Georgia’s graduation rate increased again in 2020, rising to 83.8 percent – an all-time high since the state began using the adjusted cohort calculation now required by federal law, and up from 82 percent in 2019.
Georgia’s graduation rate has increased by 14.1 percentage points since 2012, with steady increases each year.
In 2020, 105 Georgia school districts and 230 schools recorded graduation rates at or above 90 percent. Twenty-nine districts and 89 schools recorded rates at or above 95 percent.
“I’m very proud today of the class of 2020,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “These students were faced with difficulties none of us could have imagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have shown over and over again — in ACT and SAT results, in their personal accomplishments, and now in this graduation rate – that they were able to rise above. While these results are positive, we cannot stop here. We must provide tailored and personalized pathways to ensure every student sees the relevance in their education, stays in school, and receives a high-school diploma that prepares them for their future.”
Waiver for students with significant cognitive disabilities
Part of this year’s increase in graduation rate can be attributed to a waiver GaDOE received from the U.S. Department of Education in 2019. Beginning with this cohort of students (2020 graduates), the waiver allows the state to count students with the most significant cognitive disabilities – those assessed with the Georgia Alternate Assessment, approximately 1% of students overall – in the four-year graduation rate the year they graduate, even if that is more than four years after they begin high school. To be counted, the student’s graduation still must fall within the window for which they are guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
In Georgia, students are guaranteed FAPE through the age of 22. This change ensures schools are not penalized for continuing to educate students with the most significant cognitive disabilities within that window, knowing they may need additional time to master skills before graduating.
In 2020, this change allowed for the cohort of approximately 1,000 students to be reassigned. This accounts for only a portion of the increase – if those students’ cohort had not been reassigned, the graduation rate would have increased by 1.09 percentage points, as opposed to 1.80.
CSI – Graduation Rate Exits
Each year, the Georgia Department of Education releases lists of schools identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI), along with a list of schools who have made the improvements needed to exit CSI or TSI status.
Because state assessments were not administered in spring 2020 due to COVID-19, new CSI and TSI lists will not be calculated this year. However, in recent guidance, the U.S. Department of Education informed states they could exit CSI schools identified for low graduation rates if their 2020 graduation rate met the exit criteria.
The following three schools’ 2020 graduation rate met the criteria to exit CSI status:
- Columbia High School, DeKalb County Schools
- Stone Mountain High School, DeKalb County Schools
- Zebulon High School, Pike County Schools
How Georgia calculates its graduation rate
Georgia calculates a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as required by federal law. This rate is:
- The number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, divided by
- The number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class
Georgia Graduation Rates – 2012 to 2020
2020 – 83.8 percent
2019 – 82.0 percent
2018 – 81.6 percent
2017 – 80.6 percent
2016 – 79.4 percent
2015 – 79.0 percent
2014 – 72.6 percent
2013 – 71.8 percent
2012 – 69.7 percent