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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Bibb County public schools’ graduation rate is the highest in a decade

Grant Blankenship | Georgia Public Broadcasting
Heaven Upshaw-Peters, foreground, and the rest of the graduates in the Bibb County Teaching as a Profession program, during their Signing Day ceremony recently.

All seven Bibb County high schools reported graduation rates of 80% or more for the first time on record.

The 2023 graduation rate was 87%, the highest it’s been in more than a decade and up 7% from last year, the Bibb County School District announced in a news release Tuesday.

“Such a great deal of hard work went in last year – and not just last year, but over the years – to get us to this fantastic graduation rate,” Superintendent Dan Sims said in the news release.

News of the increased graduation rate comes not long after news about high rates of chronic absenteeism among Bibb County students last year. More than a quarter of Bibb County public school students were absent for 17 or more days in the 2022-23 school year. It is unclear what, if any, impact that had on the graduation rate. The Georgia Department of Education did not respond to a request for clarification before publication of this article.

Southwest High School reported a graduation rate of 80%. Though it’s the lowest graduation rate in the district, it’s up by 11% compared to last year despite the school reporting 67% of its students were chronically absent.

Central High School reported a 96% graduation rate, the highest in the district for the second straight year, and a 6% increase from last year. The school reported 32.5% of its students were chronically absent last year.

Graduation rates for the other high schools is as follows:

  • Northeast High School– 88.6%, up by about 6% from last year.
  • VIP Academy, the district’s virtual school – 88% graduation rate, largely unchanged from the previous year.
  • Howard High School – 87%, up by 3% compared to last year.
  • Rutland High School – 88.5%, up by about 4% compared to last year.
  • Westside High School – 84.5%, up by about 6% compared to last year.

Confusing Calculation

Graduation rates are not cut-and-dry arithmetic. The numbers in the state’s equation do not reflect calculations derived from actual enrollment numbers. It’s far more complicated.

The state’s “total graduated” figure can include students who graduated early.

In 2012, federal law required public schools to calculate graduation rates using a variable called the “adjusted four-year cohort rate.”

The definition, according to the Georgia Department of Education, means, “From the beginning of ninth grade, students who are entering that grade 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.”

The formula for graduation rates on the state’s website is: “4-year cohort graduation rate x (66.67%) + 5-year cohort graduation rate x (33.33%)”

More students with disabilities get diplomas

Despite the complex formula, one thing is clear: the graduation rate for students with disabilities has doubled over the past seven years.

The graduation rate for 2023 is nearly 78%, almost twice the 39% rate in 2016.

“It’s been a steady push at the school level,” said Jennifer Donnelly, executive director of Bibb’s district’s program for exceptional children. “We started tracking all our kids’ course grades monthly and providing developing plans for the kids that were falling behind, and trying to get contact with the families.”

Donnelly said the district created a position in 2017 to focus on improving student graduation rates, an initiative spearheaded by former superintendent Curtis Jones.

“That push has continued. The principals are very competitive,” Donnelly said. “That’s trickled down to the gen ed populations. When your gen ed populations do well, that helps. You know the phrase, ‘All ships rise on a rising tide, right?’ You’re seeing that and you’re seeing that extra focus on instruction is touching all kids.”

Other student subgroups also reported an increased graduation rate compared to 2022.

The graduation rate for Black students grew from 80% to 88.7% .

The graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students grew from 80.6% to 87%.

The graduation rate for multiracial students grew from 85.2% to 89.7%.

Graduation rates for English learners and Hispanic students each decreased by 7% or more compared to 2022. The graduation rate for white students declined from 80% 2022 to 76.4% in 2023.

The Academy for Classical Education, a public state charter school in northern Bibb County, reported a 99.1% graduation rate. Subgroup rates show the school graduated 100% of its Black students and 98.8% of its white students. Growth for other subgroups was not calculated because the school has too few students enrolled who are economically disadvantaged, multi-racial and students with disabilities.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].

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