MILLEDGEVILLE — Baldwin County Schools received promising news last week, an upward trend the whole community should be hopeful will continue. The high school graduation rate saw an increase in the most recent data released by the Georgia Department of Education.
Baldwin High’s 2013 graduation rate increased by 2 percent, not a staggering amount but certainly a promising sign. State officials released the statewide public high school graduation rates last week along with school system data, which statewide also increased by 2 percent — from 69.7 percent in 2012 to 71.5 percent in 2013 — and more than 4 percentage points from 2011 (67.5 percent). Still, Georgia ranks in the bottom tier nationwide in high school graduation rate and too many students across our state are certainly falling short of the high school graduation benchmark.
While there are several resources for data on graduation rates, the state department began using a revamped system three years ago, which is reflected in the most recently released numbers. The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate the state department utilizes defines the cohort based on when a student first becomes a freshman. The rate is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years and includes adjustments for student transfers.
The U.S. Department of Education requires all 50 states to use this cohort rate to calculate graduates.
But in crediting this increase in the graduation rate, we mustn’t forget the percentage of local students who continue, for whatever reason, to have a high school diploma slip from their grasp. We must continue working and supporting local initiatives to reach them and drive home the message on the importance of graduating high school.
Research indicates that today’s high school dropouts earn an average of almost $9,000 less annually than a person with a GED or high school diploma. A challenging economy like the one we are currently facing only proves more difficult for those lacking the necessary educational credentials.
Continuing this direction of decreasing the local dropout rate and developing the skills of high school graduates who will pursue higher education and job training is crucial to the growth of Baldwin County and any other community that wants to succeed and prosper.
What becomes of those falling through the cracks is a reflection on all of us and plays a vital part in setting the tone for the future of our state and the future of Baldwin County.