The Cobb County School District’s graduation rate for the Class of 2019 has risen about 2%, while Marietta’s fell for the second consecutive year, according to data from the state department of education released Wednesday.

Cobb’s 2019 graduation rate of 87% bests the state average of 82% by 5%. This year’s rates are the highest in Cobb since the current method of measuring graduation rates began in 2012, according to Nan Kiel, a spokesperson for the district.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the graduation rate reflects the result of the district’s informed decision making.

“Using data to make decisions on how to best serve each student has led to a continued increase in the number of students who graduate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Marietta’s rate fell by about a half-percent from 2018, after decreasing by 2.3% from 2017 to 2018.

“As we continue to research and reflect how to improve the graduation rate percentages calculated by the Georgia Department of Education, we acknowledge there are areas in need of immediate improvement,” said Jen Brock, a spokesperson for the district.

Specifically, Brock said state and federal requirements hold Marietta High School accountable for any student who enrolls, even for one day. So if that student later withdraws and the district can’t find out whether he or she re-enrolled in another district, it affects Marietta’s graduation rates.

“To better track students who may leave the state or country, we have changed our withdrawal protocols to limit, to the greatest degree possible, the difficulties we face in tracking a student months or years later,” she said.

Superintendent Grant Rivera said his district has begun withholding transcripts of transferring students to force the districts where the students transfer to request them.

“When the schools request them, we’ll provide them immediately, but that allows us to document their re-enrollment,” he said.

Brock said it’s worth noting that Marietta High School has a graduation rate of 93% for students who begin there as freshmen and stay throughout their high school career. She also said the district’s five-year graduation rate is 82.36%, which shows a 2.66% increase from 2018.

Four Cobb high schools, Lassiter, Harrison, Walton and Pope, posted graduation rates above 96%. Lassiter’s was the highest in the district at 97.4%, Harrison followed at 97.2%, Walton students graduated at a rate of 96.9% and Pope students graduated at a rate of 96.3%.

Three of the top performing schools are in east Cobb. The exception is Harrison, which is in west Cobb. The most improved school was Wheeler, with 9.4% more students receiving their diplomas in 2019 than in 2018.

“Our graduation rate is a testament to our culture here at Harrison and the relationships that we have with our students,” said Ashlynn Campbell, Harrison High School principal. “Our entire faculty and staff, as well as our parents, are all deeply committed to the well-being and academic success of every student.”

Three other schools, Hillgrove, Allatoona and Kennesaw Mountain topped 90%, according to district data.

Osborne and South Cobb high schools improved their graduation rates by 5.6% and 4.8% respectively.

In Marietta, Rivera said the district’s $12.3 million College and Career Academy, which is expected to be complete at the end of the year, could have a positive impact on the graduation rates if it attracts students who stay throughout their high school careers. But Rivera said the academy is more likely to help students move on to higher education or into the workforce than affect graduation rates.

He also said the district needs to be flexible with its students to ensure that they get the credits they need to graduate or get their diplomas, instead of GEDs.

“The conversations we’re going to have with those kids is, ‘What can we do that will allow you to stay in school instead of getting your GED?” Rivera said. “If you need to come to school at night because you need to work during the day, then we’ll make that happen.”

By comparison, the Cherokee County School District boasts a graduation rate of 86.9%, Fulton County’s graduation rate is 87.2%, Gwinnett’s is 80.9%, DeKalb County’s is 73.4% and Atlanta Public Schools is 78%, state data shows. Among those districts, only Cobb and Gwinnett saw their rates increase from 2018 to 2019.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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