Lumpkin reaches new graduation rate record

  • Lumpkin reaches new graduation rate record
    Lumpkin reaches new graduation rate record

Lumpkin County High School consistently beats the state when it comes to graduation rates. This year it beat its own highest percentage since 2015, with a rate of 95.54 percent.
For high school principal Billy Kirk, that was the magic number to reach when he came here a little over two years ago.
“When I came here and looked at the numbers I thought Lumpkin County should be able to produce a 95 percent. The entire administration and teachers committed to getting kids across the stage in five years. I know what it means for them and their future,” Kirk said, “And we did it in two.”
“To see this goal reached after only his second year at the helm is a testament to [Principal Kirk’s] vision, his focus and his leadership. I commend [him], his administrative team, his guidance team and each of his staff members who go the extra mile to help students find success,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rob Brown. “Educators devote many hours of extra instructional time and personal advisement to our students. Without question, this new standard of excellence was reached because of their dedication to our students.”
There has, indeed, been extra hours and effort on the part of teachers at the high school. Kirk instituted an after-school learning lab where certified teachers help students with anything they are having a problem with. The lab even offers a snack and bus rides home.
Summit Academy came in for recognition from both Kirk and Brown for its role in raising the graduation rate as well.
“Administrator Dr. Libby Bicknell and her staff meet the needs of a small portion of our students who need a non-traditional high school experience. By establishing an environment that allows for student individualities and personalized learning,”Brown said. “Summit Academy certainly contributes to our high graduation rate.”
“Summit is a real benefit to our at-risk students. It sets them on a pathway to success,” Kirk said. “Our goal is to breakdown every barrier to graduation. We meet kids where they’re at—even our most challenging students. Some we push, some we pull across the stage, but they did the work, and they are college and work ready when they leave here.”
That, said Brown, is the “primary role” of the school system, and earning a diploma is critical in accomplishing that goal.
Brown also gives credit “to every club sponsor, fine arts director and athletic coach in our school system. Research shows that students who are engaged in extra-curricular activities are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school. These adults invest their time and considerable energies to help students find success outside the classroom, and their investments have obviously been impactful.”
Administration, teachers, counselors and even other students work hard to motivate the student body. To celebrate the successful 2019 graduation rate the entire student body was given cupcakes and encouraged to sign a pledge to graduate with their class during an assembly in the common area.
Former Superintendent of Schools Dewey Moye had high praise for the accomplishment. Moye had a one-year graduation rate of 100 percent when he retired in 2016—his goal before retirement.
“But that was for one year only. The state calculates a four-year cycle,” he said. “Dr. Brown and his faculty have done an outstanding job and I applaud their work.”
The “cohort” graduation rate as determined by the state for 2016 was 88.7 percent.
The state considers students from 9th-12th grade as one block, called a cohort. Achieving 100 percent graduation rate for a cohort is close to, if not impossible.
All kinds of obstacles stand in the way of a cohort reaching a 100 percent graduation rate. If a student is withdrawn from school to move elsewhere, documentation must be provided to the old school on where the students goes. If the student does not enroll elsewhere, that counts against the original school’s graduation rates. So does students who cannot graduate due to illness or accident.
“Graduation rates are not calculated on how many students start and finish the senior year,” Brown explained.
“[Reaching a 95 percent graduation rate is] exciting news. [It] lifts us all. Every employee of the Lumpkin County School System should take great pride in this announcement and should be recognized for their contribution to this notable achievement,” Brown said. “Our graduation rate is tangible example of how a school system raises the bar to attain a higher level of success.”
“For me,” Kirk added, “it’s a win for the school, the community and students. When you hand them that diploma and see the smile on their face it makes all the blood, sweat and tears worth it.”