Ufot Inyang is the assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Dougherty County School System.
ALBANY, Ga. — The State Department of Education on Tuesday released Georgia's most recent public high school cohort graduation rates, which included a surprise locally.
While the state's graduation rate rose more than two percentage points from the previous year — up from 67.4 percent to 69.7 percent in 2012 — Terrell County unexpectedly led the five-county metro Albany area with an 87.34 percent rate.
Dougherty County's cohort graduation rate is 58.95 percent, Baker County is 75, Calhoun is 74.36, Lee County is 76.51, Mitchell County is 75.31 and Worth County is 72.27. Dougherty, Lee, Worth, Baker and Terrell comprise the Albany Metropolitan Statistical Area.
This is the second year Georgia has calculated the graduation rate using a new formula — known as the adjusted cohort rate — as required by the U.S. Department of Education.
Based on an estimated cohort graduation rate of 58.6 percent in 2009, the rate of students getting diplomas has risen by 11 percentage points since 2009.
The cohort rate was applied to 2009's graduating class to help create a trend line, though the state used a different calculation then.
The primary difference is defining the cohort. The four-year high school graduation rate defines the cohort when the student becomes a freshman, and the rate is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years of becoming a freshman.
The current graduation rate (which began with ninth-graders in 2007) defines the cohort upon graduation, which includes students who take more than four years to graduate from high school.
"I have yet to see the new numbers, but all I can say is, 'Wow,'" Terrell County High School Principal Doug Bell said. "I think what we're doing is working. When kids come up in the ninth grade, we set up 'care teams' for each graduation level. We make sure we keep the kids in school, we check their attendance, we set up parent-teachers meetings and work as hard as we can to keep them in school. We know what our kids are doing and it's working."
Terrell County Curriculum Director Martha Nicholson echoed Bell's comments.
"The high school is doing an excellent job of keeping the kids accounted for, keeping them together and in school," she said. "They are paying close attention to the individual students and making sure they are staying on track. We feel great that the hard work is paying off."
In the Dougherty County School system, Westover led the way with a 74.23 percent cohort graduation rate, followed by Albany at 66.31, Dougherty at 45.85 and Monroe at 45.66.
"It is important for students and parents to know that new data reporting results should not be compared with past results as the methods for reporting make them very different," said Ufot Inyang, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "A good example of this is the new computation for high school graduation rate.
"The new graduation rate does not allow for students who move from our system after enrolling in ninth grade if their out-of-district new school does not inform us of their enrollment," he said. "These 'transferred' students count against our new graduation rate, even if we know they moved outside of Georgia.
"The new rate also does not allow for students who get a year behind in their studies; when they do complete requirements for graduation they no longer count as a graduate because they did not graduate with the class with whom they began ninth grade."
Inyang pointed out this year's graduation rates as an example.
"The impact of the change in computation can be seen in this year's graduation rates. In 2011, the system had improved the rate over the previous five years from 57.5 percent in 2006 to 72.5 percent in 2011 using the previous computation method," Inyang said. "In 2011, 647 students graduated with regular diplomas from our four high schools. That year the computation method changed graduation rate was reported at 57.5 percent under the new method. Same number of students graduating, 14 percent difference in reported rate."
Still, Inyang said that the numbers were a source of concern.
"Results are results, however, and we are not going to make excuses for under-performing students or schools," said Inyang. "We are going to work extremely hard to improve them."