State report points to progress in graduation rates, mixed results locally

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Sep 24, 2019 at 8:23 PM

Graduation rates in Tennessee increased half a percentage point from last year to 89.7% in the 2018-19 school year, according to a report released last week by the Tennessee Department of Education. 

Despite the statewide increase cited in the report, some local districts noticed decreases. While graduation rates in Johnson City Schools increased by 1.3% to 93.1% from the 2016-17 school year to the 2017-18 school year, the district recorded a rate of 92.1% in 2018-19.

Johnson City Schools Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology David Timbs said Science Hill High School will continue to work toward maintaining high graduation rates and another increase next year. 

“In our district, we are continually exploring new paths to graduation for our students. A high school diploma is one of the most valuable things that we can equip our students with, and we have a variety of options for our students to achieve this goal. Our high school counselors and administrators seek to individualize student experiences. We offer traditional diploma routes, blended options and fully online paths for our students,” he wrote in an emailed statement to the Press. “We are willing to explore and adopt these flexible options for students because of the lasting impact a diploma can have on their lives.” 

Washington County Schools had a record-high graduation rate for the 2018-19 school year at 94.5%, according to the report. 

“That’s the highest in at least 10 years, and almost certainly an all-time record for Washington County Schools,” Director Bill Flanary said in August ahead of the report’s release.

Unicoi County recorded a graduation rate of 91.7%; Carter County reported 88.8%; Elizabethton had a rate of 88.9%; and Johnson County recorded 96.3%.

While 67 districts improved their graduation rates from 2018 to 2019 — with four districts improving by 5% or more and 49 districts recording rates at or above 95% — Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said more work needs to be done. 

“Ultimately, I would like to see all 130 districts that serve high school students have a 90 percent graduation (rate) or better. That’s something my team will be very focused on over the next four years, along with making sure those students have a career or college path in mind the day they walk across the stage to get that diploma,” she said. 

To take a look at the full report, visit www.tn.gov/education.

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