FULTON COUNTY — After years of improved numbers, the disruption to education from COVID-19 has fueled a drop in graduation rates for the class of 2020 in the Fulton School System. In North Fulton, five of the area’s nine high schools saw declines.

The 2020 graduation rate of 85.5 percent remains above the state average, but reflects a 1.7 percent drop from the previous year. Fulton School officials said the drop equates to 113 students who did not graduate in fours years, compared to the previous year.

“The root cause was student recovery credit interrupted by COVID,” said Chief Academic Officer Cliff Jones. “The interruption [of the school year] impeded some of our students from completing the courses they needed to graduate.”

Fulton County was the first district in the state to revert to remote learning on March 13 after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Students did not return to in-person learning until October 14, and nearly 50 percent of students opted to continue learning remotely.

Jones said the district’s graduation rate has trended upward since 2012. It has been the highest among large metro districts until this year when Cobb County Schools moved ahead.

Fulton Schools has a strategic goal of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate. In 2019, all eight traditional high schools in North Fulton met that goal. In 2020, Centennial and Roswell dropped below the 90 percent graduation threshold.

Independence High School, which serves as an alternative school for students, plunged nearly 24 percent to a 30 percent graduation rate.

Cambridge High School, with a 98.2 percent graduation rate, led all schools. Alpharetta High saw the most improvement, with a 3 percent increase in graduation rates from 2019 to 2020.

Despite the lower numbers, Jones said nearly 95 percent of students who did not graduate in four years remain with the district and are on track to graduation.

“Fulton remains committed to keeping our students in school to complete their education journey,” Jones said. “For some, that happens in four years, and for others it [takes longer] to complete their goal of graduation.”

2020 Four-Year Graduation Rate

School

2019

2020

Change

Alpharetta

93.5

96.5

+3.0

Cambridge

97.6

98.2

+0.6

Centennial

92.3

88.6

-3.7

Chattahoochee

97.9

96.2

-1.7

Independence

54.2

30.3

-23.9

Johns Creek

96.3

97.3

+1.0

Milton

95.4

96.9

+1.5

Northview

97.0

96.1

-0.9

Roswell

90.8

88.3

-2.5

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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