The Neshoba County School District’s 85.5 percent high school graduation rate remains higher than the state average for the 2016-17 school year while the Philadelphia School District dropped to 75.4 percent, figures released by the Mississippi Department of Education show.

The state’s graduation rate reached an all-time high of 83 percent. Mississippi’s rate is just one point shy of the national graduation rate of 84 percent.

The Neshoba County School District’s graduation rates for the two previous years were at 85.3 percent and 87 percent.

Superintendent of Education Lundy Brantley called his district’s 85.5 percent “a strong graduation rate. Obviously, at some point we want to make it over 90 percent.”

One way Neshoba officials hope to improve their rate is with an additional counselor on staff the next school year.

“We have a summer school credit recovery program and we are going to extend that to the middle school this summer,” Brantley said. “We are going on a block schedule next year and this will give students who are behind a better opportunity to get caught up. Graduation rates are a real challenge.”

The Philadelphia School District’s graduation rates for the two previous years were at 90.3 percent and 78.1 percent.

Superintendent Lisa Hull said her school district has set up different things to bring the graduation rate back up including additional tutoring and online programs for any student who has failed the state test.

“Our children went in and really worked on the online program,” Hull said. “We provided them computers with access to the Internet and a school staff member to help them along. The ones who really worked on it actually passed their state test so they will be able to graduate in May.”

High school teachers volunteered their time to tutor students, some before school and some after school, Hull said.

“They volunteered and tried to help students with specific subjects,” she said.

Another thing Hull is excited about is the school district’s new partnership with Families First.

We are in a different component with Families First,” she said. “They do some things to help children to be able to meet the graduation requirements. We are excited about the opportunity for our children to have a different option to be able to earn a high school diploma. I am super excited about that.”

Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, said school districts have implemented multiple ways for students to earn a diploma, and that parents, teachers and administrators should be proud of the class of 2017’s significant achievement.

“I congratulate our school districts for ensuring that students are completing high school successfully, so they can pursue their goals in college, postsecondary training, the military or workforce,” Wright said. “A diploma is key to success in life after high school.”

The state’s drop-out rate dipped for the fourth consecutive year to 10.6 percent from 13.9 percent in 2014 percent as school districts worked to help students to stay in school.

The Mississippi State Board of Education approved new diploma options that will go into effect in the 2018-19 school year that will give students the opportunity to earn an endorsement with their high school diploma and will provide the majority of students with disabilities an opportunity to earn a traditional diploma.

The new diploma options include a traditional diploma for all students and an alternate diploma option for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Students will also have the opportunity to earn additional requirements to qualify for a traditional diploma with a Career and Technical Education (CTE) endorsement, an academic endorsement or a distinguished academic endorsement. Students can earn more than one endorsement.

Graduation rates for 2016-17 will be reflected in the accountability ratings for the 2017-18 school year. View the 2018 Graduation Rate Report at