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By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Trousdale County High School posted a 92.9 percent graduation rate for the 2017-18 school year, according to figures released Monday by the Tennessee Department of Education.

Trousdale was one of 106 school districts – roughly 81 percent of the state – to have a graduation rate of 90 percent or better. That was up from 98 districts last year.

Trousdale County’s graduation numbers have slipped a bit, however, as the school district had a 97.9 percent graduation rate in 2016-17 and a 95.3 percent rate in 2015-16.

African-American or Hispanic students in Trousdale County graduated at a 90.5 percent rate, while economically disadvantaged students graduated at an 85.7 percent rate, according to the TDOE figures.

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield cited students who drop out after turning 18 as the biggest issue behind Trousdale County’s declining rate. Once a student turns 18, they are no longer compelled by law to attend school.

“In the most recent 2017-18 school year, all but one student that counted against our graduation rate was 18 years of age. This is problematic since these students are no longer bound by compulsory attendance laws,” Satterfield said.

“We are experiencing new challenges at the high school trying to meet both chronic absenteeism and graduation rate indicators. Too often, when 18-year-old seniors are confronted about regular school attendance, they quit coming to school altogether. Neither absences from school nor dropping out are in the long-term best interest of the student or the economy. We need to do a better job articulating that seniors need to finish their schooling while they have the opportunity. Failure to do so costs everyone more down the road.”

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that the 2017-18 high school graduation rate in Tennessee held steady at 89.1 percent, which is the highest on record. More than 56 percent of districts with high schools saw their graduation rates improve when compared to last year.

“Our schools and districts should be proud that once again we have hit our state’s highest graduation rate on record while still holding our students to high expectations,” McQueen said. “By continuing to raise the expectations, we are signaling that Tennessee students are leaving high school with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce. This graduation rate is a testament to the work being done by teachers and students in schools across the state.”

The state transitioned to a more rigorous calculation for graduation rates in 2011, and even under the new criteria, rates have continued to rise.

Additionally, the state raised the bar for graduation expectations when the State Board of Education included participation in the ACT or SAT as a graduation requirement for Tennessee students. This year’s results are the first to reflect this change in accountability.

A complete listing of graduation rates is available online at tn.gov/education.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com. Contributing: Staff reports