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Gwinnett’s four-year graduation rate dips during pandemic; Five-year rate rises to 86%

October 21, 2021

     On October 21, the Georgia Department of Education announced that Georgia’s graduation rate for 2021 is 83.7%. While this represents a very slight decline from 2020 (83.8%), it is a testament to the hard work of Georgia’s students, schools, and districts to provide opportunities and meet graduation requirements amidst the ongoing pandemic. Gwinnett County Public Schools also experienced a slight decrease in its four-year graduation rate this year, moving from 83.23% to 82.48%.

     In looking at this year’s four-year graduation rate in Gwinnett, eight high schools experienced increases—Berkmar, Central Gwinnett, Gwinnett Online Campus, Meadowcreek, Mill Creek, Paul Duke STEM, Phoenix, and South Gwinnett. Gwinnett schools with the highest graduation rates in 2021 were Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST)North Gwinnett High School; McClure Health Science High SchoolLanier High School, and Mill Creek High School, followed closely by BrookwoodGrayson, Dacula, Archer, and Peachtree Ridge high schools. In all, 13 Gwinnett schools posted four-year graduation rates that surpassed the state average.

     Paul Duke STEM High School Principal Dr. Jonathon Wetherington is excited about his school’s progress and believes that their success is the result of a supportive school culture and the collaboration between teachers, counselors, and administrators to best meet the needs of our students. He says, “We are excited about our students’ success and proud of how our entire school community worked to support our students. Every member of our faculty and staff is committed to ensuring that our students graduate prepared for dynamic college and career opportunities, and we look forward to building upon last year’s success and providing all our students with a high-quality STEM experience.”

     At Mill Creek High School, the school’s improvement on its already high graduation rate is a point of pride for Principal Jason Lane and their school community. He says, “We have been intentional with our processes and planning to continue the work of improving our graduation rate. Graduation from high school is not a singular event, rather it is a process that takes the hard work and dedication of every staff member of our cluster schools from elementary, middle, and here at the high school. I am thankful and humbled by the dedication of our teachers, staff, and students at Mill Creek High School and this news is a reflection of this work.”

     At Meadowcreek High School, Principal Kevin Wood says his school’s teachers and students have put forth tremendous effort and dedication, which has resulted in an 82.05% graduation rate, continuing an upward trend since 2011. He adds, “Our multiyear increase in graduation rate is a result of our dedicated teachers engaging students as partners in their learning through research-based academic programs offered by the school, such as the academy model. Our teachers continue to work hard to ensure that students are successful and go on to the next phase in their lives well prepared for both college and careers.”

     Dr. Al Taylor, the district’s associate superintendent for School Improvement and Operations, commends the work of Gwinnett’s high schools and the educators who work within them, saying, “These results are indicative of the level of commitment of our staff and of the perseverance of our students to achieve at high levels despite the challenges we face. We are very proud of our students, teachers, and staff for their efforts navigating these uncertain times while upholding the standard of excellence that defines our system of world-class schools.”

     Georgia calculates “a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate,” as required by federal law. This rate is the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class. From the beginning of 9th grade, students who are entering that grade for the first time form a cohort that is subsequently “adjusted” by adding any students who transfer into the cohort during the next three years, and subtracting any students who transfer out.

     A review of the district’s five-year graduation rate, indicates GCPS continues to deliver on its commitment to ensuring students who need extra time and opportunity receive the support they need to successfully graduate. In 2020, the district’s four-year graduation rate was 83.23%. Since May of 2020, GCPS’ rate has increased to 86.28% as additional members of the Class of 2020 successfully met all graduation requirements. The five-year rate includes students who graduated after summer school or additional time in school beyond their cohort’s May graduation date.

     “While our five-year graduation rate has increased during the pandemic, our district remains focused on improving its four-year rate,” says Dr. Calvin J. Watts, superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools. “Our goal is to prepare each and every student for life after high school, equipping them with a diploma that will allow them to pursue their dreams.

     As a district, we must focus on creating the conditions and providing the supports that yield higher graduation rates and doing so in a manner that allows more students to graduate at the end of their four years of high school, so they are ready for college, career, and life.”

     While all states use the same calculation, each state sets its own requirements for students to earn a regular high school diploma. Georgia has some of the highest requirements in the nation for students to graduate with a regular diploma with Gwinnett County requirements surpassing those of the state.