GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – New data from the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) puts George County High School (GCHS) with the 10th highest graduation rate in the state for the Class of 2022.

The 95.7% graduation rate is the highest on record in the district and the highest in the coastal region for the school year. The closest district joining GCHS in the Top 10 is Petal, a suburb of Hattiesburg. It has the third highest rate at 98.6%. 

George Co. ranked seventh in the state for graduating students with disabilities at 88.9%, far above the state’s average 67.1%. The county’s 3.9% dropout rate was the 16th lowest out of the 149 school districts reporting.

Comparison of neighboring school districts:

George County95.7%
Long Beach94.6%
Bay St. Louis94.3%
Pass Christian93.1%
Poplarville92%
Jackson County92.1%
Pascagoula-Gautier90.7%
Ocean Springs90.6%
Biloxi89.8%
Harrison County89.5%
Gulfport89.4%
Greene County88.3%
Stone County88.2%
Moss Point87.9%
Hancock County86.3%
Pearl River County84.4%
Picayune82.3%
Perry County75.7%

“Graduation is a long-term commitment that begins in elementary school and ends with us,” said GCHS Principal Sid Taylor. “There are many people who make the journey possible, and I’m thankful our high school gets to be the final chapter of that journey before our students transition into their next adventure.”

The rising graduation rate in the county contributed to a positive trend in the state with a record 88.9% of students graduating within four years of starting high school, according to MDE.

In Mississippi, students must earn 24 credits to receive a traditional high school diploma. George County requires an additional four credits of elective courses.

All students must also pass four state tests to graduate in Algebra I, Biology I, English II and U.S. History. Due to COVID-19, the passing requirements for the assessments were waived in 2020-21. MDE says this will affect the graduation rate until all students who tested under the waivers graduate.

This latest graduation rate was determined by the students that entered freshman year at GCHS for the first time in 2018-2019. Some students that transfer to another school still count towards the district’s graduation rate and must be tracked by GCHS administrators.

The graduation rate does not include students who earn a GED or a certificate of completion or who are still enrolled in their fifth year of high school. 

“That percentage reflects every student’s attendance, grades, behavior, and home support and each teacher’s commitment to high quality instruction,” said GCHS assistant principal Darlene Hearndon. “Just learning how MDE calculates our grad rate and its many components is a complex process.”

George County’s graduation rate over the past 10 school years:

George County High SchoolMississippi
2021-202295.7%88.9%
2020-202194.3%88.4%
2019-202093.2%87.7%
2018-201995.3%85.0%
2017-201882.8%84.0%
2016-201788.9%83.0%
2015-201682.6%82.3%
2014-201580.7%80.8%
2013-201468.6%*78.4%
2012-201380.6%*74.5%
* Denotes graduation rate recorded in MDE historical data under a previous accountability system.

MDE contributes the increased graduation rate, in part, to the Mississippi Early Warning System, developed in 2016 to offer guidance to schools to identify, support and monitor at-risk students in every grade level.

The Star Academy at George County Middle School helps students who are two years behind accelerate their high school credits and graduate on time with their original peers. GCHS offers state test remediation, free after school tutoring, and free ACT boot camps.

Staff also monitor the attendance and grades of at-risk students and create individualized student plans.

“We talk to our students daily,” said GCHS assistant principal Brown. “We know their plans and goals, and we make sure they know they matter. It takes every student, educator, and parent in our district to make [graduation] a reality.”

The record graduation rate will boost the school’s likelihood of keeping its “A” rating on the next state report card. Graduation rate counts for 20% of the high school’s score.