Pickens County ranks 27th out of 162 Georgia school systems for its graduation rate over the past year, based on revised figures released earlier this month.
This ranking puts Pickens in the top 20 percent of all school systems in the state and is an accurate assessment of local schools, according to Assistant Superintendent Tommy Qualls.
With a revised graduation rate of 80.74 percent of students entering 9th grade receiving full diplomas, Pickens County far exceeded the state average of 67.4 percent.
When every high school in the state is compared without regard to system or size, Pickens ranks 81st out of 461 institutions. However, for this list, schools that have special advantages or challenges are lumped together. The overall list includes everything from the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology on the top with other magnet schools that boast 100 percent graduation rates along with many special education facilities with graduation rates of zero.
Graduation rates had already been totaled once this year but were recently revised to bring different states in line with recording methods. A press release from the Ga. Department of Education said the “adjusted cohort rate will allow states to uniformly compare graduation rates across the nation.”
Assistant Superintendent Qualls, who has worked as an accrediting official examining other systems, said he believes this is a pretty accurate reflection of where local schools stand compared to what is out there.
He said there are private schools, where every student will graduate, and there other schools that face huge challenges. But when all factors are considered, Pickens deserves to be in the top 20 percent, he said.
“We were 27th in the state, and I’m pretty proud of that,” Qualls said. “We are ecstatic with where we placed as a system.”
Graduation rate is a key factor in assessing a school system for federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards and with other yardsticks used to grade schools.
The graduation rate shows that 80 percent of students here who enter 9th grade will finish high school with a full diploma. Pickens currently has a drop out rate of about 4 percent.
The remaining 16 percent, counted as neither graduates nor drop-outs, are students who finish with special education diplomas, certificates of attendance (finished all course work but couldn’t pass graduation tests) or students who moved away, but no records can be found of their enrollment in another school.
Qualls said Pickens and nearby counties are helped by the Mountain Education Center’s presence here. Many students who consider dropping out of high school transfer instead to the Mountain Education Center, an alternative, go-at-your-own-pace, school.
Pickens, with a system graduation rate of 80.74 percent, was slightly behind Gilmer County, with a 82.39 percent graduation rate, and Fannin County, with a 82.18 percent rate.