ATLANTA--Federal education officials say Georgia has a high school graduation rate of 67 percent among all students, ranking it behind all of its neighboring states.

The U.S. Department of Education released the data this week. It details four-year high school graduation rates in 2010-11 - the first year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure.

Federal officials say varying methods of graduation rates states used previously were unreliable for state-by-state comparisons.

However, education officials said in a statement that the new data released Monday allow for such comparisons and can be used by states, districts and schools to promote greater accountability and increase graduation rates.

The Georgia Department of Education released its state numbers back in April. This week marked the first time its graduation rate could be compared with other states. State superintendent John Barge said, while the numbers for Georgia looked bleak, the state's graduation rate had actually improved from year to year.

Barge also questioned whether the new data is truly an exact comparison. He said states can still fudge the numbers, despite the new standardized formula, and added he believed Georgia was more transparent and honest with its numbers than other states.

Among states bordering Georgia, Tennessee scored highest with an overall rate of 86 percent, followed by North Carolina at 78 percent.

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