Fulton County Schools’ 2020 high school graduation rate decreased slightly from last year, but its percentage is still higher than the state average, according to statistics released Nov. 10 by the Georgia Department of Education.

The district’s rate dropped 2.7 points from an all-time high of 87.2% last year to 85.5% in 2020 but is still above the state mark of 83.8%. Fulton’s rate is also competitive with the other large metro Atlanta districts – higher than the Atlanta (80.3%) and DeKalb (76.0%) and Gwinnett (83.2%) county marks but below the Cobb County rate (88.6%).

In Fulton, Cambridge had the highest 2020 graduation rate at 98.2%, and Skyview had the lowest at 9.7%. District-wide, the school making the largest increase in its grad rate was Alpharetta (up 3.2%), and the school with the biggest decrease was Independence (down 23.9%).

In a news release, Fulton Superintendent Mike Looney, who completed his first year at the helm in May, said he has made it his mission to reduce the district’s high school dropout rate, and it has already been lowered by almost 50% in one year.

“I was a high school dropout,” Looney said. “It’s not that I couldn’t do it; life was in the way.”

He said his experience helped him understand what children are going through when deciding whether to drop out of school.

“I have yet to meet a student that wants to drop out of high school,” Looney said. “What they are saying is ‘I don’t know how to finish. I’m behind. I don’t know how to get to the finish line.’”

As part of the district’s turnaround efforts, a plan was developed to reduce dropouts in the short and long term.

“We are proud to share that we have already seen significant progress,” Chief Academic Officer Cliff Jones said in the release. “In 2018, we had 1,010 students dropout, followed by 1,216 in 2019 and 685 in 2020. This is a 44% decrease in dropouts. While this is exciting and worth celebrating, we do want to exercise caution in the ability to sustain this kind of growth, given the significant challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic.”

On a statewide level, 105 school districts and 230 schools recorded graduation rates at or above 90% this year. Twenty-nine districts and 89 schools recorded rates at or above 95%.

“I’m very proud today of the class of 2020,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a news release. “These students were faced with difficulties none of us could have imagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have shown over and over again – in ACT and SAT results, in their personal accomplishments and now in this graduation rate – that they were able to rise above.

“While these results are positive, we cannot stop here. We must provide tailored and personalized pathways to ensure every student sees the relevance in their education, stays in school, and receives a high-school diploma that prepares them for their future.”

For more information on graduation rates, visit https://bit.ly/3nkgy4S.

Graduation rates:

School 2019 2020 Change

State 82.0 83.8 +1.8

District 87.2 85.5 -2.7

Alpharetta 93.5 96.5 +3.2

Banneker 81.7 76.9 -4.8

Cambridge 97.6 98.2 +0.6

Centennial 92.3 88.6 -3.7

Chattahoochee 97.9 96.2 -1.7

Creekside 86.5 80.5 -6.0

Hapeville 92.2 94.0 +1.8

Independence 54.2 30.3 -23.9

Johns Creek 96.3 97.3 +1.0

Hughes 88.8 85.3 -3.5

McClarin 47.9 38.4 -9.5

Milton 95.4 96.9 +1.5

North Springs 93.1 91.9 -1.2

Northview 97.0 96.1 -0.9

Riverwood 91.7 89.9 -1.8

Roswell 90.8 88.3 -2.5

Skyview 8.9 9.7 +0.8

Tri-Cities 84.0 84.3 +0.3

Westlake 92.3 94.8 +2.5

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