Polk graduation rates down amid policy changes for Class of 2018
♦ State sees highest rate ever as six-year increase boosts average to 81.6 percent
Graduation rates took a slight dip due to changes from year to year in testing policies, and sits system-wide right at 80.5 percent for the Class of 2018.
The state sent out the figures last week along with all other high schools across Georgia, and locally the two schools only went down overall by more than a percentage point, the mean average from 2015 to now remains about the same for Cedartown and Rockmart’s graduation rate.
The Class of 2018 combined graduated the 80.5 percent of students who enrolled – 429 seniors received diplomas back in late May out of the 533 students overall who were in the class.
Superintendent Laurie Atkins said the decrease was a result of changes to what is and isn’t allowed for students academically when they prepare to finish their education in Polk County.
“We have experienced a slight drop in the graduation rate from 2017 to 2018,” Atkins explained in a brief statement. “The 1.1 percent drop was expected due to our high schools diligently working to increase the rigor, as well as adhering to the new retest policy.”
Last year, the rate sat at 82.3 percent. The rate in 2016 was 81.4 percent, and in 2015 81.1 percent.
Polk County overall graduation rate matches up closely with the state, which in the past years has seen the statewide average jump 11 percentage points from 2012 to this past class.
The Class of 2012 statewide only saw 69.7 percent of seniors who started their final year actually receive diplomas, and steadily increased from the low 70 percentiles to close to 80 percent in past years.
For the first time in at least the past three years, the state average is higher than the graduation rate in Polk County. The state sits at 81.6 percent, the highest it has ever been before.
An explanation around the numbers is required for a full sense of what the rates really mean. Polk County’s graduation rate – the 429 total seniors in the class of 2018 who got their diplomas out of the 533 who entered the year that landed at 80.5 percent – doesn’t mean that those remaining 104 students won’t have a chance to finish their education.
It’s just they aren’t counted among this year’s rate, or might instead show up as part of the number of students who complete a GED program instead. Programs too like the newly formed Graduate Polk Student Success Center are meant to ensure those who aren’t being counted among graduates still have opportunities.
Already, as reported on Page A1 of this week’s edition, Graduate Polk gave two students the opportunity to finish their coursework and get a diploma.
It is also important to not try and compare one system to the next. For instance, in Rome and Floyd County their schools have rates up in the high 90 percentile for both systems.
However they have a larger population, and their students have access to different programs to complete their education. Pepperell’s graduating class of 190 that started out as 194 student is a much smaller size than 238 Rockmart High School started out with, and the 194 that graduated.
Or the 235 who graduated at Cedartown High School compared to the 298 who started the year, which is smaller than the 420 students in the senior class at Rome High School who started the year, and the 380 who completed those studies.
Additionally, as Atkins has pointed out in previous comments, Polk School District’s goal isn’t just to increase data points but to educate the whole of a child to prepare them for the world.