MOULTRIE, Ga. — Georgia’s high school graduation rate rose in 2018, while Colquitt County’s rate slipped. Combined, the two changes mean the county’s rate went from slightly above the state average last year to slightly below it this year.
The state went from an 80.6 percent rate in 2017 to 81.6 with this past spring’s graduations. Colquitt County slipped from 81.2 to 79.6 percent over the same period.
But those numbers don’t tell all the tale.
To calculate the graduation rate, the schools establish a cohort of all students entering the ninth grade for the first time. That cohort changes over the next three years as students transfer in and out of the system. The graduation rate is the percentage of that cohort that graduates in four years with a regular high school diploma.
The graduation rate is figured for the county as a whole and for each of the county’s high schools, and under the system used by the state Department of Education, Colquitt County has two high schools: CCHS and the Colquitt County Achievement Center.
Colquitt County High School saw its graduation rate decrease in 2018, but it remains above the state average. It went from 87.6 percent in 2017 to 85.0 percent in 2018. The CCHS Class of 2018 — the cohort that began as ninth graders in August 2014 — included 558 students, of which 474 graduated within four years.
The Achievement Center’s graduation rate increased from 39.7 percent in 2017 to 41.2 percent in 2018. The 2018 cohort at the Achievement Center included 51 students, of which 21 graduated within four years.
The Achievement Center is an alternative education program housed at the former high school. It caters to three kinds of students, all of whom have special challenges to getting a diploma in four years. For some, it’s a punishment following disciplinary issues that could otherwise get them suspended or expelled. For others, it’s a way to get help in a different setting after falling far behind in regular school. Still others take advantage of the center’s night school because of personal challenges — caregiving for a family member, for example — that make it difficult to attend school in daytime.
The administrative team at Colquitt County High School had anticipated the graduation rate to decrease, a school system press release said. Newly hired Principal Jamie Dixon and the team instituted a response even before the rates were released last week.
“We will support and focus on the specific needs of students who are behind in earning graduation credits, matching them in the area of credit accrual with a blend of one-on-one teaching strategies and online resources,” Dixon said. “This approach is growing in reach and sophistication within contemporary secondary schools.”
Students who are behind will work in a digitally enhanced environment to access standards for different courses they need to graduate. Throughout each day, certified teachers in needed areas tutor students and coach them towards mastery.
“In addition, Colquitt County High School has also implemented remediation/acceleration time into each student’s schedule, Hawg Time,” Dixon said. “The premise behind the creation of Hawg Time is to provide a safety net where kids can get help, make up work, or simply get ahead with the help of their teacher. Over 1,400 students attended a recent study session; the program has clearly been well received. This dedicated 33 minutes per day will help our students stay on track, graduate at a higher rate, and understand the pursuit of excellence. I am firmly committed to the program and increasing our rate of graduation.”
Colquitt County School Superintendent Doug Howell commented, “While Colquitt County High School’s graduation rate declined from last year, as a school it still remains above the state average. As a system, we will continue to strive to have each student graduate on time. I am encouraged and excited about the new approach at CCHS.”