SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — With an 89.1% graduation rate in 2023, students and parents within the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) have something to celebrate.
According to Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Bernadette Ball-Oliver, SCCPSS has been on an upward trajectory for eight years with its graduation rate, but it has not always been that way.
“I remember my own high school being below 60% and some of that is due to the change in how the graduation rate is calculated many years ago,” said Ball-Oliver, who also served as a principal, “but it was also in the support structures and what we did to actually support students.”
She credits the success in part to the scheduling system, called the master schedule, where students are assigned four classes a day and eight classes a semester. She said it is designed to make sure students of all skill levels succeed.
“It helps support our students who may be experiencing some challenges who might be quite able to finish their courses the first time and may need some additional support mastering the standards, so we have that cushion that’s there to support them, but the same token allows students to do more advanced placement courses and dual enrollment,” said Ball-Oliver.
She also credits the increased success to the implementation of the SWARM system, which stands for student withdrawal and record monitoring, and says it is a way to more accurately and efficiently streamline and analyze data.
“It’s how we literally track every single graduate from the time they enter 9th grade. Now we monitor all of our students, but as a high school principal, when they enter 9th grade, I could track that cohort to determine what support structures I need for students, and what accelerations I need for students who are excelling and doing well.”
Most of all, Ball-Oliver credits the teachers and administrators for the success.
“Our best, best, best tool would be the teachers in the building and the administrators, and what those teachers are doing to support those students in the classroom.”
She told News 3 that they often act as both educators and advisors by offering tutorials and helping students personally craft their schedules.
With report cards just being released, the second part of the first semester has just begun for SCCPSS and wraps up on Dec. 15.