A smaller percentage of Hall County and Gainesville students graduated in four years in 2016 than they did in 2015.
Hall County’s overall graduation rate dropped from 83.7 percent to 83.2 percent, and Gainesville’s graduation rate fell from 79.5 percent to 74.4 percent, according to data released Tuesday morning by the Georgia Department of Education.
For the fifth straight year, the state’s overall graduation rate increased. The rate went up slightly from 78.8 to 79.2 percent but still remains below the most recent national graduation rate of 83 percent in 2014-15.
Hall County’s graduation rate slightly exceeds the national rate. Gainesville’s graduation rate is below the national average.
Both local school districts have a goal of 90 percent graduation rates — Gainesville by 2019 and Hall County by 2020.
Hall County’s graduation rate has increased by nearly 16 percent since 2006 when it was 67.5 percent. Gainesville’s rate has increased by nearly eight percent since 2012 when it was 66.5 percent.
“Our goal is to graduate all students in four years, but we also have to personalize school for our students and understand that graduating in five years is better than not graduating at all,” said Tom Smith, principal at Gainesville High School.
He said the graduation rate reflects learning that begins much earlier than senior year.
“Last year we placed great emphasis on the ninth-grade year by developing a ninth-grade center,” he said. He hopes this will “translate into success” for the class graduating in 2019.
The percentage graduating within five years at Gainesville is 88.6 percent, 10 percent higher than in 2015.
The graduation rate at The Academy at Woods Mill, which served nontraditional students and those struggling to graduate, jumped from 18 percent in 2015 to 34.8 percent in 2016. The Woods Mill program is included at Gainesville High this school year.
“With regard to the four-year graduation rate, the Hall County school district remains well above the state average,” said Kevin Bales, executive director for school improvement for Hall County.
He noted the district’s goal for 2020 and said, “District leadership firmly believes that we have the students and school officials positioned to meet and surpass such a goal.”
For Hall County, four schools’ rates decreased and three increased. The county system also has a nontraditional program serving those behind in graduation requirements. Lanier Charter Career Academy graduated 22.7 percent of its students in 2016, down from its 29.2 percent in 2015.