On-Time Graduation — It’s the focus from boardroom to classroom
by Dr. Emily Lembeck, Jill C. Mutimer and Leigh Colburn
Columnists
December 05, 2012 12:25 AM | 1706 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From the boardroom to the classroom, Marietta City Schools are committed to providing a high quality education to our students. The U.S. Department of Education graduation report ranking state-wide results was released last week. With the release of national graduation data it is important that parents and community members understand how the new graduation rate is calculated and how it differs from the previous method.

Under No Child Left Behind legislation, Marietta High School increased its graduation rate from 64 percent with 280 graduates in 2003 to 86 percent with 376 graduates in 2011. In late 2011, the new federally required formula for calculating graduation was released requiring that all students graduate within four years from the time they enter as freshmen. The old formula only accounted for those students in their senior year and recognized as graduates those who completed their requirements in more than four years. The graduation rate of the 2011 MHS graduating class was reported as 59 percent. The 56 percent calculation reflects the impact of students attending residential treatment centers within the Marietta city limits. Graduation rates for 2012 have not been released by the Georgia Department of Education.

What should you know when comparing graduation rates?

Graduation Requirements are not standardized across states and districts. Even though the formula is the same, requirements to graduate are not.

Each state sets its own requirements for graduation and districts self-report their graduation data. Not surprisingly, those with fewer requirements graduate more students.

* Georgia: requires 23 credits for graduation

* Illinois: 16 required credits

* California: 13 required credits.

* Marietta High School requires 26 credits including four years of English, math, and science and three years of social studies. An MHS graduate achieves twice the number of credits required by California, including advanced subjects such as Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry and three lab sciences such as biology, physical science and chemistry.

‘Missing’ students count as drop-outs

Under the new graduation formula, high student mobility negatively impacts schools. Some students are considered drop-outs because they leave our school district and we are unable to produce state-mandated documentation of enrollment in their new school. In school districts where students are highly transient due to socio-economic reasons and available affordable housing, it is more difficult to gather required documentation of their status. Marietta City Schools is addressing this challenge by working to improve the tracking of students who move in and out of our district. As an example, under the new formula our 2012

graduation rate will depend on our ability to determine the status of students who entered ninth grade during the 2007-08 school year and may have left at any time after they enrolled. High student mobility, especially in high school, has dire effects on student progress. Each move within and out-of -state can impact student attainment of course completion, making it very challenging for students to graduate within four years.

Late graduates count as drop-outs

One disturbing facet of the new calculation is that fifth year graduates are counted as drop-outs. Therefore, states that lower their graduation requirements and graduate students in less time with a lower level of proficiency are actually rewarded by the new calculation.

At Marietta City Schools, we are very proud of the support provided to students with challenges to graduation. Last year, through the combined efforts of students, parents, and teachers, MHS graduated 34 students who took longer than four years to complete their requirements. Additionally, our Communities in Schools Performance Learning Center enabled 60 students who were off-track for graduation to meet their goal.

Unfortunately, under the new calculation, many of these success stories are counted as drop-outs because they exceeded the four year expectation.

To help address this issue, MHS will now begin a ninth grade CIS Performance Learning Center to reach struggling students sooner thanks to funding provided by AT&T and Communities in Schools. Further, the Whitehead Foundation now provides funding for the CIS Model at Marietta Middle School.

Who else might be considered a drop-out?

Under both the old and new formulas the federal guidelines stipulate that students who earn a GED are calculated as drop-outs, as are those receiving Special Education diplomas.

What is Marietta doing to address the graduation rate?

We will never be satisfied until 100 percent of our students graduate, regardless of the formula used to calculate graduation. Based on our calculations, using a consistent formula that compares “apples to apples”, we show steady progress toward this goal. MHS notes decreased failure rates among our current ninth grade class; our juniors recently outpaced other metro-Atlanta districts with a 98 percent pass rate on the Georgia High School Writing Test; and our students consistently score higher than the state and on par with national averages on the SAT and ACT.

Students who attend Marietta High School and remain continuously enrolled benefit from the programs, instruction, and commitment our staff provides. Some initiatives already in place are:

* In November 2011, MCS began proactive participation in three research studies aimed at increasing student academic success. We will be receiving the results of these on-going studies, performed by highly qualified outside organizations, and implementing strategies to continue improvement;

* We have completed our Charter System renewal application creating additional flexibility to develop innovative ideas and a strategic plan with goals to increase our graduation rate;

* We are in the midst of implementing the new federal Common Core Curriculum and the state’s new College & Career Ready Performance Index that support rigorous student learning and evaluation of progress;

* With the roll-out of our strengthened career pathways we hope to motivate some of our most challenged students to stay engaged and complete their high school requirements. We are actively exploring more opportunities for dual enrollment with local trade preparation programs; and


Marietta High School is staffed with highly qualified educators who devote their professional lives to the success of all their students. They continue to have our support and confidence as we meet this new challenge together. We want to thank our staff, parents, and our many community supporters for continuing to partner with us on our journey towards excellence.

Dr. Emily Lembeck

Superintendent

Jill C. Mutimer

Chair, Marietta Board of Education

Leigh Colburn

Principal

Marietta High School
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