JASPER — After a significant jump a year ago, Hamilton County High School’s graduation rate didn’t continue to rise in 2018-19.

But it also didn’t fall.

And that is what has Superintendent Rex Mitchell excited.

“That really was our mantra last year was to have consistency,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, we want to continue to improve, but we made such a jump the first year that you have to have a good plan in place to maintain as you continue to try and move forward. I think it just says we’re continuing on the right track. We’re building that foundation to continue moving forward.

“I won’t say I’m exactly pleased, but I’m definitely not disappointed.”

The district’s graduation rate of 73.1% was nearly identical to the 73.5% rate posted in 2017-18.

Made with Flourish

The graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth grade. The rate is calculated for an adjusted cohort of students — a group of students on the same schedule to graduate — taking into account those who enter or exit the group.

Holding steady is a start for the district as it moves forward from recent troubled times, when it was on the verge of being forced to become a charter school, shutting down completely or bring in an outside administrator to run it.

In addition to Hamilton County, Gadsden County High and Hawthorne High School in Alachua County were also in that same position a few years ago. They haven’t been as fortunate as HCHS in continuing to distance themselves from that precarious position.

“Two of those schools went back in (to the Accountability Program) because they weren’t able to maintain those gains,” Mitchell said. “We were. That was our goal. We did not want to fall back.”

That comes on the heels of hard work and a plan to continue improving the education students receive, Mitchell said. That includes working to provide more opportunities for students to prepare for standardized state tests as well as an increased emphasis on reading in the lower grades that will lead to better students when they enter high school.

All that work should lead to a greater reward for students — being better prepared for college or to enter their careers — as well as the district — improved school grades and a higher graduation rate.

“The graduation rate is a four-year grade, so in a year or two you can’t just impact it that quickly,” Mitchell said. “There’s no quick fix to a graduation rate. It’s a steady thing.

“We feel good about the plan…I’m just hoping that over like the next five years, we can steadily grow and not go up and down, up and down. That’s not good.”

Jamie Wachter is the editor of the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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