Polk School District

Polk County’s high schools had mixed results when 2021 graduation rates were released last week, but officials say efforts to encourage students to succeed are working.

In the annual report by the Georgia Department of Education, Rockmart High School had a graduation rate of 96.2%, an increase of 5.1% over 2020 and a whopping 15.5% over the statewide rate of 83.7%, down slightly from the previous rate of 83.8%.

Cedartown High School’s rate dipped to 80.95%, which is a decrease of 3.05% compared to last year’s numbers. The district’s overall graduation rate increased in 2021 to 87.5% from 86.8%.

Polk School District Superintendent Dr. Katie Thomas said the decrease does not reflect the improvements seen systemwide in helping specific student groups overcome barriers to graduation, including the Grad Polk: Student Success Center and a new transitional academy for students struggling with language acquisition.

“COVID, coupled with several additional traumatic events, has affected students and teachers alike. We have found ourselves at a place of rebuilding and reevaluating our plan as to how we educate and ultimately encourage success while meeting the needs of the whole child,” Thomas said.

“We know that it is a team effort and are focusing our energy on proving that together we can ensure all students graduate and are prepared to be productive members of our community.”

COVID-19 forced school districts to make a series of adjustments during the last school year, with some resorting to virtual instruction for long periods but others able to get students back into their classrooms by exercising safety precautions including mask wearing and social distancing.

“Given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased to see Georgia’s graduation rate holding steady,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said.

“Combined with the class of 2021’s increases in ACT and SAT scores, this is an encouraging indicator about the work being done in public schools. Teachers and students have continued to succeed in the face of challenging circumstances.”

State high-school graduation rates have risen steadily during the past decade. This year’s rate marked an increase of 14% over the class of 2012.

Capitol Beat New Service contributed to this story.


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