Georgia’s graduation rate has topped 80 percent, which represents a new all-time high for the state.
State officials say the 80.8 percent mark is a 17-point rise over seven years.
Governor Sonny Perdue joined state education officials in trumpeting the rise in rates by visiting three high schools Tuesday -- in Gainesville, McDonough and Brunswick.
"There is nothing greater we can do for a young Georgian than encourage them to stay in school,” Governor Perdue said. “We did something no other state had even thought of – put a graduation coach in every middle and high school and focused their efforts on students at risk of dropping out. Even with our dramatic enrollment growth, 4,000 fewer students dropped out this year than in 2003.”
One of the three schools honored, North Hall High School, has increased its grad rate to more than 94 percent
The school’s graduation coach, Jennifer Rudeseal, says her work goes beyond a full-time job:
“I’m checking-in with the kids, checking on their grades...'why aren’t you passing this class, let’s get some tutoring set up'. I’m kind of like their mom in the building, and making sure they’re getting the job done.”
Tim Callahan with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators says the governor’s grad coach program has had some effect:
“I think in those places where there were graduation coaches, and they had proper training in how to be a good graduation coach, and they were not given multiple other duties as well as being the graduation coaches, they may have had some effect.”
But Callahan says with many districts having to cut grad coaches out of their budgets, there’s a danger that improvement could backslide.
And for Rudeseal, she says she’s been lucky, as many of her graduation coach colleagues has lost jobs due to districts' budget cuts.
Governor Perdue set a goal of reaching the 80 percent rate by the time he left office. In 2003, 65,213 students received a high school diploma in Georgia. Last school year, 91,561 students graduated with a high school diploma, meaning 26,348 more students graduated with a full diploma this year than in 2003.