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.
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