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VOL. 132 | NO. 185 | Monday, September 18, 2017

SCS Graduation Rate Inches Up, Arlington Tops 96 Percent

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools posted a graduation rate of 79.6 percent for the 2016-2017 academic year, up almost a full percentage point from the previous school year. And Arlington Community Schools was one of 43 public school districts in the state with a graduation rate at or above 95 percent.

The 96.8 percent graduation rate for the suburban school system reflects the rate at Arlington High School, according to new state figures released last week.

Shelby County Schools has set a goal of a 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2025. The 79.6 percent figure marks the fourth consecutive year SCS has increased its graduation rate and it compares to a statewide rate of 89.1 percent, which Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen touted as the highest on record. More than half of the state’s local school districts with high schools saw their rates increase last school year.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, in a written statement, said the statewide rate shows efforts by teachers and other educators are making a difference.

“As more students graduate from high school, we are committed to helping them go to college, succeed and become skilled members of Tennessee’s workforce,” he said.

The state-run Achievement School District, with all but two of its takeover schools in Memphis, posted a 12.8 percentage point increase in its graduation rate – 53.2 percent across four high schools and two alternative schools. The ASD is specifically for schools in the bottom 5 percent statewide in terms of student achievement.

Among the other suburban school districts in Shelby County, Bartlett posted a 93.9 percent graduation rate, Collierville 94.5 percent, Germantown 92.8 percent and Millington 85 percent. Each of the suburban systems have one high school. There are two public high schools in the city of Germantown – Germantown and Houston high schools – but Germantown High is a part of Shelby County Schools. Lakeland does not have a graduation rate since it does not have a high school at this point.

Herbert Slatery

Meanwhile, Metro Nashville Schools and Shelby County Schools (SCS) cannot withhold student data from the ASD, according to a legal opinion released Thursday, Sept. 14, by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

Slatery says the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that both school systems have cited for withholding data doesn’t allow them to deny the information to the ASD or to “a chartering authority or a public charter school.” And if a school system has its own policy pursuant to FERPA, it can only deny access to student information temporarily until the school system changes its own policy, according to Slatery’s legal opinion.

FERPA allows parents to opt out of having their child’s information released, and Slatery’s opinion notes the opt-out provision.

Slatery also opined that there is nothing to prevent the ASD or a charter organization from contacting parents directly to tell them more about school options for a child.

The legal opinion was requested by Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen after first Nashville, and then SCS, refused to release the data.

SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson recommended the SCS board follow Nashville’s lead last month based on his ongoing concerns about how the student information is used. In the past, Hopson has cited calls from concerned parents confused about the school choices outlined by charter organizations.

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