Atlanta Grad Rate Investigation

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Atlanta Public Schools claim a 30 percent increase in high school graduation rates since 2002, but the boost in numbers may be the result of hidden truancy rates, according to an Atlanta Journal Constitution investigation.

The story says:

The mass exodus from Atlanta’s high schools may be the primary reason for one of the district’s proudest academic achievements: a dramatic increase in its graduation rate… District officials boast that the rate of students getting diplomas within four years has risen 30 percentage points since 2002.

But the rate’s only surge, from 43 percent to 72 percent, came between 2003 and 2005, the Journal-Constitution’s analysis of state data found. During that time, the district removed from its rolls about 30 percent of all pupils in grades nine through 12 — roughly 16,000 students.

As a result, most of those students no longer figured into the district’s calculation of what Superintendent Beverly Hall has descried as the “all-important” graduation rate: The fewer students being counted, the fewer graduates needed to make the rate higher.  A student listed as a dropout would count against the rate.  A transfer would not – even if school officials didn’t know, or didn’t try to find out, where a student went.

No school has been hit harder than Crim High, an alternative school in East Atlanta that has had some of the highest drop out rates in the state.  The story says it “accepted 673 transfer students from other Atlanta schools in 2009, according to state data.  By year’s end, state data show, three-fifths of them had dropped out.  Most lasted at Crim little more than two months.

Jimmy Garcia Arispe, president of the National Coalition for Exemplary Schools, also talked to the AJC about these missing kids.

We’re talking about children’s lives. It may translate just into numbers. But we’ve missed someone through this process. That’s the really sad thing. What happened to them? Where are they?

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