'12 Newton grads outpace state; Rate increases from last year

COVINGTON --Newton County's high school graduation rate outpaces the state's average and has increased 12 percent from last school year.

The Newton County School System announced Tuesday that its overall graduation rate is 76.21 percent for 2012. In 2011, the rate was 64.14 percent, when the state began calculating a new cohort graduation rate.

"Newton County high schools continue to make academic break throughs with this latest result published by the state of Georgia," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews in a press release Tuesday. "The increases in our local graduation rates -- both for each individual school and the system as a whole are simply excellent. As we continue to stress, improvement is what want to see."

This is the second year Georgia has calculated the graduation rate using a new formula -- known as the adjusted cohort rate -- as required by the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. DOE requires all 50 states to use the cohort rate to calculate graduates.

The current four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate defines the cohort based on when a student first becomes a freshman. The rate is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years and includes adjustments for student transfers, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

In contrast, Georgia's former graduation rate calculation defined the cohort upon graduation, which may have included students who took more than four years to graduate from high school.

The state's 2012 graduation rate is 69.7, up from 67.4 for 2011.

"I am very pleased that our graduation rate continues to increase, no matter how it is calculated," said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge in a press release. "While our graduation rate is still far too low and we have much progress to be made, we are moving in the right direction. In order to encourage more students to stay in school, we must make high school more relevant. Through our Career Pathways initiative, I am excited that students will see a clearer connection between what they learn in the classroom and how it applies to what they want to do after graduation."

Individually in NCSS, Eastside High School boasts the highest graduation rate for the year at 86.87 percent (with 258 of 297 graduates), while Newton High School's is 83.02 percent (357 of 430 graduates), and Alcovy High School's is 74.24 percent (294 of 396 graduates). In 2011, Eastside's was 70.60 percent, Newton's was 66.33 percent and Alcovy's was 64.71 percent.

The system's rate also includes Challenge Charter Academy's graduation rate of 11.76 percent this year (four of 34 graduates), compared to 7.14 percent last year. The school is an independent public school that is not governed nor administered by NCSS; it is expected to close at the end of the current school year.