Schools see increase in graduation rates

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 1, 2016

LaGRANGE – The Georgia Department of Education released its 2016 Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rates on Tuesday, revealing improved graduation rates for Troup County.

“This has been the most significant increase that we have seen in my time,” said Director of Secondary Education Penny Johnson.

Troup High School leads the pack with graduation rates up to 80.9 percent for 2016 from 75.8 percent in 2015. Callaway High School’s graduation rate is also up from 67.2 percent in 2015 to 74.9 percent in 2016. LaGrange High School’s rate is up from 70.7 percent in 2015 to 74.7 percent in 2016. Overall, Troup County School System graduation rates are up to 76.9 percent for 2016 from 71.4 percent for 2015.

The Georgia Department of Education’s preliminary estimates on the state graduation rate is 79.2 percent for 2016, up from 78.9 percent in 2015.

“Some of the reasons this has turned is we have focused heavily on professional development and our employees here,” said Superintendent Cole Pugh. “… We have had external experts and our own personnel helping us write a much better curriculum than we’ve had in the past, so that has enabled the teachers to be more successful in their teaching, and students – as a result – to be more successful in the classroom.”

The school has provided development opportunities to teachers in the past that focused on improving student discipline, student engagement and teaching methodology. Pugh credited teachers at all levels, parents, and the students themselves with the rise in graduation rates, as well as new technology that is available to students thanks to an education SPLOST, or special-purpose, local-option sales tax.

These technologies include programs like Read 180 and System 44, who aim to improve reading skills, as well as smart boards in classrooms and more computers for students to work on. Pugh was hesitant to name any one factor as the reason behind the rise in graduation rates though.

“When a kid drops out of school, every individual kid has something that happened within their life that causes them to drop out, so what may have kept one student in school may not be the same thing that kept the next one in school,” said Pugh. “…This is a complex issue.”

The school board hopes that the continued availability of extracurricular activities will also help keep children in school.

“Extracurricular activities are very important,” said Pugh. “Whether it be football or band or whatever it might be, students need an extra interest that they are engaged in. He may go to school for a while to play football until he gets engaged in the classroom, the next kid it might be drama, whatever. Those extracurricular activities are important.”

Troup County Schools hope to continue the upward trend in graduation rates through a focus on the rigor and relevance training that teachers began this past summer, which has had great success in other school systems.

“We’ve made great great improvement,” said Pugh. “At the same time, we have not arrived yet. We still have significant room for improvements. We are continuing to work on that.”

By Alicia B. Hill

Staff Writer

Reach Alicia B. Hill at 706-884-7311.