From left, salutatorian Levi Colston and valedictorian Will Allen were Cartersville High School’s top graduates in 2019.

From monitoring attendance records to flexible schedules and Saturday classes, the Cartersville City and Bartow County school systems did more than simply give tests to students to keep them on track for graduation last school year.

The two school systems saw their graduation rates remain well above the statewide average in 2019, according to Georgia Department of Education statistics.

For the second consecutive year in 2019, more than 91 percent of Cartersville High School seniors walked across the graduation stage, according to a city school system news release.

And the Bartow County School System’s overall graduation rate was 89.2% in 2019, up 2.1% from 87.1 percent in 2018. That number, exceeds the state graduation rate by more than 7%.

CARTERSVILLE HIGH SCHOOLThe 2018-19 senior class at Cartersville City Schools’ only high school posted a 91.0 percent graduation rate.

The rate reflected a 14 percent increase since 2013 and exceeded by 9% the statewide rate of 82%, the release stated

Among the ways the school helps its students stay on path to graduation is a Flexible Academic Block, or FAB, for students on Wednesdays, said spokeswoman Cheree Dye.

The program offers a number of support activities, including mandatory and optional tutoring, research in the media center, working on assignments in computer labs, completing make-up work, preparing for the SAT and ACT and occasionally hearing guest lecturers, Dye said.

School administrators developed the program, which allows for academic supports to students in smaller classroom settings, she said.

The tutoring program provided the faculty with more information about students’ needs and their academic progress and encouraged ongoing analysis of academic data throughout the school year, she said.

In addition, students and their parents or guardians attend an individual course registration meeting which gives them an opportunity to review the student’s high school transcripts and make sure he or she is on track for graduation, Dye said.

Floyd Braid, director of Strategic Initiatives and School Improvement for Cartersville City Schools, said the school system also closely monitors the five-year graduation rate.

“Some students for a variety of reasons need a little more time to achieve their goal of a high school diploma,” Braid said.

“Some students have health or work-related issues, and some have moved multiple times during their high school careers, which can complicate the process of receiving the number of credits required to graduate,” he said.

“We were excited to see an increase in our five-year cohort graduation rate of 92.3%, which is an increase over last year’s rate.

“It’s also a sincere statement on the commitment of our high school teachers and administrators to those who need just a little more support to successfully complete high school,” he said.

Cartersville High School Principal Shelley Tierce said, “The success is a reflection of students who value their education and teachers and staff who are dedicated to not only educating students but building long-lasting relationships with them as well.

“As a school, we will continue to encourage our students to earn their high school diplomas and assist them in the development of a post-secondary plan,” Tierce said.

BARTOW COUNTY SCHOOLSAll three Bartow school system high schools recorded their highest graduation rates since 2012 when the state began using the adjusted cohort calculation now required by federal law, the county system said in a news release.

♦ Woodland High School had the largest yearly increase in its graduation rate at 3.6%.

In 2018, 82.8 percent of the graduating class received their diploma, compared to 86.4 percent in 2019.

Woodland Principal David Stephenson said several key factors contributed to the improved graduation rate.

He said school officials monitor attendance records to identify potential concerns prior to senior year.

They also promote Saturday school “and other interventions” to help support students who commit to improvement and content mastery, the release stated.

“We have established mentorships where advisement teachers work with students to promote positive behaviors and the value of the high school diploma,” Stephenson said.

“We follow up with parents and guardians of students who relocate to ensure placement in a new academic institution and focus on 23 credits as the standard of success, ensuring graduation is not a hope but rather an expectation of all WHS students.”

♦ Adairsville High School boasted the highest graduation rate in the district with 91.7 percent, compared to 91.2 percent in 2018.

Adairsville Principal Bruce Mulkey said the continued improvement reflects his staff’s commitment to students, parents, and each other, along with several changes that have occurred over time.

“The teacher-leaders in our building initiated a culture shift three years ago that required us to re-evaluate our priorities school-wide,” Mulkey said.

“Our guidance department altered our procedures for tracking students’ progress towards graduation and improved our record keeping.

“This sounds simple on the surface but implementing these changes requires commitment from our teachers and long hours for our guidance counselors and their secretary, Mrs. Tammy Brady,” he said.

“Every year, we revisit these procedures to make sure they’re effective and I think the results speak for themselves. The 91.7% graduation rate is a reflection of years of work in this area.”

Mulkey noted a correlation between increased opportunities and student success.

“Students who want the ‘traditional high school experience’ have always been successful at AHS, but the College and Career Academy has provided pathways for students who have other interests,” he said.

“Our system’s relationship with Mountain Education Charter High School (MECHS) has benefited a number of our students who needed a completely different high school experience and offered students who have fallen behind a second or a third chance to earn a diploma.”

♦ Cass High School joined Adairsville High with a graduation rate above the 90 percent mark — increasing from 88.7% in 2018 to 90.8% in 2019.

Cass Principal Stephen Revard said, “Our teachers, staff, counselors, and administrators all collaborate with a clear focus on student learning and results.

“Over 96 percent of our students graduated with either a Humanities or CTAE pathway. Our students earned diploma seals for Biliteracy, International Skills, and Career Readiness from the Georgia Department of Education. We had a 4% increase in the number of honor graduates, as well.”

Bartow schools Superintendent Phillip Page said, “I am very excited to see these collective efforts in the Bartow County School System.

“At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, our three high school principals wrote a SMART goal which focused on increasing the overall graduation rate to 88.4%.

“Based on state results, we exceeded that goal. We will be celebrating these efforts and creating new SMART goals for 2019.”

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound.

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