New Formula Graduation Rates
Westover, 65.44 percent
Albany High, 54.46 percent
Dougherty Comprehensive, 48.83 percent
Monroe Comprehensive, 47.4 percent
ALBANY, Ga. — Under a new formula that measures graduation rate among students who graduate high school within four years, the Dougherty County School System’s high school graduation rate dropped to 54 percent, according to State Superintendent John Barge.
The data, which was released Tuesday morning and reported on www.albanyherald.com, shows that the state graduation rate dropped to 67 percent under the new formula, which Barge said Tuesday was a more uniform and accurate measure of student performance.
“The new formula provides a more accurate, uniform look at how many students we are graduating from high school,” Barge said in a prepared statement issued at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
“I believe that in order to tackle a problem you have to have honest and accurate data,” he said. “We will be able to use this new data as a baseline to see how our important initiatives are impacting graduation rates in the future.”
The new calculation, known as the adjusted cohort rate, will allow states to uniformly compare graduation rates across the nation, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
“The computation method for Georgia’s high school graduates has been changed to create a nationally accepted method of reporting graduates,” Dougherty County School Superintendent Joshua Murfree said. “This number reflects the same number of students that was reported in the fall at 76.7 percent for our system. There are a number of reasons the new computation reduces the number. These include students who take more than four years to graduate never count as a graduate. Also, students who withdraw between 9th and 12th grade and don’t enroll in another Georgia public school system or are otherwise unaccounted for count against the last system in which they are registered.
“An interesting piece of the new method shows that graduation rates in Georgia have improved more than when computed with the older method.”
Historically, states have calculated graduation rates using various methods, creating inconsistent data from one state to the next. The new calculation means that the graduation rate may appear to be dramatically different, even if the number of students who actually graduate hasn’t changed.
In Dougherty County, the rate fell to 54.12 percent. Drilling down to the high-school level shows that Westover was the best-performing school in the district, yielding a 65 percent grad rate. Albany High was the next best at 54.46 percent, followed by Dougherty Comprehensive High School at 48.8 percent. Monroe was at the bottom of the district, graduating 47.4 percent of its four-year students.
Under the previous state formula, 2011 graduation results for Dougherty County high schools were dramatically different.
The system as a whole was sitting at 76.7 percent, a change from Tuesday’s report of 22.7 percentage points.
Westover’s graduation rate was at 87 percent — a difference of 22 percentage points — Albany High was at 68.5 percent — a difference of 14 points — Dougherty was at 73.4 percent — a change of 24.6 points — and Monroe was at 73.4 — a difference of 26 points.
According to the state Department of Education, the primary difference between the two formulas is the new formula calculates the graduation rate based on the number of students who graduate with their cohort group within four years, starting when they are freshmen and concluding when they finish their senior year.
While sobering, the numbers will temporarily improve for the 2012 graduating class, thanks to a move by Barge to seek permission from the U.S. Department of Education to use a five-year scale for the upcoming graduating class, rather than the four-year scale that was released Tuesday morning.
“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,” Barge said. “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.”
Neighboring school districts also saw their grad rates drop under the formula.
In Lee County, the new graduation rate is at 65.9 percent, down from 82.8 percent under the old formula.
“We were somewhat surprised by the drop,” Lee County School Superintendent Larry Walters said. “All I can say is we work very hard to make Lee County Schools the best we can be. But right now I really can’t explain the logic behind (the new rating system).”
Worth County was listed with a 65.4 percent grad rate Tuesday after previously having had a 70.2 percent rate.
Terrell County had a 75.7 percent rate under the new formula and an 81 percent rate without.
Baker County had the worst graduation rate in the five-county Albany Metro area with 41.3 percent of its students graduating within four years. That number is down from 44.4 percent under the old formula.
Mitchell County saw its grad rate drop from 92.4 percent to 64.3 percent, and Calhoun County fell to 60.5 percent from 72.2 percent.
Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell contributed to this story.