New national calculation method submarines graduation rates in Cobb, Marietta
by Lindsay Field
lfield@mdjonline.com
April 11, 2012 01:00 AM | 4052 views | 12 12 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta High School seniors toss their caps in joy following graduation ceremonies at the school in 2011.<br>Staff/file
Marietta High School seniors toss their caps in joy following graduation ceremonies at the school in 2011.
Staff/file
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MARIETTA — According to a new calculation method mandated by the U.S. Department of Education, both Cobb and Marietta school districts saw drastic drops in graduation rates.

Under the new method, Cobb’s graduation rate for its 16 high schools went from 84.7 percent to 73.3 percent, dropping 11.4 percentage points, and Marietta City School’s graduation rate, which includes figures from Marietta High School and the two residential treatments centers, dropped from 85.8 percent to 56.0 percent, or 29.8 percentage points.

The state’s graduation rate dropped from 80.9 percent to 67.4 percent, or 13.5 percentage points.

“We anticipated about a 20 percent drop, so there was a definite surprise when we saw the 27 percent drop,” said Dr. Debra McCracken, Marietta City Schools’ assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Cobb’s Chief Academic Officer Dr. Judi Jones was unavailable for comment before press time on Tuesday.

The new method calculates the number of students who enter and exit a school between their ninth and 12th grade years. Previously, schools only considered students’ senior year.

If a transfer student is not properly documented by both the school they leave and the new school, their former school will have to count the student as a dropout, which hurts the school’s graduation rate.

McCracken said the city district is “not pleased with the results.”

“We presently have three research studies that we are engaged in that all examine failure rates,” she said. “Know that because we are actively engaged in the research studies, we are going to become very aggressive in finding solutions.”

McCracken said the district will aim to meet or beat the national graduation rate, which has not yet been determined by the U.S. Department of Education.

“We have a high-quality staff, we have strong leadership in the high school, and rest assured, this is just a new method of calculating the graduation rate and our program will only get better,” she said.

While Marietta Board of Education Chairwoman Jill Mutimer said there is “no perfect answer to measure something,” she said the graduation rate is “bad. B.A.D. But it’s not going to be for long.”

“What I want to know is how much of the 40 percent is about what. How much of the 40 percent is related to immigrant students? How much is related to special ed?” she said. “Maybe under the old method we didn’t do as good a job tracking where our students went because it didn’t matter. Maybe now we need to do a better job of that.”

Marietta school board member Irene Berens said state superintendent John Barge had prepared her for bad news.

“It is difficult to track these students, and I’ve always been concerned about our transiency rate, and this points out that we really need to focus on that,” she said.

Neighboring school districts also saw large drops: Gwinnett’s rate dropped from 83.7 percent to 67.5 percent, Cherokee went from 82.1 percent to 74.8 percent, Fulton went from 85.9 percent to 70.1 percent and Atlanta went from 68.2 percent to 51.9 percent.
Comments
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time for some change
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April 12, 2012
Great comments here, esp. from Good Grief. Maybe it is time that Marietta High started offering Honors classes (ie classes in the middle of college prep and AP/IB) designed for kids who are in the middle. Therefore capable kids won't find themselves in over their head in an AP class yet alternatively won't find themselves sitting in class with a majority of kids who do not care at all. That attitude can be infectious.

Secondly, lets start actually TEACHING math- this "discover it on your own with a small group of your classmates" method is NOT working at all. Additionally, expecting ALL kids to take math at an extremely high level is ridiculous. Kids starting high school next year will be expected to take precalculus (at a minimum) in their senior year. This is a state requirement, evidently, but lets get real. We all know that this will not help the kid who does not really see the point of school stay in school.
MHS Parent on SGT
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April 12, 2012
I have a student at Marietta High School. I am continually amazed at all the extras with regard to academic support that is provided for my child - all grades can be viewed at the convenience of parents 24/7, tutoring after school with transportation, tutoring during the lunch hour, academic support over school holiday breaks, retesting, summer school, credit recovery for courses failed, remedial classes, test prep - its all there. The school is doing everything it can - time for students to step up and parents to accept responsibility.
Media hype
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April 11, 2012
The public does not understand that tracking these students is not easily accomplished. We have many transcient students in CCSD. They tranfers two and three times in a school year and then leave the county or country. In addition, we need to have options for kids who do not want to go to college. Chattahoochee Tech should be in partnership with the school district for vocational training. Students would be able to graduate with certification as a mechanic, or cosmetologist. We need to give them choices.
About right
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April 11, 2012
I'd say these numbers are accurate judging by the comments here.
Wrong WAKE UP
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April 11, 2012
While it does include drop outs- it also includes those students who move/transfer. They now MUST be tracked and kept up with. GOOD LUCK with that
What the!?
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April 11, 2012
The new calculation is relatively simple. In a nutshell, it divides the number of graduates in a given year by the number of students who enrolled four years earlier. But it also allows for more information to be derived.

