The Georgia Department of Education (GDOE) has released statewide graduation rates for the 2010-11 school year and Georgia has one of the lowest in the country—the DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD) is even lower.
According to the most recent data, only 67 percent of Georgia’s students graduate from high school in four years, making it one of the states with the lowest graduation rate. Only Nevada, New Mexico, the District of Columbia and Bureau of Indian Education rank lower than Georgia.
The graduation rate in DCSD for the 2010-11 school year was 58.7 percent, with 6,689 students graduating. Whites (70.1 percent) and Asians (63.3 percent) were among those with the highest graduation rates while Blacks (58.1 percent) and Hispanics (46.8 percent) had the lowest.
Jeff Dickerson, a spokesman for DCSD, said the overall graduation rate from the past year is troubling.
“To drill down a little bit it gets even more troubling and among certain minorities the rates are terrible,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson said the number among Blacks and Hispanics is particularly troubling. For the past three years, the achievement gap between Black and Hispanic students and White students has remained, on average, around 20 percent.
“I think when Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson and the board look at those numbers they’ll begin to implement some programs to improve the graduation rate,” Dickerson said.
Although the district bears the brunt of responsibility for educating its students, Dickerson said, in some areas low parental involvement plays a key role in whether some students graduate.
“We can’t do it all on an administrative level but we certainly want do our part and work with parents and families to bring that up,” Dickerson said.
In prior years, DCSD’s graduation rate sat at approximately 79.2 percent. Many other districts in metro Atlanta also experienced a drop from the 2009-10 school year to the 2010-11 school year. The Atlanta Public School System’s rate dropped from 66.3 to 52 percent; Gwinnett County Public Schools from 84.4 to 67.6 percent; and the Fulton County School System from 85.3 to 70.1 percent.
The only district in metro Atlanta that remained unchanged was the graduation rate of the City Schools of Decatur’s (CSD) high school, which was approximately 88 percent.
Recently, the federal government changed the way graduation rates are calculated and Dickerson said that may explain the drop in scores both state and countywide.
“The federal government has standardized the way all states report graduation rates and it has changed the landscape nationally,” Dickerson said. “The numbers are brand new and it’s a major concern for the superintendent.”
Dorie Nolt, assistant director of communications at GDOE, said the way the new rate is calculated allows school officials to track more accurately whether a student has dropped out, or transferred to another school or district.
“Before, if somebody dropped out of a school they could have counted them as a drop out or transfer but schools have to find out what happened to the student now,” Nolt said.