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Ga. begins reporting 5-year graduation rates
Educators: Emphasis still on 4-year graduation
052513 SEB GRAD 06
Southeast Bulloch High graduates pump their fists and cheer as they graduate from high school in this 2013 file photo. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

Graduation rates
Here is a quick look at local and state five-year high school graduation rates for the last two available cohorts of students. A student who is a member of the class of 2011 (the cohort) but took five years to complete high school requirements actually didn’t graduate until 2012.

School    2011    2012
Portal    67.9    61.3
SEB    74.3    78
SHS    68.6    71.2
Bulloch Co.    70.1    72.6
CCAT    N/A    94.7
GA    69.9    71.6
SOURCE: Georgia Department of Education

When Georgia reported high school graduation rates on Wednesday, the focus was on what’s called the “four-year adjusted cohort rate.”
But for the first time as part of its graduation-rate report, the state also reported the “five-year adjusted cohort rate.”
This doesn’t mean Georgia or any other state is discarding the notion that students ought to graduate high school within four years. The four-year rate still gets the most emphasis in the accountability systems that rate performance by high schools, districts and the state itself.
But the five-year rate does give schools, districts and the state credit for those students who do graduate, even if it takes longer than four years.
“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,” State School Superintendent John Barge said last year, looking ahead to this year’s graduation report. “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.”
Actually, the Georgia Department of Education did include the five-year cohort rate when it released the 2012 College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, ratings earlier this year. CCRPI replaces the Adequate Yearly Progress rating in Georgia because the state received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The 2012 CCRPI reports included the four- and five-year cohort graduation rates for the class of 2011. The graduation rates released Wednesday include the five-year rate for the class of 2012, as well as the four-year rate for the class of 2013. (This is because students who are part of the class of 2012 and who took five years to complete their high school requirements actually graduated in 2013. Similarly, those in the class of 2011 who took five years actually graduated in 2012.)
The five-year cohort rates mostly improved locally – an echo of the four-year cohort rate trends for those same graduating classes. The only school that saw its five-year graduation rate fall was Portal Middle High School, from 67.9 percent for the class of 2011 to 61.3 percent in for the class of 2012. Portal also saw its four-year rate drop between those two graduating classes.
A comparison wasn’t possible for Charter Conservatory, a charter school in Statesboro that is not run by the Bulloch County school system, because the school’s CCRPI report did not include class of 2011 graduation data. However, the data released Wednesday showed that the school’s 2012 five-year cohort graduation rate was 94.7 percent, or 19 of the 20 students in that class.
“The five-year rate that we posted shows the commitment and dedication that our faculty and staff have toward ensuring that as many students as possible see their graduation as a goal that can be met through hard work and persistence, even though it may take them a little longer, which only ensures preparedness for postsecondary education,” said Corliss Reese, the director of the charter school.
As with the state, Reese, who became the director in July 2012, said Charter Conservatory’s focus is on having students graduate in four or fewer years.
“Since becoming director, I have put a system in place that has 5 percent of our population on track to graduate early,” he said. “This system is complementary to what we already have in place for joint enrollment with colleges and universities.”
Both Statesboro and Southeast Bulloch high schools saw increases in their five-year rates, as did the school system overall and the state. SEB’s rate climbed from 74.3 percent for the class of 2011 to 78 percent for the 2012 class. Statesboro’s jumped from 68.6 percent to 71.2 percent.
Bulloch County’s five-year rate rose from 70.1 percent to 72.6 percent. Georgia’s increased from 69.9 percent to 71.6 percent, meaning that local schools mostly outperformed the state for both graduating classes.
Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson, like Reese and Barge, said the four-year rate is the focus. But the five-year rate, Wilson said, does allow for circumstances a student might face, such as a death in the family, that might make it difficult to complete high school requirements in four years. He added that it appears in the next few years that Southeast Bulloch and Statesboro high schools will follow Portal’s lead and change from a block schedule, which allows students to take eight courses a year, to a seven-period day. That would allow for fewer opportunities to earn course credits, meaning there won’t be as much margin for error for students who fail a few courses to meet graduation requirements within four years.
“I do see the five-year rate, as we move forward, will become more important to us,” he said. “It does allow for those unforeseen circumstances that can happen to prevent a student from completing the requirements. Our goal will always be to have students graduate on time, but this provides some flexibility.”

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.

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