US Department of Education statistics for the 2010-2011 school year show that 60 percent of black students and 58 percent of Hispanic students in Georgia graduated within four years, which trails the state's overall 67 percent graduation rate.
Three states _ Minnesota, Nevada and Utah _ had lower graduation rates for Hispanic students than Georgia. Seven states had lower graduation rates for black students. In Georgia, the 76 percent graduation rate for white students trailed all but four other states.
Interviews with educators suggested there are many reasons students fail to graduate, from unplanned pregnancies to a desire by students living in poverty to quit school and get the extra income that even a low-paying job offers. None of those problems are necessarily tied to race.
''The statistics are very disturbing,'' said Sterling Hudson III, a former dean at Morehouse College who runs Child First USA, a nonprofit education group that works with at-risk students. ''With all of the so-called reforms in Georgia, you'd think we'd be doing better.''
One problem is that standards in initial grades are too low, Fulton County Superintendent Robert Avossa said.
''You have a false sense of security all along the way,'' he told the newspaper. ''As they get older, they're not prepared to handle the more rigorous coursework. They can't handle it.''
In Georgia, high school graduates earn more $8,000 more annually than dropouts, according to a 2011 study by the Alliance for Excellent Education. Georgia Superintendent John Barge said not all parents understand that.
''Having been a high school principal, I've heard parents say, 'I didn't finish school, and I'm doing fine,''' he said.