Thanks, Class of 2020! APS Reaches All-Time Graduation Rate High of 80.3 Percent

The day after we celebrated the graduating Class of 2020 with commencement activities at Lakewood Stadium (see here and here), Atlanta Public Schools received some incredible news: Cohort 2020 achieved the district’s all-time highest graduation rate!

That’s right! APS achieved an 80.3 percent graduation rate for cohort 2020, according to graduation data released today by the Georgia Department of Education. By achieving its all-time high graduation rate, APS has narrowed its gap with the state by 0.6 percentage points to a gap of 3.5 percentage points. The state 2020 graduation rate is 83.8%.

Another great number 2,570.

More students – 2,570 of them – graduated on-time from APS in 2020 than any other year since 2012, when the state adopted the cohort graduation rate as required by federal law. This is an increase of 64 students from 2019. The 2020 cohort included 3,202 students, only 13 fewer than the 2019 cohort. See Figure 1.

Figure 1: APS Graduation Rates (Graduate Counts/Cohort Sizes)

I applaud the Class of 2020 for reaching this important milestone. Reaching the district’s highest graduation rate culminates four years of hard work for this class. In addition, they completed their final semester of high school during a pandemic, which shows that our students, schools, and staff can achieve strong outcomes even amid adversity.

Let’s look at our schools.

Of the 17 schools with graduating classes, eight achieved percentage-point gains compared to 2019. The largest increase was at Douglass High, which achieved a 12.9 percentage-point gain. Other schools achieving gains include Atlanta Classical Academy (+9.2), Mays High (+6.4), Crim High (+4.2), Drew Secondary (+1.6), Washington High (+1.3), North Atlanta High (+1.2), and Grady High (+0.5). See Figure 2.

Figure 2: 2020 APS Graduation Rates and Change from 2019

In addition, six schools had graduation rates greater than 90 percent: Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (100%), Drew Secondary (98.2%), Atlanta Classical Academy (97.7%), North Atlanta High (92.3%), Carver Early College (91.6%), and Grady High (90.9%).

With APS reaching higher numbers of total students graduating, the district must take a harder look at improving these numbers across our diverse demographics.

Let’s take a look at some other results from the latest graduation rates:

  • Graduation rates for both White students (96.7%) and Hispanic students (82.8%) reached new highs with the 2020 cohort, while the rate for Black students (77.2%) was higher than the 2019 rate (75.5%) but slightly lower than the 2018 high of 78.2%. See Figure 3.
  • Nearly 20 percentage points separated the graduation rates of Black students and White students.
  • The 2020 graduation rate for students with disabilities increased by 8.0 percentage points over 2019 to reach an all-time high of 64.6%.
  • The graduation rate for English learners also reach a new high of 76.1%, a 6.4-percentage-point increase compared to 2019.

Figure 3: APS Graduation Rates by Race

As this data indicates, APS has work to do with regard to addressing inequities in all areas of district functioning, including academic performance, culture and climate, talent management, stakeholder engagement, operations, and finance.

To begin addressing these challenges, the Board in 2019 approved an equity policy, and a key part of the District’s five-year strategic plan is to close these opportunity gaps where they exist.  Thus, with our renewed focus on equity, we plan to take a deeper dive into closing achievement gaps at the same time we improve graduation rates.

That’s why we created a new Center for Equity and Social Justice this school year. Just last week, we hired a leading educator – Tauheedah Baker-Jones – to guide the work.

We believe that achieving equity requires strategic decision-making to remedy opportunity and learning gaps and create a barrier-free environment, which enables all students to graduate ready for college, career, and life.


For more details about the graduation rates in Atlanta Public Schools, please view the Data and Information Group’s brief here.

Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate

Georgia has calculated an adjusted cohort graduation rate as required by federal law since 2012, and this calculation has not changed over this period. APS only reports the official state graduation rate. The four-year adjusted cohort graduation 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. From the beginning of ninth grade, students who are entering that grade for the first time form a cohort that is subsequently “adjusted” by adding any students who transfer into the cohort during the next four years and subtracting any students who transfer out.

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