With nearly 88 percent of high school seniors receiving a diploma this year, the Forsyth County school system continues to post one of the state’s highest graduation rates.
And the system has also increased its rate over last year’s average of 86.3 percent.
“We join our staff and students in celebrating this achievement,” said School Superintendent Buster Evans. “We love to see increases each year, and are also excited to see our students leading metro Atlanta.
“Our goal is to have all students graduate from high school, so we still have much work to do.”
Forsyth ranked 15thof about 180 systems in the state, ahead of neighboring county systems such as Cherokee, Dawson, Fulton, Gwinnett and Hall.
Forsyth’s figure of 87.8 percent was boosted by Lambert High’s graduation rate of 98.9, the highest in the local system.
South Forsyth’s posted a nearly 93 percent graduation rate, followed by West at about 87.7 percent, North at 82.8 percent and Forsyth Central at 78.8 percent.
This is the second year the state has calculated graduation rates using the cohort method instead of the old lever way.
The new approach tracks individual students from when they enter their freshman year through completion of high school within four years.
Under the previous method, the rate was just a calculation of numbers, using how many students graduated versus dropped out.
The other difference in the two calculations involves time.
Previously, students who took five years to graduate could still be calculated in the overall graduation rate. Now, only those students who graduate within four years can be counted.
As a result, when Georgia switched over to the cohort method, graduation rates dropped statewide, including in Forsyth, which went from about 91 percent to about 86.3 percent.
Cindy Salloum, the system’s chief accountability officer, said officials “were already changing our thinking and being proactive rather than reactive” before the change.
“Our system didn’t take nearly the hit other school systems had,” she said. “Since last year ... we’ve worked with our principals and our principals have worked with the counselors and graduation coaches to make certain that everyone in those schools, starting with the high schools, stay on track.”
According to Salloum, principals have monthly meetings and have “pointed, deliberate discussions,” about the graduation rate, what’s working and how to improve.
“They all work together, they all understand the importance of it,” she said. “They promote the idea and work with their community to make sure students see that link between a high school diploma and a good post-secondary [future].”
The cohort system, Salloum said, actually makes it easier to target individual students. That’s how the state worked to boost its average over last year, going from 67.4 percent to 69.7 percent.
“If I dropped behind on my core courses and I wasn’t on track, they’ve got my name,” she said. “I’m not in a group, I’m not in a section, I’m not ‘like’ anybody else — they’ve got my individual name ... it brings heightened awareness to specific kids.”
In Forsyth, the school system and Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce teamed up to start the PROPEL, or Pathways for Reaching Opportunities in Preparing for Excellence in Life.
The initiative was designed to get businesses and communities involved in working to improve the county’s graduation rate.
Evans noted that PROPEL “gave us a strong framework and an important focus for the district.”
“While we celebrate this outstanding accomplishment, we will continue to focus on making learning rigorous and relevant for all students,” he said.