ATLANTA - Georgia’s public high school graduation rate remained level in 2021, with the state Department of Education saying Thursday that 83.7% of seniors graduated on time in spring.
That’s not statistically different than last year’s mark — 83.8% — which was a record high since Georgia began calculating using current methods that require a student to graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma.
"This is an encouraging indicator about the work being done in public schools," state Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement. "Teachers and students have continued to succeed in the face of challenging circumstances."
Graduation rates have increased since 2012, when fewer than 70% of Georgia seniors were graduating on time.
The national graduation rate was 86% in 2019, the last year for which it is available.
Because of the pandemic, end-of-course exams that can prevent some public high school students from graduating counted for only 0.01% of course grades, not the normal 20%. This year was also the first year after the state eliminated four of those tests, leaving only exams in algebra, American literature and composition, biology and U.S. history.
Most students take the courses that require the exams before their senior year, so it’s unclear how much the changes influenced Georgia’s graduation rates.
Georgia was again allowed to count students with significant cognitive disabilities, about 1% of students overall, as graduating on time even if they take more than four years to complete high school. Students can stay enrolled until their 22nd birthday.
Standardized test scores fell for Georgia students last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, although few students took the standardized tests in some districts.
Statewide, 94% of Asian and Pacific Islander students graduated on time, as did 87% of white students, 84% of multiracial students, 82% of Black students and 78% of Hispanic students. Among students with disabilities, 70% graduated on time, as did 66% of students learning English. Georgia historically has had one of the narrowest gaps between Black and white graduation rates.
The state says 102 school districts, more than half, recorded graduation rates above 90%, while 37 districts had graduation rates above 95%.
All students graduated on time in the Calhoun city, Chickamauga city and Montgomery County districts. Three state-chartered schools — the Academy for Classical Education in Macon, the Baconton Community Charter School and the Pataula Charter Academy also saw all students graduate on time.
Crawford County had the lowest graduation rate, 71%, among public school districts. Online charter schools and charter schools aimed at high school dropouts had lower graduation rates, as did the school system serving the state Department of Juvenile Justice.