Grad rates fall to sixth in RESA
Pierce County’s four year graduation rate fell four points and ranked near the bottom of the eight counties in the Okefenokee Regional Educational Services Agency (RESA), but is still higher than the state’s average.
Pierce County’s Class of 2019 graduation rate was 86.3. The high school graduated 233 of the 270 students who entered as freshmen in 2015.
The graduation rate data was released last week by the Georgia Department of Education.
Smith points out in a small school system, results can be affected by a small number of students.
The graduation rate is calculated by taking the freshman class enrollment and tracking them through their senior year. The grad rate can be affected by dropouts, students with academic difficulty and discipline issues.
“That was the case this year,” he said. “Just a few students who did not graduate, can have a big impact on the results.”
Still, the superintendent says the school system is not making excuses.
“We are committed to ensure and support all of our students in meeting their goal of graduating from high school, regardless of their circumstance or situation,” he said. “We will continue to closely examine and monitor all of our students to provide the most effective learning opportunities for them to meet their educational goal of graduation.”
The local graduation rate was higher than the state rate by a little over four points. The state graduation rate of 82 for 2019 was an all time high in the seven years the state has been using the current ranking.
The statewide graduation rate has climbed from 69.7 percent in 2012, the first year Georgia began using a federal measure to calculate rates.
Typically tops in the region, Pierce’s graduation rate was near the bottom compared to area schools. Okefenokee RESA includes Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Pierce and Ware.
Bacon County lead the area with a graduation rate of 94.1. Charlton followed with 90.8, Atkinson was third with 89.7, Clinch was fourth with 88.8 and Coffee County was fifth with 88.1.
Pierce’s rate barely beat Ware County at 86 and was not quite a point higher than Brantley County at 85.5.
Pierce’s current rate was also down from last year’s rate of 90.8.
SAT scores best area schools
Pierce County High School students’ scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) were tops in the region and bested the state and national average.
Test-takers here had an average composite score of 1,088 this year. That figure is 49 points higher than the national average of 1,039 and 40 points higher than the statewide average of 1,048. Both state and national scores were down slightly over last year.
Pierce County students had higher overall scores and also led each subject area but one in the eight-county Okefenokee Regional Education Services Association (RESA).
Scores on the SAT were up 29 points from last year. There were a total of 74 test-takers this year, down from 78 in 2018.
Pierce was a full 53 points higher overall than Brantley County, which was second with an overall score of 1,035.
Other RESA counties’ composite SAT scores include Ware (1,027), Bacon (1,007), Coffee (1,003), Charlton (984), Clinch (982) and Atkinson (972).
Pierce County students improved in both the evidence-based reading and writing and math portions of the test compared to last year’s scores. Pierce students improved their reading/writing score by 18 points compared to 2018. Math scores were up by 12 points over last year.
In evidence-based reading and writing (ERW), Pierce students finished tops in the region with a score of 549. Brantley County was second with a score of 541. Pierce students were above the state average of 533, and 25 points higher than the national average of 524.
In math, Pierce County students were second among region high schools with a 539 grade. Brantley County finished first with a score of 594. Pierce’s numbers were 24 points above both the state and national averages which were both 515. A perfect score on the SAT is 1,600.
Pierce County School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith said he thinks the increases are a good indicator of the quality of Pierce County Schools.
“The SAT serves as an excellent indicator of academic success for college bound students and reinforces the quality and effectiveness of our instructional program and the preparation that is provided through Pierce County Schools,” he said. “We are pleased in our SAT scores indicating an increase in the mathematics and reading and writing score as well as a total score compared to 2018.”
PCHS principal Dara Bennett says the SAT scores are a good indicator of the rigor of classes at the high school.
“I am very pleased with our SAT scores. This validates the hard work by our teachers to ensure the level of mastery required by the state standards are met by our students. This is also a testament to the hard work and dedication by our students,” Bennett said.
The SAT is a college entrance exam developed, administered and scored to expand access to higher education. The SAT is designed to test subject matter learned by students in high school and the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in college.