On a weekend as nearly 1,600 graduates picked up diplomas from Columbia County public and private schools, there are plenty of reasons to worry that there weren’t as many students graduating as there should have been.
Evidence of those reasons come from the Georgia Department of Education, which this past week released the annual tally of graduation rates for all schools in the state.
Overall, Georgia’s rate increased by two percentage points. That’s progress, but it’s still lower than it should be. At 69.7 percent, that’s a failing grade.
Alarmingly, Columbia County’s graduation rate declined by two points, though its nearly 74 percent graduation rate continues to beat the state score.
It should be noted, however, that Columbia County’s lower score comes largely because of a precipitous, and as-yet-unexplained, drop of 16 points at Greenbrier High School. Greenbrier went from ranking first in the county in graduation rate for 2011 to third in 2012, dropping from 89 percent to 76 percent behind Evans – now in first place, at just better than 78 percent, and Lakeside, whose rate is just a fraction higher than Greenbrier.
And while Grovetown high made a barely-perceptible increase, from 67.47 to 67.57 percent passing, Harlem High took a respectable jump of more than seven percentage points. Their rate is still last in the county at 66.88, but next year’s rate, based on this weekend’s graduates, is expected to improve even more, says Principal Dietmar Perez.
Those 170 Harlem graduates crossing the stage this weekend represent about 79 percent of the four-year “cohort” group of students tracked together since their freshman year at Harlem, he says – and the percentage passing could climb past 82 percent if a few lagging students graduate from summer school, he said.
“We’ve had a lot of people – the graduation coach, teachers, our after-school program – lots of things going on in school to help get these kids on track and across the stage in four years,” Perez says.
That’s just what we need to hear. Keep up the great work, Harlem. Everyone else? Buckle down; there’s clearly more to do.