measurement also accurately accounts for students who drop out or who do not earn a regular high school diploma.

In 2011, states began individually reporting 2010-11 high school graduation rates, but this is the first time the Department has compiled these rates in one public document. These 2010-11 graduation rates are preliminary, state-reported data, and the Department plans to release final rates in the coming months. Beginning with data for the 2011-12 school year, graduation rates calculated using this new method will become a key element of state accountability systems, including for states that have been approved for ESEA flexibility.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

380 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly D

November 26th, 2012
3:47 pm

I’ve never really understood how they do these statistics. If somebody takes 5 years to graduate, do they count as a graduate or not?

Atlanta Mom

November 26th, 2012
3:50 pm

Pretty ugly when Alabama beats you by 5% points.

Atlanta Mom

November 26th, 2012
3:56 pm

And Mississippi’s graduation rate is 9 points higher than Georgia. Exactly how did the state convince businesses that Georgia had an educated pool of workers?

Andy

November 26th, 2012
4:01 pm

And the GA teacher’s unions can’t figure out why we want charter schools.

bootney farnsworth

November 26th, 2012
4:10 pm

and people like Andy still can’t figure out we have no unions in Georgia.

indigo

November 26th, 2012
4:12 pm

How about breaking it down by students who do and don’t cheat their way to graduation.

bootney farnsworth

November 26th, 2012
4:13 pm

some interesting data:
whites and asians have respectable, but needing improvement rates
despite all the money thrown at various social programs, black and latino rates are still unacceptably low

bootney farnsworth

November 26th, 2012
4:18 pm

how about breaking down rates:
systems who practice widespread grade inflation and those who do not.

bootney farnsworth

November 26th, 2012
4:19 pm

@ Maureen

does this data break down to show charter school vs public vs private?

Decaturite

November 26th, 2012
4:32 pm

What’s up with New Mexico? They are ruining our race for the bottom.

Bill Akins

November 26th, 2012
4:35 pm

So, are these rates better or worse than last year?

Reality Check

November 26th, 2012
4:37 pm

And people like Bootney Farnsworth are still clueless and ignorant.

skipper

November 26th, 2012
4:40 pm

So funny the way stats, etc. work….you either graduated or you did not!

Ronald Jc

November 26th, 2012
4:42 pm

I guess this means that Georgia’s state motto is no longer, “Thank God for Mississippi!”

Dejay

November 26th, 2012
4:46 pm

You mean to tell me that Nevada and New Mexico are the only states in the union with lower graduation rates than Georgia now? Wow. Just wow…

Maureen Downey

November 26th, 2012
4:46 pm

@bootney, Not in the preliminary data.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

November 26th, 2012
4:47 pm

@Atlanta, I get 8 points higher. Georgia is at 67; Mississippi has a 75 percent rate.
Maureen

Skitty Fritty

November 26th, 2012
4:51 pm

Must be George Bush’s fault.

hunter

November 26th, 2012
4:52 pm

maybe @Atlanta is one of the 33%

Out the Door

November 26th, 2012
4:53 pm

@Hillbilly D – It is my understanding that a four year cohort is used for the graduation calculation. If a student takes five years to graduate, he/she is not included in the total graduation percentage.

Hilarious!

November 26th, 2012
4:54 pm

Wow!! – Somebody has to clean my office…right?

Hillbilly D

November 26th, 2012
4:56 pm

you either graduated or you did not!

That’s the way I see it, too. Of course, it’s better to graduate on time but if you graduate late, you still graduated and you still have the same diploma as everybody else.

Mike Geigerman

November 26th, 2012
4:56 pm

Shame on our educators….. Educate don’t indoctrinate or worse let your kids drop out.

Political Mongrel

November 26th, 2012
4:56 pm

This “metric” counts students who DO NOT DROP OUT, but who take more than four years to finish as dropouts. This is so counter to simple logic that it makes the entire chart laughable.

Hillbilly D

November 26th, 2012
4:56 pm

Out the Door

Thanks for the answer.

living in an outdated ed system

November 26th, 2012
4:58 pm

No matter what the formula used, Georgia is not graduating one in three students. That is unacceptable, period.

Christopher

November 26th, 2012
5:01 pm

Just because somebody graduates, doesn’t mean that that person knows much. I’m sure feel good administrators would like to pass everybody….

Jeff

November 26th, 2012
5:02 pm

is the State Government doing anything to change this?

Lexi

November 26th, 2012
5:04 pm

Meaningless unless one compares demographics by state. Also seems as though some classes overlap, such as Hispanic/non-English speaking, economically disadvantaged/……

BTW, ” data” is the plural form of “datum.” ” Not these preliminary data.”

curious

November 26th, 2012
5:05 pm

NCLB is working.

Soon every child will be in the same place; AT THE BOTTOM!

high school teacher

November 26th, 2012
5:06 pm

This comparison is still not an apples to apples comparison. Georgia requires passing the graduation tests in order to receive a diploma. Do all states have an exit exam of sorts? Do all states grade on the same level of rigor/expectation? I have a friend of mine who is now in Michigan; he said that a proficient score on their graduation tests is 39% accuracy. He said that Georgia is light years ahead of the district where he transferred.

There are a host of other variables hidden within the simple ratio of students who enter high school in year X and students who graduate four years later. I am anxious to see what the PARCC assessments for Common Core will show in 2014.

kbb

November 26th, 2012
5:07 pm

All of the red states at the bottom. Coincidence?

