Liberty County’s 2013 high-school graduation rate of 72.3 is higher than the state’s 71.5 percent, though this year the district’s two high schools’ graduation rates decreased slightly from the previous year’s rates.
School districts and individual schools’ graduation rates were released by the Georgia Department of Education on Wednesday.
“It is always good news when the graduation rate for the Liberty County School System is above the state average,” said Dr. Debbie Rodriguez, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. “The school leaders and teachers work very hard to provide a quality education to ensure students graduate from high school.”
This year, Bradwell Institute’s four-year cohort graduation rate is 72.4, and Liberty County High School’s 2013 rate is 72.9. The previous year, Bradwell’s graduation rate was 73.23, and the 2012 graduation rate for LCHS was 74.42.
Georgia’s graduation rate increased two percentage points, from 69.7 percent in 2012 to 71.5 percent in 2013, and rose more than four percentage points from 67.5 percent in 2011, according to Georgia DoE officials.
This is the third year Georgia has calculated the graduation rate using the adjusted cohort-rate formula, said Matt Cardoza of the Georgia DoE communications office.
Schools in neighboring counties had mixed results regarding their 2013 graduation rates.
Long County High School has a 2013 graduation rate of 61.9, and Bryan County’s two high schools have a combined 2013 graduation rate of 75.1. Richmond Hill High School’s 2013 graduation rate is 80.4, while Bryan County High School in Pembroke tallied a 61.8 graduation rate for 2013.
“Under a more rigorous calculation method, the trend still shows that the percentage of our high-school students graduating increases year to year,” State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said. “Despite the economic challenges our districts are facing, we have more high-school students graduating today than we ever have before, which is a testament to the hard work of our students and teachers. We must continue our progress to ensure all students cross the finish line, because without a high-school diploma, their options are very limited.”
“The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate defines the cohort based on when a student first becomes a freshman,” Cardoza explained. “The rate is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years and includes adjustments for student transfers. In contrast, Georgia’s former graduation-rate calculation defined the cohort upon graduation, which may have included students who took more than four years to graduate from high school.”
The U.S. Department of Education requires all 50 states to use the cohort rate to calculate graduates.
The district provides a number of initiatives to help students achieve academic success, culminating in high-school graduation, school administrators said. These methods and tools include College and Career Pathways, a rigorous curriculum, disaggregated data, standards-based instruction, tutoring, and technology in the classroom.
College and Career Pathways helps students plan careers they intend to pursue after graduation, according to Rodriguez. This program begins in Pre-K and continues through elementary school with career lessons. In middle school, students undergo a career-assessment inventory and complete career portfolios, she said.
High-school students can select a career pathway with a total of three courses, the assistant superintendent said.
“The system offers over 20 pathways for students to participate in a school year,” Rodriguez said. Courses include engineering, law and justice, business and computer science, nursing, and veterinary science, she said.
“These courses are provided at the Liberty College and Career Academy and both high schools,” Rodriguez said. More than 500 students have completed career pathways during the past three years, she said.
Students also can participate in dual enrollment with Savannah Technical College or Armstrong State University, according to Rodriguez.
In addition to guiding students toward careers, teachers at all levels engage in continuous professional learning and each school develops a plan to improve students’ chances for academic success, she said.
“The system provides instructional models and best practices for lessons,” Rodriguez said. “The teacher is expected to provide direct instruction which includes a stimulating presentation, modeling, and guided practice for the opening of the lesson.” The teacher then “hands off” the lesson to students to work in small groups, so they can develop problem solving skills.
The teacher closes the lesson with students showing and explaining their thinking strategies and learning, Rodriguez said.
Students who struggle with coursework can receive tutoring funded by the district, according to Rodriguez. Teachers also are required to fill out “at-risk logs” on struggling students, so educators can develop ways to further assist a student before their final grade dips below 70.