The data is for students who entered ninth grade in 2007 and graduated in May 2011. Mississippi’s graduation rate of 73.7 percent during that period is two percentage points higher than it was for the Class of 2010. The state also slightly improved its dropout rate to 16.7 percent.
Seven Northeast Mississippi school districts ranked in the top 13 of the state in graduation rate. That total includes Booneville, whose 92.3 percent rate ranked second. New Albany, Union County, Pontotoc City and Pontotoc County also ranked in the top 10.
“We are very excited because the dropout rate and graduation rate is an indicator of the total school,” said Booneville Superintendent Todd English. “It shows you are doing things right.”
New Albany improved its graduation rate by 15.9 percentage points to 91.7 percent. The district also tied for first in the state with a dropout rate of less than 5 percent and a completion index of greater than 95 percent.
“Our counselors do an excellent job,” said New Albany Interim Superintendent Jackie Ford. “It is a whole team effort from school personnel to the community and community organizations.”
The completion index also includes students who received special education certificates or GED credentials.
Exact figures were not provided for districts with dropout rates below 5 percent and completion rates above 95 percent because that information could single out individual students, said a spokesperson from the MDE.
Of the 24 Mississippi schools with the lowest dropout rates, 16 were from Northeast Mississippi. The region also had seven districts ranked in the top 11. Those districts were North Tippah, Tishomingo County, Union County, New Albany, Pontotoc County, Pontotoc City and Booneville.
“I think it is encouraging that so many individual schools from Northeast Mississippi had a great record with respect to dropouts,” said CREATE Foundation Senior Vice President Lewis Whitfield, who has helped organize a dropout prevention summit for school districts from the region.
Twenty-two of Northeast Mississippi’s 31 school districts had a higher graduation rate than the state average. Meanwhile, 22 of the region’s districts had a better dropout rate than the state, and 24 had a better completion index.
Tupelo’s 74.6 graduation rate and 17.3 percent dropout rate each improved by about 5 percentage points.
“We need to look at continuous improvement,” said Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden.
Lee’s 67.4 percent graduation rate improved by 2.5 percentage points. The district’s dropout rate of 21.5 percent was nearly a point worse than last year’s.
“That number means we need to do a better job of dealing with dropout prevention and a better job of getting kids to understand why it is important to finish school and get their diploma,” said Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks.
Mooreville High School graduated 75.5 percent of its students and had a 13.7 percent dropout rate, and Saltillo graduated 76.6 percent and 16.7 percent dropout rate. The figures were much worse at Shannon High School, which had a 53.6 percent graduation rate and 30.3 percent dropout rate. The graduation rate was the fourth worst in the state. Weeks and Lee County Federal Programs Director Casey Dye said the district has plans in place to improve that.
More graduation information and data in today's NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.