State graduation rate slowly moving up a steep hill

May 22, 2013 

“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” a phrase astronaut Jim Lovell used to tell the command center -- located outside Houston, Texas -- that his Apollo 13 spacecraft had suffered a major electrical problem that not only threatened the spacecraft’s mission but also the lives of the crew.

The same could be said of Georgia’s graduation rate: “Atlanta, we’ve got a problem.” The state Department of Education issued its four-year graduation rate for the 2009-2012 cohort. In 2009, Georgia had a grad rate of 58.6 percent. In 2012, the state was doing better at 68.7 percent.

In the past, states, including Georgia, would play games with their graduation rates, but the U.S. Department of Education now requires all states to calculate grad rates using the same method. The state Department of Education has also published the four-year grad rate for every high school and school system.

The four-year grad rate for Bibb schools is 52.3 percent. Three of the county’s eight high schools are graduating less than 50 percent of its students. Only one, Hutchings Career Center, graduated more than 70 percent of its students.

Houston County has a four-year rate of 75.59 percent; Monroe County, 79.8 percent; Peach County, 69.94 percent; Bleckley County, 79.79 percent; Crawford County, 57.5 percent; Pulaski County, 69.11 percent; Putnam County, 69.59 percent; Baldwin County, 62.82 percent; Jones County, 70.28 percent; Twiggs County, 45.33 percent; Dublin City, 73.58 percent and Laurens County, 70.22 percent.

Of the 17 high schools in Cobb County, one of the largest school systems in the state, only five graduated less than 70 percent of its senior cohort from 2009-2012. Forsyth County, with seven high schools, has a system grad rate of 87.78 percent.

Those are bright spots, but for large swatches of Georgia there are educational problems and if not fixed, will come back to haunt us financially and physically.

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