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Georgia graduation rates at record high in 2020
Newton, Social Circle schools remain above state average
NCSS Graduations
A NHS graduate decorated his cap for the commencement ceremony. - Mason Wittner | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — Georgia’s students are graduating at an all-time high.

In 2020, the state’s graduation rate rose to 83.8%, which is up from 82% in 2019 and is a record rate since the state began using the adjusted cohort calculation required by federal law, according to a Tuesday news release from the Georgia Department of Education. The state’s rate increased by 14.1 percentage points since 2012.

According to the news release, 105 Georgia school districts and 230 schools recorded graduation rates at or above 90% in 2020, including Newton High School and Social Circle City Schools.

Social Circle City Schools graduated 103 out of 109 students for a graduation rate of 94.5%.

Newton High School had a graduation rate of 91.1% for 2020, graduating 574 out of 630 students.

The remaining Newton County schools finished just under the 90% mark.

Eastside High School had a graduation rate of 89.2%, graduating a total of 339 students, which was two percentage points better than in 2019.

Alcovy High School had a graduation rate of 88.6%, graduating a total of 429 students, which marked an increase of more than three percentage points.

Newton County Schools, as a district finished with a total graduation rate of 89.8% — an increase of more than two percentage points from 2019.

"Congratulations to our students, parents, teachers and leaders for their hard work,” Newton County Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said. “It is exciting to reach the 90% mark for the first time since the Georgia Department of Education began collecting cohort graduation data. I am proud of the continued efforts of our high school team to ensure our students achieve this very significant milestone. I am so pleased that all three of our high schools have surpassed their respective 2019 graduation rates and continue to outpace the state. I would like to offer a special note of congratulations to the Newton High School team as their students achieved a graduation rate of 91%, which is their highest graduation rate yet. I am also thrilled that Alcovy High School’s graduation rate improved by (nearly) four points to its highest graduation rate in the last six years. And not to be outdone, congratulations to the Eastside High School team for posting a two point gain! Each of our schools deserves to be commended for their work in ensuring that all students graduate and are well-rounded and prepared for the future. We are dedicated to reaching our goal of 100% of Newton County School System students graduating within four years, and we will not be fully satisfied until we reach that goal."

According to the report, 29 districts and 89 schools recorded graduation rates at or above 95%.

“I’m very proud today of the class of 2020,” State Superintendent Richard Woods said. “These students were faced with difficulties none of us could have imagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have shown over and over again — in ACT and SAT results, in their personal accomplishments, and now in this graduation rate – that they were able to rise above. While these results are positive, we cannot stop here. We must provide tailored and personalized pathways to ensure every student sees the relevance in their education, stays in school, and receives a high-school diploma that prepares them for their future.”

Part of the increase in graduation rate for 2020 could be attributed to a waiver the GDOE received from the U.S. Department of Education in 2019, according to the news release, that allows the state to count students with the “most significant cognitive disabilities” in the four-year graduation rate the year they graduate, even if that is more than four years after they begin high school. 

To be counted, the student’s graduation still must fall within the window for which they are guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). In Georgia, students are guaranteed FAPE through the age of 22. 

In 2020, this change allowed for the cohort of approximately 1,000 students to be reassigned, the news release stated. This accounts for only a portion of the increase. If those students’ cohort had not been reassigned, the graduation rate would have increased by 1.09 percentage points, as opposed to 1.80.