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Our view: Top grades even before class starts

Another school year begins for Gwinnett County Public Schools on Monday when students arrive for their first day. While the kids will have to wait a while to receive report cards, the school system enters the new year with an impressive progress report.

A national finalist (one of five) for the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education, the school district will find out Sept. 16 if it has won the prize for having demonstrated the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement. No matter the outcome, GCPS enters the 2009-10 school year with many high marks:

· Ninety-seven percent of its schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, according to the state Department of Education's initial report. And district officials hope the number of schools that meet standards will increase when the summer school graduates and state retest results are included in the final report this fall.

· Twelve schools made Newsweek's list of top schools. The rating system, called the Challenge Index, is determined by dividing the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school by the number of graduating students.

· It has been named a top employer by Black Collegian Magazine, a career and self-development magazine for black college students.

Recognizing the school system's recruiting and retaining practices, the national publication placed the school district on the list of "The Top 100 Employers of the Class of 2009."

Ranked by the publication at No. 14, GCPS joins national organizations such as Microsoft Corp. at No. 15, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. at 13 and Enterprise Rent-A-Car at No. 1. It's the second consecutive year the magazine has recognized the school system.

· The Georgia Association of School Psychologists applauded the work of GCPS psychologists for their service to Gwinnett children, presenting the Psychological Services Department with the "Innovative Practice Award."

While those things are impressive, "We're looking forward to building on the successes we had last year," GCPS chief academic officer Steve Flynt said. "We'll use that as a step to continuous improvement."

So when approximately 159,000 students and the nearly 11,000 educators who will teach them start class on Monday, they'll have a lot to be proud of and a lot to live up to as they look to have another memorable year.