CHEROKEE — The Cherokee County School District’s 2011-12 high school graduation rate fell to 72.65 percent from the previous year’s 74.82 percent, while the statewide graduation rate rose from 67.4 percent in 2010-11 to 69.72 percent, according to figures released Tuesday by the Georgia Department of Education.
This is the second year Georgia has used the adjusted cohort rate, a common federal measurement system that details four-year graduation rates. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo said although Cherokee County schools continue to exceed the statewide graduation rate, the district is “reviewing various strategies to increase this rate.”
“It’s important to note that the state doesn’t count students who take longer than four years to graduate,” Petruzielo said. “And in Cherokee County, our rate would increase if they were counted. We focus on mastery and encourage students to take the time they need to accomplish that and complete their education, even if that means an extra semester or year of classes at their high school or at our night high school.”
Spokeswoman for the CCSD Barbara Jacoby said next year Polaris Evening School will not be factored into Cherokee County graduation rates because it will be classified as a program and not a high school.
Polaris Evening School graduation rate for 2011-12 was 6.42 percent, since only those who graduate within four years of starting high school are now included in the graduation rate. Excluding Polaris Evening School, Cherokee High School had the lowest graduation rate of Cherokee County schools at 66.6 percent.
Etowah High School had the highest graduation rate in the county at 85.11 percent followed by Creekview High School at 82.73 percent.
“The economy also has taken another toll on our schools,” Petruzielo said. “One in three Cherokee students now is living in poverty, and we know that increases the likelihood they won’t graduate in four years. As local tax revenue increases and, we hope, the state returns to its previous practice and commitment to fully funding public education, our top priorities are to restore the 180-day school calendar, decrease class size and consider re-instituting successful positions and programs that were eliminated due to state funding cuts, such as high school graduation coaches.”
Surrounding counties’ graduation rates are: Bartow at 67.29 percent, Cobb at 76 percent, DeKalb at 57.28 percent, Douglas at 72.29 percent, Fulton at 71.34 percent and Paulding at 75.49 percent.
Though the state used a different method for calculating graduation rates in 2009, the cohort method was applied to help with comparison. Georgia’s 2009 graduation rate was estimated at 58.6 percent, marking an increase of around 11 percentage points for the state since then.
In a press release from Georgia’s Department of Education, state School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said he is “very pleased that our graduation rate continues to increase, no matter how it is calculated.”
“While our graduation rate is still far too low and we have much progress to be made, we are moving in the right direction. In order to encourage more students to stay in school, we must make high school more relevant” Barge said. “Through our Career Pathways initiative, I am excited that students will see a clearer connection between what they learn in the classroom and how it applies to what they want to do after graduation.”