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Graduation rate in Newton drops

COVINGTON – The graduation rate in Newton County has dropped from last year, according to results released this week by the Georgia Department of Education. The Newton County School System has an overall four-year graduation rate of 71 percent for 2013, a decrease of 5 percent from the previous year.

Individual school four-year graduation rates show Alcovy High School has a 74 percent graduation rate, Eastside High School at 88 percent and Newton High School has a 67 percent graduation rate. Since 2012, Alcovy’s four-year graduation rate has remained the same, Eastside’s rate has increased 1 percent, and Newton’s has dropped 16 percent.

Newton County’s four-year graduation rate matches the state average for 2013. According to the DOE, in 2012, 70 percent of high school seniors graduated high school; in 2013, that number ticked up to 71 percent.

Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said district officials have been working to discover why Newton High’s graduation rate dropped significantly year over year. According to information provided by the school system, a drop in four-year graduation rates is not due solely to students dropping out; it also reflects the fact that their reasons for withdrawing sometimes cannot be easily substantiated. Although school personnel could not determine all recorded reasons for student withdrawal, they did say that students who withdraw and relocate to other schools must have their enrollment verified by school staff in order not to be considered a drop-out. This process can be difficult, especially if the student has moved to another state, according to school officials.

A press release from NCSS states that it is reviewing its own system and school level processes to ensure the withdrawal verification process is consistent throughout the district. “In so doing, we expect Newton’s graduation rate to increase back up to where it should be,” said NCSS Public Relations Director Sherri Davis-Viniard.

According to the DOE, there are two separate graduation rates, one for students who graduate within four years and one for students who complete high school in five years. The four-year rate is calculated by using the number of students who graduate four years after beginning their freshman year and includes adjustments for student transfers. Prior to these two categories, Georgia’s former graduation rate was calculated by the number of students who graduated, regardless of the number of years they took to receive their diploma.

While four-year graduation rates have been mixed in the past year for Newton County, the rates for those who graduate high school in five years increased from 2011 to 2102, according to Georgia DOE statistics. NCSS saw an overall 9 percent increase during that period. Alcovy High’s five-year graduation rate increased 11 percent; Eastside’s rate went up 9 percent, and Newton’s five-year graduation rate increased 13 percent in 2012.

“We are very pleased with the consistent performance of Alcovy and Eastside in terms of maintaining their four-year graduation rates,” said Fuhrey. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t have a more accurate four-year graduation rate for Newton High at this time. I do expect, however, that Newton High School will post an increase in the four-year graduation rate next school year.

“Although it represents an additional year of studies, I’m very pleased with the across-the-board increases in the five-year cohort graduation rate as it means that more students are graduating from high school,” Fuhrey continued. “Our goal is to continue to improve the rate at which our students graduate with an ultimate goal of having every student graduate from high school. We have our work cut out for us, but I believe our students, teachers and leaders are up to the challenge.”