UGA ECONOMICS MAJOR

November 26th, 2012
5:09 pm

Georgia and Atlanta constantly rate near the bottom or at the bottom in just about everything…why oh why do folks continue to flock here ???and whats good about Atlanta and Georgia?the negatives far outweigh the positives and why do southern poor states contiue voting republican when they are among the worst

gdfo

November 26th, 2012
5:11 pm

I live in Georgia but was not educated here. The culture is different here. Many people that I have worked with here considered it rude and/or effeminate to show or demostrate knowledge above simple level and I mean for men. That is part of the problem. Another aspect of the problem is what I call expectation. Families do not expect enough from the teachers and do not put much effort in themselves. From my perspective it seems to be how children get socialized. If they want to fit in with others and the standards are not high, then you get the results that you see in this study. Top that off with the cheating on tests and you have a real mess.

This is not an issure of having Unions, it is an issue of expectation and higher standards. Recently I saw a teacher mispell a word on a chalk board. So there you have it.

Maureen Downey

November 26th, 2012
5:11 pm

@High school teacher, There are 26 states that have high school exit exams.
Maureen

Red Forman

November 26th, 2012
5:12 pm

I for one did my job, both kids graduated high school and college…it starts at home people, demand better from them!

Out the Door

November 26th, 2012
5:14 pm

The cohort model previously used in Georgia consisted of looking at the number of students entering 9th grade and calculating the graduation rate based on the number of students that graduated four years later. The new calculation tracks individual students through the four year window. If a student moves out of the system and the school cannot verify entry into another school, the student counts as a dropout. If they enter another Georgia school, they can usually be accounted for during the student record verification process, but if they go to live with Dad in Florida and the school can’t get paperwork to prove the student is in school, then the student counts as a dropout. Additionally, students that withdraw and obtain a GED count as dropouts.

Jimbo

November 26th, 2012
5:16 pm

@High school teacher- Unless GA’s graduation exam has changed drastically over the last few years, it’s a laughably easy test. I haven’t seen actual data regarding failure rates for that test, but my guess is that it has a pretty low failure rate.

ksk

November 26th, 2012
5:17 pm

The graduation rates are a sign of what is happening in our schools on a regular basis. The schools are in denial very early about identifying and getting appropriate help or education for children needing special education or accomodations. They are not equiped to handle at least a good portion of the student from the start, some of which have special need with high IQ’s. I’ve watched the curriculum style change yearly leaving gaps in learning. The good schools who are so focused on standardized testing burn parents and kids out on learning. Bubbling in test trump writing and critical and creative thinking. Coming from Alabama, Georgia was never better. With massive behavioral issues I am surpprised anyone can learn here.

clem

November 26th, 2012
5:19 pm

must be obama’s fault

Buzz

November 26th, 2012
5:19 pm

Many thanks to the teachers with UGA degrees for this wonderful graduation rate. You run this state? You can’t even do your freaking job.

Lexi

November 26th, 2012
5:22 pm

Mr./ miss UGA Economics major:

Bet if you examined the data closely they would show that much of the disparity is due to the demographic make-up of the various states. Fact is, most of the “red states” have higher than average populations of blacks and Hispanics who perform below average in school and on standardized tests. If Georgia is really worst what does that say about an economics degree from its flagship university?

mountain man

November 26th, 2012
5:24 pm

“Georgia requires passing the graduation tests in order to receive a diploma.”

Didn’t they do away with the Georgia High School Graduation Test? Anyway, I have it on good authority that after one tries a number of times on the test and continually fails, that you can get a “waiver” that gives you a diploma. Anyone know the accurate information?

delois

November 26th, 2012
5:25 pm

Just imagine if the whole country tried teaching these kids how to succeed instead of telling them how special they are and we are all winners, things would be different. We are raising a bunch of lazy, whiny people. Send them to Catholic school with nuns as teachers!

Maureen Downey

November 26th, 2012
5:31 pm

@Lexi, Georgia is doing quite well educating the kids who end up at UGA getting an economics degree. As I just noted in the blog, the state is low in the rankings in large part because of its dismal rates among students with disabilities and limited English. Other states are doing much better with those two groups, as challenging as they may be to educate. We ought to figure out what they are doing and follow suit.
Maureen

Pete

November 26th, 2012
5:32 pm

IT’S THE PARENTS, STUPID! While some schools are clearly better than others, and outstanding schools will absolutely benefit motivated students, if students are not encouraged from home – and made to attend class and take learning seriously, they will fail or under-perform. In too many cases, the parents of the kids who contribute to this woeful statistic are unwilling or unable to take the steps necessary to get their children into an alternative environment that would give the student an advantage.

Deal and GOP in GA.

November 26th, 2012
5:32 pm

The problem is the nuts in Ga keep putting backwood crooks in office like Deal and the other GOP nuts. Until that change Ga will always be at the bottom. When you travel anyplace outside of this state the only city anyone can name is Atlanta. The state of Ga is a joke still living in the past.

Tony

November 26th, 2012
5:34 pm

As a state, we must pay attention to the factors that contribute to the dropout rate. Most of these factors are not even school related, yet we are holding schools completely accountable for the failure of parents, communities, and our state to provide the on-going support needed for all students to earn high school diplomas.

Butchcat

November 26th, 2012
5:35 pm

Our graduation rate may be lower than Mississippi and Alabama but we will have a newer and better dome stadium. Hey, what’s more important, education or football?

Maureen Downey

November 26th, 2012
5:37 pm

@Pete, I agree that parents are a critical factor, but could parents in Tennessee be that much better than the parents here? How does Tennessee have an 86 percent grad rate and we only have 67 percent?
We are looking at every state finally counting its grads the same way, and we are trailing states with similar and even worse poverty demographics.
Maureen

Just checked and Tennessee has a 26 percent child poverty rate. Georgia has a 25 percent rate.