Graduation rates for GA high schools released. Here’s how Columbus area schools did.

After increasing its graduation rate the previous six straight years, the Muscogee County School District’s improvement streak on this key measurement has ended.

MCSD’s graduation rate in 2019 is 86.1% (1,959 out of a class of 2,276 students), a decrease of 2.8 percentage points from the 2018 rate of 88.9%, according to data released Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Education.

Muscogee County still has a higher graduation rate than the state and national averages, but the margin narrowed:

  • Georgia’s average increased by 0.4 percentage points, from 81.6% in 2018 to 82% in 2019 — an all-time high for the state since a new formula was implemented seven years ago.
  • The latest statistics available for the U.S. average show an increase of 0.5 percentage points from 84.1% to 84.6% — also an all-time high for the nation.

Until this year’s drop, MCSD’s graduation rate had soared by 21.4 percentage points from 2012, when it was 67.5%.

“Although our graduation rate still remains well above the state and national averages, I am disappointed that we took a step backward after six consecutive years of improvement,” MCSD superintendent David Lewis, who was hired in 2013, said in a news release. “Our ultimate goal of a 100 percent full-option graduation continues to be the focus of our work as a district. To that end, we have revised our tracking of transient students, who move out of our district without notice, to ensure that does not impact our rate in the future.”

This is the fifth straight year the state’s graduating senior class isn’t required to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Tests since the high-stakes exams were phased out.

As required by the U.S. Department of Education, the graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate from high school within four years and includes adjustments for student transfers.

This is the ninth straight year Georgia has used the adjusted cohort for its graduation rate. The state used to define the cohort upon graduation, which could have included students who took more than four years to graduate.

Here are the 2019 graduation rates compared to 2018 for each of MCSD’s high schools, listed in order of whether and how much they improved:

  • Carver increased by 2.2 percentage points, from 86.3% to 88.5% (245 out of 277).
  • Northside increased by 1.4 percentage points, from 93% to 94.4% (334 out of 354).
  • Columbus High increased by 0.7 percentage points, from 99.3% to 100% (302 out of 302).
  • Shaw remained at 87.9% (246 out of 280).
  • Hardaway decreased by 2.3 percentage points, from 91.6% to 89.3% (291 out of 326).
  • Early College Academy decreased by 2.9 percentage points, from 100% to 97.1% (34 out of 35 students). Early College closed this summer and merged with Jordan.
  • Kendrick decreased by 4.7 percentage points, from 87.3% to 82.6% (190 out of 230).
  • Jordan decreased by 6.2 percentage points from 75.4% to 69.2% (144 out of 208).
  • Spencer decreased by 9.6 percentage points, from 86.2% to 76.6% (173 out of 226).

MCSD’s decrease in graduation rate means it fell from the top ranking among the school districts serving Georgia’s second-tier cities.

Chatham County (Savannah) increased by 1.2 percentage points, from 86.6% to 87.8% (2,060 out of 2,346) to surpass Muscogee.

Bibb County (Macon) increased by 0.9 percentage points, from 78.5% to 79.4% (1,366 out of 1,721).

Richmond County (Augusta) decreased by 2.6 percentage points, from 77.7% to 75.1% (1,650 out of 2,198).

Other local counties

  • Troup County increased by 2.5 percentage points, from 84.1% to 86.6% (754 out of 871).
  • Harris County increased by 0.9 percentage points, from 92.4% to 93.3% (389 out of 417).
  • Meriwether County decreased by 1.6 percentage points, from 83.9% to 82.3% (130 out of 158).
  • Chattahoochee County decreased 5.4 percentage points, from 82.1% to 76.7% (92 out of 120).
  • Marion County decreased by 7.8 percentage points, from 92.8% to 85% (113 out of 133).
  • Talbot County decreased by 12.1 percentage points, from 95% to 82.9% (29 out of 35).

Harris County superintendent Roger Couch, who was hired last year, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email, “The graduation rate is a culmination of the hard work and dedication to the faculty, staff, and students in Harris County. Counselors spend a great deal of time making sure students are in classes that put them in the best situation to stay in school and graduate on-time.”

Couch added, “Harris County is a great school district with great faculty, staff, parents, and students. This leads to great results. This is probably one of the most important indicators of a district’s success, and our district far exceeds the State average.”

Kristie Brooks, who was hired this year as ChattCo’s superintendent, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email, “Because many critical staff changes occurred, an early void of information was not present during data reporting. I am disappointed that through these changes, the learning curve and training required impacted our practices to the extent that data reported for graduation rate was impacted. This fall, some key changes were made to address the need for more internal controls on system processes especially as it relates to the high mobility of our military-connected student population.”

Those changes include, Brooks said, hiring a system-level information and data coordinator, “extensive professional learning on our data system,” revising the role of the school-level registrar position “so the primary responsibility is high school data and records” and establishing a team to review the transfer students’ files monthly.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.