The old calculation didn't accurately track dropouts and transfers or indicate if students took longer than four years to graduate, etc..

In Marietta's case, the new formula only appears to penalize our district which is always making a concerted effort to graduate and keep students in school.

More importantly, new formula is not designed to send a message about the pros or cons of efforts to provide safety nets or genuine alternatives for students.

The new formula provides a common definition nationwide for comparability’s sake—and that’s all.

Saddening that the quoted board members do not fully understand this and have to resort to looking for a subgroup to blame - especially since we've all seen quotes from them justifying the cost , time , and expense of some standardized tests for the sake of a national comparison.

Now we have a national comparison for graduation rates too.

Nothing's changed- the numbers are just derived differently and more accurately allow for granular data like On-Time Graduation rates, Completer Rates, Transfers, Male/Female Info, and Drop Outs.

This should actually help chart a course should any shortcomings be exposed.

I don’t want the new formula to dampen district enthusiasm for supporting programs that reach out to all students.
DOE: GIGO
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April 11, 2012
Good Grief writes a good comment....the most accurate here.

However, in this case it is not ELECTED officials that are destroying public education...it is self-serving, career bureaucrats -- that produce absolutely nothing -- at the federal Dept of Education.

This new statistic is a worthless number designed only for DOE to proclaim a crisis, and thus guarantee job security for a bunch of nincompoops that design goofy, alleged education improving ideas that end up accomplishing nothing except increasing costs and taxes.
Wake UP
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April 11, 2012
This is finally a real assessment of how the schools are doing. The article makes it sound like record-keeping errors contribute to the low number, but let's be HONEST with ourselves about the state of public education FOR ONCE. These are not just numbers; they represent students lost and potential welfare recipients, regardless of race or immigration status. These are PEOPLE not NUMBERS, and every time a school official tries to talk away the gravity of the situation it makes me physically ill. WAKE UP.
Common Sense
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April 11, 2012
How can a school properly document the students if they can't even ask for their legal status? Because of the high transient rate of some of the schools such as Osborne, South Cobb and Marietta it is a wonder the scores are so low. Also, how about including such statistics as transient rates, absenteeism, suspensions due to behavior, pregnancy absences, skipping and arrests. This might shed a brighter light on what should be assessed to reflect a more accurate overview of a school's graduation rate and the tracking of the its students.
Good grief
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April 11, 2012
No business is run this way...we are over assessing, over reporting with too many measures, and there is way too much interference from the state and feds in public education. So now we are going to go back and recalculate numbers from 2008 until 2011 to include students who move away from their schools, teens who are illegal immigrants and highly transient, teens who are incarcerated, teens who drop out of school with the permission of their parents (legal at 16 in Georgia), students who are struggling to pass standardized assessments with profound learning disabilities...and the only ones we are going to hold accountable for these statistics are the teachers and administrators in our public high schools who attempt to educate all students? It does seem nothing is destroying our public schools more than our own elected officials.
DOE: GIGO
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April 11, 2012
Your best reply to date, GG.

However, in this case it is not ELECTED officials that are destroying public education...it is self-serving, career bureaucrats -- that produce absolutely nothing -- at the federal Dept of Education.

This new statistic is a worthless number designed only for DOE to proclaim a crisis, and thus guarantee job security for a bunch of nincompoops that design goofy, alleged education improving ideas that end up accomplishing nothing except increasing costs and taxes.
Good Move
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April 11, 2012
Correction- no business is allowed to cook the books and get away with it.

Each state calculated graduation rates however they saw fit before. Kinda similar to the way they were allowed to come up with their own Criteria Referenced tests under No Child Left Behind.

Hey! I could be an Olympic high jumper if I got to set my own bar. (get it?)
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