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Buford, Loganville schools honored for graduation rates

BUFORD -- Buford High School is one of 15 schools in Georgia recognized for its work in improving graduation rates over the past several years.

The 15 schools have improved their graduation rates noticeably over a relatively short period of time and graduate comparatively large percentages of students, according to a report released by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.

The report, "Commonalities of Georgia's 85/10 High Schools," is an analysis of high schools that had a graduation rate of at least 85 percent in 2008, increased the graduation rate by at least 10 percentage points from 2004 to 2008, and sustained the improvement through 2009.

"When we started to look at the numbers, a group of schools stood out," said Steve Dolinger, president of the Georgia Partnership. "It was apparent they were following winning formulas."

Dolinger said various strategies were used by the "85/10" schools, but mutually dependent commonalities emerged. For example:

* Each school has a culture of high expectations for all and support for students who are struggling academically.

* The schools provide an integrated system of curriculum, assessment and instruction.

* Multiple safety nets of intervention are provided for students who need them.

* Administrators and teachers routinely collaborate to create innovative approaches to ensure challenging courses and effective practices.

* They use continuous improvement processes such as working in teams and using data to inform decisions.

"Education is a very complicated process, yet these schools have an atmosphere of continually improving the factors that are necessary to improve graduation rates," said Donna O'Neal, who conducted the study for the Georgia Partnership. "They have very high expectations for students and faculty alike, and they provide additional instruction and supports to ensure all students graduate on time."

From 2004 to 2009, Buford High's graduation rate increased from 66.3 percent to 87.7 percent, or 21.4 percentage points.

The other schools on the list are Gilmer High School in Ellijay, Grady High School in Atlanta, Greenbrier High School in Evans, Hardaway High School in Columbus, Houston County High School in Warner Robins, Loganville High School, Lumpkin County High School in Dahlonega, Mays High School in Atlanta, Perry High School, Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Riverwood International Charter High School in Atlanta/Sandy Springs, Union County High School in Blairsville, Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School in Washington and Westlake High School in Atlanta.

The Georgia Partnership is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on improving student achievement.

To view the detailed report, visit www.gpee.org.