For the first time, the Georgia Department of Education is calculating graduation rates using a different method that allows states to uniformly compare graduation rates across the nation. And, as expected, the new calculation is reflecting lower rates than the method previously used to evaluate high school completion.
The state's 2011 graduation rate fell from 80.9 percent using the "leaver" rate to 67.4 percent under the "adjusted cohort" rate, according to data released Tuesday. The adjusted cohort rate is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years and includes adjustments for student transfers. Students that take longer than four years to finish are not considered on-time graduates like before. (In a column appearing in the last year, Oconee County Schools Superintendent John Jackson from "leaver" to "cohort" in more detail.)
Though Oconee's 2011 graduation rate took a dip like that of many other systems under the new method of calculation, it remains one of the highest in the state at 91.57 percent. That's compared to the 93.5 percent rate announced earlier this year using the previous method of calculation.
Furthermore, both of Oconee's high schools fell into the top ten percent of Georgia high schools under the new method of calculation. Out of 317 individual schools,'s 93.65 percent rate ranked 15th and came in at 30th with a rate of 89.43 percent.
"Congratulations and thanks to our students, staff and parents for working together to keep students in school. This is a K-12 effort! Dropouts don't just happen in high school; they begin early on when students become frustrated and lose hope of obtaining a high school diploma," Jackson wrote in a released email statement. "I also want to thank our Board of Education for supporting policies and programs that contribute to our success. I strongly believe that our commitment to block scheduling, adequate staffing, and strong academic, fine arts, CTAE and athletic programs at the high school level contributed to these results."
The new rate, which also includes subgroups, will be used for federal accountability purposes this school year. However, Georgia has received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to use a five-year cohort graduation rate for 2012.
“We know that not all students are the same and not all will graduate from high school in four years, so we asked for the U.S. Department of Education’s permission to use a five-year cohort graduation rate for federal accountability purposes,” said State Superintendent John Barge said in Tuesday's news release. “Ultimately, our goal is to ensure each child will graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and a career, regardless of how long it takes.”