Local figures exceed new state numbers

Posted 10/12/18

Bradley County Schools and Cleveland City Schools are improving their high school graduation rates, and this year both saw district-wide graduation rates above Tennessee’s record-high state …

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Local figures exceed new state numbers


Bradley County Schools and Cleveland City Schools are improving their high school graduation rates, and this year both saw district-wide graduation rates above Tennessee’s record-high state average. 

The Tennessee Department of Education recently released data on graduation rates statewide. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced the 2017-18 high school graduation rate held steady at 89.1 percent, which is the highest graduation rate on record for Tennessee. 

More than 56 percent of school districts with high schools saw improvements in their graduation rates this year - including the two local districts. 

Cleveland City Schools saw the biggest increase, going from 89.1 percent in 2017 to 93.5 percent this year. This factors in graduation rates from two schools, Cleveland High School and the F.I. Denning Center of Technology and Careers. 

“We were very happy to see that increase,” said Dr. Russell Dyer, director of Cleveland City Schools. “We have a systematic way of how we are looking at high school and how we are getting students to graduation day.”

Cleveland High saw a 95 percent graduation rate this year, which is an improvement on last year’s 91.6 percent. This year, 326 of the school’s 343 seniors graduated. Last year, 307 out of 335 graduated. 

The F.I. Denning Center saw the most drastic graduation rate increase, going from 62.5 percent in 2017 to 81.4 percent this year. This year, 35 out of 43 seniors graduated, as opposed to 20 out of 32 seniors last year. 

The Class of 2018 was the F.I. Denning Center’s final graduating class, as the Cleveland Board of Education voted to reincorporate the city’s high school credit recovery program into Cleveland High this fall. 

Dyer said the district’s focus will now fully be on supporting educators at Cleveland High as they work to help all students reach graduation, including those who have fallen behind and need credit recovery opportunities. 

Dr. Jeff Elliott, chief academic officer for Cleveland City Schools, said educators over the past year have made lessons “more aligned with” the ACT exam, ensuring students are likely to master the skills they need to graduate and go to college. Educators have also been pushing for better school attendance, which also helps students’ chances of graduating. 

He added there has also been a focus on adding to work-based learning and career and technical education programs, to help students learn job skills. 

“We believe this will help them to not only get to graduation but be successful beyond graduation,” said Elliott. 

Bradley County Schools had a district-wide graduation rate of 92.2 percent at the end of the 2017-18 year, up from 91.7 percent at the end of the 2016-17 year. 

This is based on graduation numbers from four schools: Bradley Central High, Walker Valley High, GOAL Academy and Bradley County Virtual School. 

Bradley Central saw an 88.7 percent graduation rate this year, which is up from 87.3 percent in 2017. This year, 383 out of the school’s 432 seniors graduated. 

Walker Valley now has a 97.1 percent graduation rate, having improved from 95.8 percent last year. This year, 337 out of 347 seniors received their diplomas. 

GOAL Academy, the county’s alternative school, saw a decrease this year, going from 100 percent in 2017 to 93.1 percent this year. This year, 27 out of 29 seniors graduated. There were 33 graduates last year. 

Bradley County Virtual School, the county’s online education option, saw a 75 percent graduation rate this year, down from 100 percent last year. This year, nine out of 12 seniors graduated. Last year, 13 graduated. 

Bradley County Schools officials could not be reached before press deadlines. However, Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash said earlier this year the district planned help students better prepare for the ACT and improve graduation rates. Last year, the district also launched a district-wide initiative to promote school attendance. 

“We are really focusing on this, because students need to be at school to learn,” said Cash. 

Many other school districts throughout the state saw graduation rate increases this year. This year, 106 districts — nearly 81 percent of Tennessee’s school districts — have graduation rates at or above 90 percent,

These include Polk County Schools, which went from a 91.5 percent graduation rate in 2017 to a 94.8 percent rate this year. 

“Our schools and districts should be proud that once again we have hit our state’s highest graduation rate on record while still holding our students to high expectations,” Commissioner McQueen said. “By continuing to raise the expectations, we are signaling that Tennessee students are leaving high school with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce. This graduation rate is a testament to the work being done by teachers and students in schools across the state.”

Many schools saw their graduation rates increase even as the state changed graduation requirements. In 2011, the Tennessee Department of Education adopted “a more rigorous calculation for graduation rates.” The State Board of Education also made taking the ACT or SAT exam a graduation requirement, and this is the first year graduation rates show this change. 


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