Gwinnett County Public Schools saw its four-year graduation rate for 2021 drop by nearly a point from the preceding year, a decline that district officials are attributing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
GCPS’ graduation rate for the class of 2021 was 82.48%, compared to a 83.23% for the class of 2020. At the same time, district officials said members of the Class of 2020 who were unable to complete graduation requirements by May 2020 but later met those requirements by making up work in summer school or in school after the fact brought that class’ five-year graduation rate up to 86.28%.
“While our five-year graduation rate has increased during the pandemic, our district remains focused on improving its four-year rate,” GCPS Superintendent Calvin J. Watts said. “Our goal is to prepare each and every student for life after high school, equipping them with a diploma that will allow them to pursue their dreams.
“As a district, we must focus on creating the conditions and providing the supports that yield higher graduation rates and doing so in a manner that allows more students to graduate at the end of their four years of high school, so they are ready for college, career, and life.”
Georgia as a whole saw a similar decline to what was seen in Gwinnett County. The statewide four-year graduation rate for the class of 2021 was 83.7%, compared to 83.8% for the class of 2020.
Although GCPS as a whole saw its four-year graduation rate drop this year, there were actually eight schools in the district who increased their rates from 2020. Those schools were Berkmar, Central Gwinnett, Meadowcreek, Mill Creek, Paul Duke STEM, Phoenix and South Gwinnett High Schools as well as the Gwinnett Online Campus.
Berkmar’s score increased from 77.6% in 2020 to 78.99% in 2021 while Central Gwinnett’s rate went from 77.03% to 78.61%; Meadowcreek’s rate went from 80.83% to 82.05%; Mill Creek’s rate went from 92.1% to 93.25%; Paul Duke’s rate went from 84.09% to 92.52%; Phoenix’s rate went from 15.52% to 19.18%; South Gwinnett’s rate went from 80.62% to 80.72% and the Gwinnett Online Campus’ rate went from 58.91% to 60.27%.
Paul Duke STEM principal Jonathon Wetherington, whose school posted the largest increase in GCPS, pointed to collaboration between the school’s teachers, administrators and counselors to focus on students needs, as well as a “supportive school culture.” as the reason for the school’s increase of 8.43 percentage points.
“We are excited about our students’ success and proud of how our entire school community worked to support our students,” Wetherington said. “Every member of our faculty and staff is committed to ensuring that our students graduate prepared for dynamic college and career opportunities, and we look forward to building upon last year’s success and providing all our students with a high-quality STEM experience.”
Meadowcreek principal Kevin Wood pointed to teachers treating students as partners in their education has helped his school continually raise its graduation annually since 2011.
“Our multiyear increase in graduation rate is a result of our dedicated teachers engaging students as partners in their learning through research-based academic programs offered by the school, such as the academy model,” Wood said. “Our teachers continue to work hard to ensure that students are successful and go on to the next phase in their lives well prepared for both college and careers.”
Meanwhile, Mill Creek Principal Jason Lane said school improvement was the reason why his school was able to raise its graduation rate in spite of the pandemic.
“We have been intentional with our processes and planning to continue the work of improving our graduation rate,” Lane said. “Graduation from high school is not a singular event, rather it is a process that takes the hard work and dedication of every staff member of our cluster schools from elementary, middle, and here at the high school. I am thankful and humbled by the dedication of our teachers, staff, and students at Mill Creek High School and this news is a reflection of this work.”
In all, GCPS saw 13 of its high schools post graduation rates that were higher than the state average for the class of 2021.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology led all GCPS schools with a four-year graduation rate of 99.56% for the class of 2021, down slightly from the 100% rate the school’s class of 2020 posted.
GSMST, Mill Creek, Paul Duke STEM, Archer, Brookwood, Dacula, Grayson, Lanier, McClure Health Sciences, Mountain View, North Gwinnett, Parkview and Peachtree Ridge high schools are the GCPS schools that exceeded the state four-year graduation rate. Of those schools, GSMST, Mill Creek, Paul Duke STEM, Brookwood, Grayson, Lanier, McClure Health Sciences and North Gwinnett high schools each had rates that exceeded 90%.
“These results are indicative of the level of commitment of our staff and of the perseverance of our students to achieve at high levels despite the challenges we face,” GCPS Associate Superintendent for School Improvement and Operations Al Taylor said. “We are very proud of our students, teachers, and staff for their efforts navigating these uncertain times while upholding the standard of excellence that defines our system of world-class schools.”
GCPS 2021 four-year graduation rates
|School||2021 Rate||2020 rate|
|Gwinnett Online Campus||60.27%||58.91%|
|McClure Health Science||93.94%||97.83%|
|Paul Duke STEM||92.52%||84.09%|