Formula Likely to Increase Dropouts; CALCULATION the New Way to Track Graduation Will Give Schools Less Time for Completion. NON-TRADITIONAL CLASSES Night Schools for Older Students Would Not Be Counted against Rate

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Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

BRUNSWICK - Southeast Georgia education officials say a new federal formula intended to better account for dropouts likely will send high school graduation rates plummeting statewide.

All states must use the federally mandated method beginning next year. It states once a student enters ninth grade, the graduation clock starts running. They will have "four years and one summer" to successfully complete all the courses they need to graduate in Georgia, said Assistant Superintendent Ricky Rentz, who oversees student achievement for the Glynn County school system.

"That means all the kids who don't have everything done in that period will be considered a dropout and therefore counts against the graduation rate," Rentz said.

The current formula gives schools additional years to graduate students.

The graduation rate is a factor in determining whether a high school makes Adequate Yearly Progress for student achievement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"If the kids can't graduate under the new formula, then schools won't make AYP," he said.

Glynn's graduation rate is 65.5 percent for Brunswick High School and 80.5 percent for Glynn Academy.

"I imagine our graduation rate will drop about 15 percent at both high schools under the new formula," Rentz said.

State schools Superintendent John Barge last month warned educators to expect as much as a 16 percent drop in the graduation rate because of the new rule.

Barge said worst-case scenario projections indicate Georgia's graduation rate could drop from about 80 percent to 64 percent.

Camden County schools, which have an 85 percent graduation rate, might be the exception. Administrators don't expect the new method to impact the district's graduation rate much at all.

"It may affect eight to 10 students, and that is only about a half percent," said James Gibbs, the district's director of secondary education. …

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