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VHS Graduation Rate Increases

Both came in well above the state’s average graduation rate of 79.2 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

Lowndes County’s 2016 rate of 86.1 percent is a .8 percent decrease from last year, with 611 students graduating in 2016 out of a class size of 710. The decline is Lowndes’ first in the past five years, but its rate is still significantly higher than Valdosta High’s and a few points above the latest national average of 83.2 percent.

Lowndes’ rate has increased by more than 13 percentage points since 2012.

Lowndes County Superintendent Wes Taylor said his schools focus mainly on the education itself and let the results follow naturally.

“We just focus on implementing sound instructional practices,” Taylor said. “If we’re doing the right things and the right work in the classroom, then those indicators will be an increase in graduation rates (and) an increase in standardized test scores.”

Valdosta High’s 2016 graduation rate of 81.4 percent comes in just above the state average, just below the national average and almost five points below the Lowndes average. It is an improvement from last year’s rate of 77.1 percent, with 367 students graduating in 2016 out of a class size of 451.

VHS has seen a drastic rise in its graduation rate during the past five years, with it jumping from a low 59.1 percent in 2012 to 81.4 percent in 2016, an increase of more than 22 percentage points, though the state has made a slight adjustment in how the rate is calculated.

Dr. Janice Richardson, VHS principal, said she is proud of her entire staff for the graduation rate improvement during the last five years.

“It takes an entire school — students, staff and the parents — to see that education is important,” Richardson said. “I’ve been at Valdosta High exactly five years, and my focus was increasing the graduation rate.” 

Raising the rate will still be a priority for VHS, Richardson said, and she plans to do it by giving students access to job opportunities, meeting with students to make sure they are on track to graduate, and offering technical classes such as cosmetology, welding and videography — all things the school currently does.

“We’re hoping to be above the national (average) next time,” she said, “still focusing on students and getting students to take ownership of their own education.”

The state’s average has increased for five straight years now, rising from 69.7 percent in 2012 and from 78.8 percent in 2015, according to the Georgia DOE. The state’s goal is to surpass the national average by 2020.

“The 2016 graduation rate shows our schools continue to make progress by offering students an education that is relevant, keeping more students in school and on a path to a better quality of life,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a press release.

The national high school graduation rate has also risen during the past several years, though not as much as state or local rates. It increased from 80 percent in 2012 to 83.2 percent in 2015 (the latest year for which data is available), according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The White House credits the uptick to President Barack Obama’s work “to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for America’s learners, from cradle through career.”


Article by:  John Stephen, Valdosta Daily Times