The Muscogee County School District's high school graduation rate decreased from 2011 to 2012 while the state average and similar districts improved.
MCSD's combined graduation rate for its nine high schools dipped from 68.17 percent in 2011 to 67.52 percent in 2012, according to data the Georgia Department of Education released Tuesday. That trend goes against Georgia's average, which increased from 67.4 to 69.7 -- and MCSD fell from above the state average to below it.
Muscogee's graduation rate still is significantly better than districts of similar size and poverty level, such as Bibb County, Chatham County and Richmond County, but those districts improved: Bibb (51.34 to 52.3), Chatham (54.43 to 63.31) and Richmond (54.63 to 59.19).
Shaw High School showed the largest gain in MCSD, from 65.05 to 72.07. Hardaway had the biggest decline in MCSD, from 75.79 to 64.81.
Muscogee's neighboring counties with one public high school each, Harris and Chattahoochee, produced different results: Harris County improved from 79.69 to 87.79; Chattahoochee County dropped from 71.15 to 66.67.
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.
MCSD officials weren't available Tuesday to comment on the results, but Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge noted in a news release the state's graduation rate has increased no matter how it is calculated.
Based on an estimated cohort graduation rate of 58.6 percent in 2009, the rate of Georgia high school students earning diplomas has risen 11 percentage points since 2009. The cohort rate was applied to 2009's graduating class to help create a trend line, even though the state used a different calculation then.
"While our graduation rate is still far too low and we have much progress to be made, we are moving in the right direction," Barge said. "In order to encourage more students to stay in school, we must make high school more relevant."
The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate defines the cohort based on when a student becomes a freshman. The rate is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years and includes adjustments for student transfers. Georgia's former formula defined the cohort upon graduation, which might have included students who took more than four years to graduate from high school.
The U.S. Department of Education requires all 50 states to use the cohort rate to calculate graduates.GRADUATION RATES
Here are the high school graduation rates for local Georgia schools in 2011 and 2012, ranked in order of their 2012 rate:
School 2011 2012
Columbus 97.48 96.18
Early College 95.74 92.00
Harris Co. 79.69 87.79
Northside 86.56 86.15
Shaw 65.05 72.07
Chatt. Co. 71.15 66.67
Hardaway 75.79 64.81
Spencer 61.69 60.25
Carver 63.82 59.45
Kendrick 48.91 47.79
Jordan 43.60 45.71