Newton County School System and Social Circle City Schools leaders praised their staffs for work to keep their systems' four-year graduation rates above the state average.
The Georgia Department of Education recently announced that Newton County School System’s (NCSS) four-year graduation rate dropped slightly in 2021 but still exceeded the statewide average for a fifth consecutive year.
NCSS’s three high schools also had graduation rates above the state average, though Alcovy saw a significant drop from the previous year.
And the only high school in the Social Circle City Schools system, Social Circle High, increased its four-year rate slightly from the previous year, according to information from the Georgia Department of Education.
The department released its four-year adjusted cohort graduation rates for Georgia public school systems last week.
The four-year adjusted cohort rate is defined as the group of students who enter a school system as freshmen and graduate within four years, with adjustments made for students who transfer out of the same system during that time period.
Graduation rates for the local high schools, school districts and statewide for the last five years included:
NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said she was “incredibly proud of our students, staff, and school leaders for their hard work, dedication and commitment to realizing our school system vision that all students will be well-rounded and prepared for the future.”
“We have worked diligently to equip our students for life beyond high school and while we will not be satisfied until 100% of our seniors graduate, our continuous improvement journey is demonstrated by our district surpassing the state’s graduation rate year after year,” Fuhrey said.
“I’d like to thank our students’ families for their involvement in their children’s education; we know that family engagement is critical to student success.”
Robbie Hooker, superintendent of Social Circle City Schools, congratulated Social Circle High School students, parents, teachers and system leaders “for their hard work.”
“It is satisfying to see that the data collected by the Georgia Department of Education is trending upward for our students and is a reflection of the work done collectively throughout the district,” Hooker said. “We are certainly empowering students with an excellent and equitable education.”
Social Circle High School Principal Tim Armstrong said the “diligence” of students, faculty, and staff “has paid off” with a three-year graduation rate increase.
“While they experienced many COVID-related challenges in the two years, we have also worked to increase our expectations of all students’ academic performance. Our students’ performance is evidence of the power of high expectations,” Armstrong said.
Fuhrey said the process to ensure students graduate within four years begins when students attend the system’s Summer Bridge program for rising ninth-grade students.
“During this event, students spend time familiarizing themselves with the new high school, learn about the way a high school operates, and establish relationships with one another, teachers, school leaders, and counselors,” she said.
“We recognize freshman year is a critical year and ninth-grade students who are ‘on-track’ are more likely to meet the graduation milestone in four years.”
Attendance and course completion are used as indicators of a student remaining “on-track” toward graduation, Fuhrey said.
“School staff intervene swiftly when concerns surface relative to ‘on-track’ status,” she said.
“Not only do we support our freshman, but all students’ ‘on-track’ progress is reviewed, and those who need additional support are identified and served throughout the school year — even before and after school and during the summer.
“Teachers also provide before and after-school tutoring for students who need more time to understand difficult concepts.”
The school system has a graduation coach in place at each high school. The coach helps monitor student achievement and progress, Fuhrey said.
NCSS also uses academic “safety nets” for students who are struggling, Fuhrey said.
“Each of our schools are supported by guidance counselors who meet with parents and students to ensure graduation requirements are met,” she said.
“Our College and Career Readiness specialists work with guidance counselors and students to help them find their passion and develop pathways to achieve their goals.”
NCSS high schools also use Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) specialists who help students and work with teachers “to create just-in-time interventions for students who need additional guidance and support,” Fuhrey said.
A Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) is a data-driven prevention system that uses assessment — including screening and progress monitoring — to identify and predict students who may be at risk for poor learning outcomes or who experience social or emotional needs or behavioral concerns that affect learning, according to information from the Georgia Department of Education.
The state education department also released graduation rates of subgroups of students in the two school systems.
When broken out by race:
• 90% of Black students in the NCSS cohort graduated in 2021, down slightly from 91% in 2020.
• NCSS white students graduated at a rate of 86%, down from 90% in 2020.
• Between 2020 and 2021, the percentage of white graduates dropped at Newton High (89% in 2020 to 84% in 2021) and at Alcovy (86% to 78%) but remained the same at Eastside (92%).
• The percentage of Black students graduating increased at Eastside (83% in 2020 to 89% in 2021) and dropped slightly at Newton (93% to 92%) and Alcovy (90% to 88%).
• Social Circle High School’s Black graduates decreased from 100% in 2020 to 95% in 2021; while white graduates increased from 94% to 96%.
Statewide, the overall public high school graduation rate showed little change between 2020 and 2021. The 2021 rate was 83.7%, which was a 0.1% drop from 83.8% in 2020.
However, Georgia’s graduation rate has increased by 14% since 2012, state education officials said.