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High schools listed for grad gap in highest, lowest students
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Under the state's new College and Career Readiness Index, which replaced No Child Left Behind, Rockdale's three high schools were put on a list for having a gap in the graduation rate of its highest and lowest achieving students.

The 156 schools named on the "Focus" list will stay on that list up to three years, allowing them to receive additional support, which can begin as early as June.

For Rockdale County Public Schools, this means students with disabilities will be expected to graduate at rates closer to those of the highest achieving students.

Last school year, RCPS had an all-time high graduation rate of 86 percent. The state average was 80.9 percent

The graduation rate of RCPS high school students with disabilities (SWD) was 39.6 percent. The state average was 43.3 percent.

At Heritage, the overall graduation rate was 88.8 percent, while SWD rate was 41.2 percent.

The graduation rate at Rockdale County High School, which also includes Magnet school students, was 91.6 percent, while the SWD rate was 43.3 percent.

At Salem, the overall rate was 87.2 percent while the SWD rate was 34.4 percent.

The state also recently revised its definition of graduation as being within four years. Starting this school year, students that take longer will not be counted in the graduation rate.

"Although we have seen consistent improvement over the past five years, we take all achievement gaps seriously and must continue to close the gap in graduation rate at each high school," said RCPS Superintendent Dr. Samuel King in a released statement.

The statement also pointed out the SWD graduation rate improved by 14.6 points over the last five years, while the state's SWD graduation rate improved by 10.4 points.

RCPS spokesperson Cindy Ball said, "We’ve seen continuous growth over the past five years. Is it where we want it to be? No. But this isn’t giving us credit for that five year continuous growth that we’ve seen."

Georgia was one of 10 states granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind act and the annual Adequate Yearly Progress designations, which would have required 100 percent graduation and 100 percent passing on standardized tests by 2014.

The College and Career Readiness Index that the Ga. Department of Education proposed instead is made up of 20 factors to measure a school's and system's performance.

As part of that, the Ga. DOE has drawn up four lists to find the schools that need more support. Not all schools will fall on one of the lists.

Out of the four lists, three apply only to Title I schools, or schools with a lower socioeconomic population.

The Reward Schools list (to be named in September) recognizes Title I schools with high performance.

The Priority Schools list (already named) has Title I schools with the lowest scores and little overall progress - in other words, the most urgent needs. No RCPS schools were on this list.

The Focus Schools list has Title I schools with either a low overall graduation rate of less than 60 percent or a large gap in the graduation rate of the highest and lowest students.

The Alert Schools list (to be named before April 15) is the only list with both Title I and non-Title I schools. It looks at low graduation rates, low achievement rates of a subgroup, or low achievement in certain subjects.

 In neighboring Newton County, two schools were named to the Focus list - Live Oak Elementary and West Newton Elementary. In DeKalb County, 10 schools were named to the Focus list