The graduation rate for Liberty County School System dropped in 2017. School officials say they are tackling the issue.
LCSS’s rate decreased from 83.3 percent to 82.1 this year, but still remains above the state average of 80.6 percent.
Board of Education members heard about the district’s graduation rate at their morning session meeting Tuesday.
Sonja Duncan, executive director of special programs, said the graduation rate is based on a four-year cohort of first-time ninth graders in 2014 and graduates in 2017.
“The graduation rate is calculated by taking the number of 2017 cohort members who graduated in 2017 with a regular education diploma and divide that number by the number of first-time ninth graders in 2014, plus the number of students that transferred into our system, minus any students that transferred out, emigrated or passed away during 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,” Duncan said.
The graduation rate for Bradwell increased from 82.5 percent in 2016 to 83.24 percent in 2017 and LCHS decreased from 86.45 percent in 2016 to 82.56 percent.
Duncan talked about each school’s subgroups.
Duncan said the graduation rate at Bradwell for blacks, Hispanics, multi-racial students and those with disabilities increased. The rate decreased for whites and economically disadvantaged students.
At Liberty the rate went down for all subgroups, and declined the most for Hispanics, students with disabilities and economically disadvantage students, Duncan said.
Not enough multi-racial students were identified at Liberty to be listed.
Compared to neighboring counties Liberty’s graduation rate is the lowest.
Bryan County is at 85.3 percent, Chatham 84.3, Effingham 87.4 and Long 84.4.
“We know that we are better than this, so on Oct. 12 we had a district meeting,” Duncan said.
High school principals, academic specialists, counselors, department heads, central office personnel and other staff met to work on ways to increase the graduation rate.
Their plans included implementing a graduation planner that will allow schools, students and parents to track progress; offer more credit recovery options; after school tutoring; feedback from focus groups, assigning mentors to students; personalized learning and monitoring at-risk students regularly.
Torri Jackson, LCSS Student Services Support specialist, said a graduation plan is assigned to each student starting in the eighth grade. School counselors meet with students and parents, which is supposed to continue into high school.
If the student isn’t on track then options such as personalized learning and credit recovery are discussed, Jackson said.
Board member Carolyn Smith Carter asked Jackson to check if counselors are following up with students on the graduation plan.
BI Principal Gilbert Toriano said Bradwell has started study skills classes, where students can recover credits during the school year instead of at the end.
There was then some discussion about what counts against the district for the graduation rate.
School officials said if a special needs student takes more than four years to earn a general education diploma those extra years are counted under dropout or if a student is incarcerated in an adult prison.
Students who transfer to other schools can count against affect the graduation rate.
“When a student leaves our school, if we never get a records request from them (the new school) then we have no idea where they are,” LCHS Principal Stephanie Woods said. “If another school doesn’t request records then it counts against us with the graduation rate. Sometimes they (student and parents) won’t know where they’re going.”
Board member Verdell Jones asked to see how many other factors, such as students who left due to getting married or enlisting in the military, contributed to the decline versus students who didn’t graduate because of low grades.
“We need to be aware of what counts and what doesn’t count.” Jones said.