Celebrate! APS Cohort 2017 Reaches Graduation Rate High of 77.0%

District graduates 2,356 students – 89 more than last year – for a 5.9 percentage point gain, closing the gap by 4.7 percentage points with the state graduation rate

As superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, several events and parts of the year make me anxious enough that I am actually kept awake at night or left constantly checking emails – Day One, inclement weather like the recent Hurricane Irma and graduation week and data releases!

Drumroll, Please!GradTweet1

Atlanta Public School has reached a new high with its graduation rate: 77.0 percent!

Today is the official release of the official Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) report on graduation rates. I guess I’m not so much anxious as I am eager. That’s because for APS – with its stated mission to graduate ALL students ready for college and career – this is the main benchmark measure that truly defines progress in our district.

So for me, it’s the time of year when I sit and wait for news from the GaDOE the most.

Although I have already given the news away on Twitter (and in the headline to this blog), I still want to say …

GraduationRatesIt’s official. APS graduated 2,356 students for Cohort 2017, which is 89 more than last year, for a 5.9 percentage point gain. What’s more, APS has narrowed the gap with the state graduation rate by 4.7 percentage points. The state graduation rate rose by 1.2 percentage points to 80.6 percent in 2017.

I am excited about this boost even more than in 2015 when we saw a 12 percentage point increase and last year when we maintained the gain. I am excited because it shows that we can actually build on recent success. Plus, it shows that the improvements are real. They are significant. And with three years of graduating more students (18 percentage points more!), it’s sustainable!

With the Board and our community, the district developed a mission to graduate more and more students prepared for college and career, and we are really starting to deliver. The past year saw us fully implement our new charter operating model with signature programming that directs more resources to our schools and provide targeted intervention to our lowest-performing schools. As we continue to provide those supports as well as address deficiencies in core subjects such as literacy and math, I believe we will continue seeing this wonderful upward trend.

Let’s look at the numbers. We have so many bright spots with this latest data release.

Of 17 schools’ graduating cohorts, 13 saw gains and Charles R. Drew Charter School, which graduated its inaugural class in 2017, reported a 100 percent graduation rate. Other APS schools with high graduation rates include:

  • Carver Early College, 98.8 percent
  • North Atlanta High, 94.9 percent
  • Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, 94.3 percent
  • KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, 91.4 percent
  • Grady High, 88.4 percent

GradTweetCarverSchools achieving significant increases in their graduation rates include: Carver School of Technology, which achieved a 16.7 percentage point gain to reach a 79.7 percent graduation rate; followed by Therrell High School with a 12.8 percentage point gain and a 79.6 percent rate; Carver High School with a 7.4 percentage point gain and a 73.9 percent rate; and North Atlanta with a 6.6 percentage point gain and a 94.9 percent rate.

Graduation data for all of the schools is provided in this graph:


In efforts to graduate more students, we’ve adopted a series of measures to improve graduation factors for the senior class. Our Office of High Schools has created transcript audits, tracker modules and data dashboards to identify issues that might inhibit students from graduating on time. For example, the district and high schools provided students with ongoing recovery options based on their needs and encourage them to take advantage of opportunities to obtain credits. We work with every school to clearly identify all students who only needed an extended summer opportunity to graduate in 2017 and strongly encouraged them to do so.

GradTweet5.pngIn addition to keeping high school students on track to graduate with their peers, APS also stresses attendance, strong school climate and social emotional learning or SEL at the high school level and across all schools in the district.

With our efforts to improve attendance and learning environments while also providing positive behavior supports, we are making schools more conducive places for learning. When students feel safe, welcomed, respected and challenged by quality educators and programming, they are more likely to learn and stay on a path to graduate on time and ready for college and career.

For details, visit APSInsight, our great new public facing data site.  To experience graduation of Cohort 2017 again, go to my graduation blog.

GradTweetThanksNone of this progress would have been would have been possible without the hard work of a lot of people, in addition to outstanding teachers and students. At each school, we have our graduation coaches, counselors, registrars and administration teams. For the district, we have our Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) team and our associate superintendents, including Dr. Dan Sims, our associate superintendent of high schools, providing leadership, guidance and support. We have our data and research experts, who created the dashboards and tracking tools to ensure our students remained on the pathway. We have great partnerships such as Achieve Atlanta and Communities in School, who provided advisement and tutoring and other college preparatory assistance for our students.


We couldn’t have made these gains without any of them. They worked hard last year, and they already diving into the work so that Cohort 2018 can graduate even more and more students.


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