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NCSS graduation rate: System hopes to improve

COVINGTON - Officials in the Newton County School System are hoping that the district's graduation rate will be the highest it has been in at least the last seven years.

For the 2008-09 school year, NCSS is expecting a graduation rate of 82.9 percent, according to preliminary data, said Sherri Viniard, director of public relations at NCSS.

This is the highest the rate has been in at least the last seven years, when the federal No Child Left Behind Act started requiring schools and school systems across the nation to meet a certain set of standards, or achieve Adequate Yearly Progress.

The rate, which is used to calculate AYP for the high schools and the school system, is 2.8 percent higher than the rate from the 2007-08 school year and 26.2 percent higher than the 2002-03 school year. The rate has been steadily rising over the past seven years - the system saw a more than 7 percent jump between both the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years and the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

"The work at the middle and high school levels by the faculties and staff is paying off in the increases of the graduation rate," said Dr. Steve Whatley, superintendent at NCSS, in a prepared statement by e-mail. "The use of Nova net credit recovery, the Georgia Virtual school and services of the counselors and high school graduation coaches have all been helpful."

The graduation rate in the state of Georgia is currently 75.4 percent.

"Georgia continues to make great progress in getting more students to graduate on time with a meaningful diploma," said state Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox in a press release. "In 2008, we had more than 83,000 students who graduated on time, which is 27,000 more than we had just five years ago. That's a testament to focus, collaboration and a lot of hard work by our teachers and students."

In addition to passing course work and sometimes End of Course Tests, students also must pass five sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Test before they can earn a full diploma at a Georgia high school. The students generally begin taking the graduation tests during their junior year of high school and have several opportunities to retake any failed portion of the test before their on-time graduation date.

"Teachers have taught not just to the minimums of the Georgia High School Graduation Test but to higher standards required to meet expectations on all five sections of the graduation test," Whatley said. "In addition, students know that participation in the graduation exercises is contingent on passing all portions of the graduation tests."

To improve rigor and the graduation rate, the school system has expanded Advance Placement course offerings and career and technical classes. In the future, the school system also is planning to open a college and career academy to reach even more types of students.

In addition to having a record-high graduation rate, the Newton County School System hopes to see an decrease in the dropout rate, which is not calculated into AYP.

Although the school system does not yet have data for the last three school years, it has seen an improvement from past data.

The last reported rate - the 2005-06 school year - is 2.8 percent, or 146 students; the state's rate was 4.7 percent for the same year. In 2004-05, Newton County reported a 2.9 dropout rate, or 134 students; the state's rate was 5.0 percent. This is an improvement over the 4 and 5 percent rates from the several years before that.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At A Glance

Newton County School System

Graduation Rate History

School Year

Graduation Rate*

2002-03

56.7

2003-04

56.7

2004-05

58.7

2005-06

66.1

2006-07

73.3

2007-08

80.1

2008-09 (preliminary)

82.9

Newton County School System

Drop Out Rate History

School Year

Drop Out Rate

2002-03

5.9

2003-04

5.2

2004-05

2.9

2005-06

2.8

2006-07

N/A

2007-08

N/A

2008-09

N/A

*Percentage