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Gainesville Highs graduation rate projected at 71 percent
Rate slightly increased from 68.9 percent
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The latest update for this year's Gainesville High School graduation rate showed a slight increase from 68.9 percent in October to about 71 percent in late January.

Gainsville High Principal Chris Mance and his staff presented the numbers at the Gainesville City Schools board meeting Monday.

However, the number is still below last year's final graduation rate of about 81 percent.

Mance said the rate could see another increase if the school makes a successful appeal to the state Department of Education.

"We have 20 students we hope to appeal," Mance said. "If we find they are enrolled at another school, they should not count against us."

Graduation rates are a factor in whether high schools can make Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Last year, the graduation rate AYP target was set at 80 percent, and this year schools across the nation are required to reach 85 percent.

Not reaching AYP goals can cause a school to face corrective actions.

Mance said staff are also hoping to increase the number of students who pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test, which is required to graduate.

About 31 students were unsuccessful. The test will be administered again in March.

Mance said the high school is providing review help and other interventions.

To calculate graduation rates, Gainesville uses the National Center for Education Statistic's "leaver rate."

Beginning next year, schools across the state will move to a new common system for determining graduation rates, called the cohort rate.

When Georgia makes the switch, the state's graduation rate could see a significant drop, officials said.

Beth McElwee, Gainesville High's registrar and director of curriculum, said the new measure defines a graduate as a student who leaves high school with a regular diploma in four years.

"Our measure now includes fifth year seniors who earn a diploma," she said. "It will not next year."

The new measures will also include the same definition for dropouts, which include students who enter the military, are expelled or who earn a General Education Development diploma.

In other business Monday, the board approved a calendar for next school year.

The calendar included five furlough days set for Nov. 21 and 22, Feb. 17 and 21, and May 22.

It also included three inclement weather days from May 23 to 25.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the calendar could change, and more furlough days could be added, when the state legislature announces its budget.