Atlanta Public Schools improves graduation rate, reduces dropout rate

942070_599605530059293_1804349264_nAcross Atlanta, more students are graduating on time and fewer students are dropping out.

According to results released this week by the state education department, the four-year, on-time graduation rate for APS increased by 8 percentage points – or more than 15 percent – from 51 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2013. This encouraging news follows APS’ announcement earlier this school year that its dropout rate has declined. The annual dropout rate for APS decreased from 11 percent in 2012 to 8.5 percent in 2013. (See graduation rate and dropout rate charts below.)

Dr. Rubye Sullivan, director of research and evaluation for school improvement in Atlanta Public Schools, is pleased with the increase.  “We are very pleased with the growth and gains we have seen in the graduation rate,” said Sullivan.  ” We also understand that we need to see our rate increase more rapidly than our neighboring districts and the state in order to catch up on behalf of our students.”

“Under a more rigorous calculation method, the trend still shows that the percentage of our high school students graduating increases year to year,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge in a message earlier this week to school leaders. “Despite the economic challenges our districts are facing, we have more high school students graduating today than we have had in several years, which is a testament to the hard work of our students and teachers. We must continue our progress to ensure all students cross the finish line, because without a high school diploma, their options are very limited.”

The positive results in Atlanta Public Schools can be attributed to many factors, including intensive professional development for APS teachers and principals and the fact that APS schools have done a better job of tracking students who switch schools during the school year.  In a district with a 30% mobility rate, with some students switching schools 3 or 4 times during a single school year, keeping up with a graduation cohort is an important part of accurately calculating the graduation rate.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate 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. In contrast, Georgia’s former graduation rate calculation defined the cohort upon graduation, which may have included students who took more than four years to graduate from high school.

Another important factor behind APS’ significant increase is access to innovative learning opportunities, such as the Atlanta Virtual Academy.

“Last year we launched Atlanta Virtual Academy, our online credit recovery program,” said Sullivan.   “As students recognize in their junior and senior year that they are missing credits, they no longer have to wait to take the course, they can have access immediately and meet their graduation requirements.”

In addition, the district’s overhaul of the graduation coach program is making a difference. Every middle and high school campus is served by a designated APS graduation coach, who works on the “ABCs of dropout prevention.” Armed with training, resources and a high sense of personal dedication, APS graduation coaches collaborate with teachers, school counselors, social workers, registrars and principals to work with students who require intervention. The coaches identify students who may be at risk for falling behind and dropping out based on their attendance, behavior, coursework or lack of course credits.

In recognizing the hard work of APS students, families and employees, school officials are careful to note that the system is still not where it should be in terms of graduating more students on time and well prepared for 21st century college and careers. However, APS is moving in the right direction. To help maintain the momentum, schools that achieved large increases will be studied so that their effective practices can be replicated districtwide.

Atlanta Public Schools Graduation Rate
Name of Entity or School 2012(%) 2013(%)
State of Georgia 69.7 71.5
APS District 50.9 58.6
B.E.S.T. Academy High School n/a n/a
Carver Early College 97.1 98.7
Carver School of the Arts 67.0 73.6
Carver School of Health Sciences and Research 65.9 70.3
Carver School of Technology 67.8 43.2
Crim Open Campus (nontraditional school) 4.2 7.5
Douglass High School 40.5 49.6
Grady High School 78.4 84.6
KIPP Atlanta Collegiate n/a n/a
Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. High School 56.2 55.8
Coretta Scott King H.S. n/a n/a
Mays High School 61.2 69.8
North Atlanta High School 60.6 80.2
South Atlanta School of Computer Animation and Design 60.0 55.0
South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Science 67.4 77.6
South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice 56.0 62.2
Therrell School of Law, Government and Public Policy 38.7 48.9
Therrell School for Technology, Engineering, Math and Science 48.9 55.4
Therrell School of Health Sciences & Research 67.7 46.3
Washington Early College n/a 73.9
Washington School of Banking, Finance & Investment n/a 72.7
Washington School of Health Sciences & Nutrition n/a 51.9
Washington High School Senior Academy (phased out) 60.5
West End Academy


  • Each graduation rate represents the four-year adjusted cohort rate. Since 2011, the U.S. Department of Education has required all 50 states to use a common method – the adjusted cohort rate – to calculate graduation statistics. The rate is defined as the number of students who earn a regular education diploma within four years and a summer divided by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier. The rate includes adjustments for student transfers.
  • A graduation rate is not applicable (n/a) for those schools that do not yet have a senior class.
  • The West End Academy does not have a graduation rate because students who complete a program of study at that school return to their home high school to graduate. The home high school then reports students’ official graduation results.

More Information:

2012 graduation rates

2012 4 Year Cohort Graduation Rate.pdf

2012 4-Year Cohort State and System Graduation Rate.xls

2012 4-Year Cohort School-level Graduation Rate.xls

More Information:

Four-year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate Calculation

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