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Creekview High School seniors watch their classmates on the screens at their graduation ceremony Friday.

Eighty-seven percent of the class of 2019 in Cherokee County School District earned a diploma within four years of entering high school, putting the district ahead of the state average.

The Georgia Department of Education on Wednesday reported a four-year graduation rate of 82% for the state, an all-time high since the it began using a new formula required by federal law. Georgia’s rate has increased by 12 percentage points since 2012, while CCSD has climbed nearly 15 points.

A total of 3,305 students graduated in four years throughout CCSD. Though the district's four-year rate has risen over the last several years to 86.9% for 2018, it fell half a percentage point from 2017's 87.4%. The class of 2017 represented an all-time high rate for the district.

The five-year graduation rate for CCSD is 90%. In addition to exceeding the overall state rate, CCSD’s special needs students, English Learners and economically disadvantaged students also graduated at higher four-year rates than their peers statewide.

“Graduation is the culmination of our students’ lifetime of learning and celebrates the hard work of students, teachers, families, volunteers and partners to achieve this milestone,” Superintendent Brian Hightower said in a release. “We’re proud of our success together, and have set the bar higher through our new Blueprint strategic plan, which targets specific graduation rate increases over the next five years.”

Hightower said he believes new CCSD programs to assist students, such as immediately helping high school students retake failed units before an entire class is failed, are making a positive difference in graduation rates. CCSD also will begin partnering this summer with Mountain Education Charter High School to offer a high school credit recovery program that’s coupled with additional supports including one-on-one coaching and mentoring.

The four-year graduation rates for each of Cherokee County School District's six traditional high schools are as follows. Graduating students from ACE Academy and Polaris Evening School are counted in their "home" school, or the high school for the attendance zone their residence falls in.

Cherokee High School: 80.3%

Creekview High School: 94.6%

Etowah High School: 87.4%

River Ridge High School: 87.2%

Sequoyah High School: 89.7%

Woodstock High School: 88.1%

State School Superintendent Richard Woods said he’s proud of Georgia’s teachers and students for their “on-the-ground work” to increase graduation rates.

“Moving forward,” he said, “we must continue to focus on offering a relevant education and preparing every child for their future – not a one-size-fits-all system that sends every student in the same direction, but a tailored and personalized pathway based on a student’s academic and career interests and future goals.”

Georgia calculates a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as required by federal law. This rate is the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class. Students entering ninth grade form a cohort that is adjusted for those who transfer in and out of the cohort.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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