Most school systems throughout metro Atlanta had their graduation ceremonies over the past couple of weeks as these recent graduates prepare for the next stage in their lives. Many will go to a four-year college, some will go to a technical college and others won’t enroll in any post-secondary institution and instead will jump directly into the workforce. Some won’t even do this.

Until recently, it was hard to know exactly what happened to students after high school. But thanks to a fantastic new tool developed by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), we can now see what happens to high school graduates a year or several years later after tossing their mortar boards into the air. We can even see this by individual high schools.

For this post, we will focus on the five core counties and the nine core school districts. These include the five county systems of Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett and the four city systems of Atlanta, Buford, Decatur and Marietta. For all high school graduates in these systems, 73 percent will enroll in some sort of post-secondary institution, 13 percent will not enroll in post-secondary but instead will enter the workforce, while another 14 percent will not enroll in post-secondary anywhere in the nation and will not be on the payroll in Georgia. This latter group is appropriately dubbed  “unknown” by GOSA. Chart 1 breaks down the numbers.

HS graduation outcomes

Chart 2, below, shows the same information, but this time by the individual districts. As to be expected, there are differences among the outcomes of high school graduates by district, with the City Schools of Decatur placing the most graduates into some sort of post-secondary institution. Decatur also has the highest percentage of graduates who leave the state to attend college. Interestingly, the two systems in Cobb County (Cobb and Marietta) place a relatively high percentage of students into Georgia technical colleges, which suggests that these systems place an emphasis on vocational and technical tracks.

HS graduate outcomes by district in metro Atlanta

In addition to having data on what happens to graduates directly out of high school, GOSA also tracks students longitudinally several years after getting the diploma.  Chart 3 below shows what has happened with the graduating classes in the five core counties of 2009 five years on. As you see, after five years, 29 percent of the graduating class of 2009 had earned a bachelor’s degree, three percent had earned an associate’s degree, and another three percent or so had earned some other type post-secondary credential, like a master’s degree or a certificate.

Highest Postsecondary Credential Earned After Five Years Class of 2009 (Five Core Atlanta Counties)

Again, Chart 4, below, shows the same information, but this time by the individual districts. The City Schools of Decatur and Fulton County have the highest percentages of 2009 graduates who had earned a bachelor’s degree in five years. But, as the chart shows, more than 50 percent of 2009 graduates in all districts still have not earned a post-secondary credential after five years, although some are still trying.

high school graduates after five years, metro atlanta

Of course we grabbed these data from GOSA, put them into Neighborhood Nexus, and made maps out of them because we are a bunch of map nerds. While not every high school in the area had data, we mapped most of them. Map 1 shows, by school, the percentage of 2009 graduates who had earned a bachelor’s degree within five years. As you can see, there is a definite spatial pattern, with the best performing schools on this measure clustered in the north. And, actually, there is a spatial pattern to almost everything we map, driven mostly by income. Check out Map 2 below to see what we mean.

map of atlanta area schools, graduate progress after five yearsatlanta area maps showing correlation between graduate outcomes and neighborhood income levels