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Gainesville, Hall County students best state graduation rate

Graduation rates for Gainesville City and Hall County school systems were the highest in six years and eclipsed the state average in numbers released this week.

Gainesville’s 87.8-percent graduation rate in 2017 was a 13.4-point increase over a year ago and is the highest since 2012 when federal law required that all states use the adjusted cohort graduation calculation, according to Shea Ray, director of data and school assessment for Gainesville City Schools. 

“I was surprised it was that high,” said Gainesville City School Superintendent Jeremy Williams. “Anytime you get into the upper 80s, it’s kind of where you want to be — in the upper 80s or low 90s. For us to be there, the nice part is it sets the bar high. So, it makes us look at this year’s cohort and expect that or more. ... To have a jump like that means we’re monitoring it better, more closely from each kid to each kid.”

The cohort refers to a group of students educated together.

Williams attributed the success of the graduation numbers to “getting a consistent effort to tracking our kids.”

“When I say tracking I mean identifying kids that don’t have enough credits or have attendance issues, behavior issues, classroom success issues because then we can go in and make sure if a child is behind in math that we can double them up in the course of a year,” he said. “Having a block schedule at the high school allows us to catch kids up who have fallen behind.”

Hall County’s 83.8-percent graduation rate in 2017 marked the third year in a row that the district’s rate has hovered at 83 percent. Hall County has outpaced the state in graduation rates every year since 2012.

“Preparing students to take the next step in life is where it counts and having a high school diploma is a big part of that,” said Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield. “So 83 percent in the Hall County School District is a good number, but we won’t be satisfied until it’s 100 percent.”

Schofield said the technical college readiness courses in math and English the district piloted last year will likely improve graduation rates even more down the road. Students who were part of the pilot program last year told The Times they went from not knowing if they would graduate to having the grades to enter Lanier Technical College.

“I think what we did last year piloting the technical college readiness math and English courses is going to be transformational,” Schofield said. “It will be a year or two before we start to see those differences, but students who have lost interest in Pre-Calculus and British Literature are going to have another chance to get re-engaged and get the skills that they need to be able to enter a technical college institution. I think that could have huge dividends.”

Statewide, the 80.6-percent graduation rate marked the first time in the last six years that the rate has topped 80 percent.

Ray said the numbers represent the four-year adjusted graduation rate which 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 graduation class. 

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