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The high school graduation rate has improved for the third year in a row at Georgia's public schools, climbing to 72.5 percent, the Georgia Department of Education announced Thursday.

Still, that's nothing compared to Trion High School, which saw 97 of its 99 seniors graduate in 2014, for a 98 percent graduation rate. Trion ranked first among all the high schools in the five counties that make up Northwest Georgia.

Dedicated parents play a big part in the school's success, said Mary Myers, who's been a guidance counselor for 20 years at Trion High. Only about 30 percent of the school's students live in the city of Trion, she said, while 70 percent come from elsewhere, including Floyd and Walker counties.

"You have to get up every morning and make that effort to drive to this school," Myers said, since the Trion City School District doesn't provide bus service. "They're the most dedicated parents. That's the primary reason. The second reason is the ... staff we have."

Meanwhile, graduation rates were a mixed bag in the Dalton City School District, which had an 88.4 percent graduation rate at Dalton High School - the fourth-highest in the region - and a 29.3 percent graduation rate at Morris Innovative High School - dead last among area high schools.

Districtwide, the graduation rate was 70.2 percent, below the state average of 72.5 percent.

"We dropped a little bit as a district," Director of School Support Jennifer Phinney said.

District officials just got the results Thursday, she said, and plan to dig into the data to see why the rate declined.

"There's never just a single cause," Phinney said, adding, "One year is not a trend."

Georgia's high school graduation rate has risen 5.1 percentage points since 2011, the Georgia Department of Education said in a statement. This is the fourth year Georgia has calculated its graduation rate using a new formula - known as the adjusted cohort rate - now required by the U.S. Department of Education.

The four-year adjusted graduation rate defines the cohort based on when a student first becomes a freshman; it's calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years.

"Georgia has one of the highest sets of standards in the country for students, so our graduation rate typically doesn't look very good when compared to the nation - but it's simply not an apples-to-apples comparison," state schools Superintendent John Barge said in the statement. "What we're ultimately concerned about in Georgia is that more and more students earn a high school diploma, and we're seeing that happen each year."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

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