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Graduation rates continue to climb
Lambert High leads the local charge
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Forsyth County News

The Forsyth County school system continues to raise its graduation rate, jumping nearly 2 percentage points from last year.

About 89.5 percent of local high school seniors graduated in May, up from about 87.8 percent in 2012, according to figures released Wednesday by the state education department. The numbers don’t include students who graduated after completing summer school or meeting other requirements.

“We have continued to make gains,” said School Superintendent Buster Evans. “… We’ve promoted the philosophy that when our kids know that we care about every one of them and their success, they’re going to do better, they’re going to stay with us and they’re going to hang in there.”

Of the system’s five traditional high schools, West Forsyth realized the greatest gains over last year, rising from an 87.6 percent graduation rate to 92.7 percent.

“Our ultimate goal is to have every [West] student be a successful graduate … and our staff is doing everything possible to make this a reality,” said Principal Betty Pope.

Forsyth Central also increased its rate, from 78.8 percent in 2012 to 82.1 percent this year. South Forsyth’s rate rose from about 92.7 percent to 93.8 percent, while North Forsyth remained essentially unchanged at about 82.5 percent.

Lambert’s 98.8 percent rate this year continued to lead not only the county but the state in highest percentage of graduates from a non-magnet school.

“I have a personal goal that one of these days I want 100 percent,” said Lambert Principal Gary Davison. “… And we have a lot of people here working for that same goal.”

Davison said the school’s graduation rate continues to improve because of committed staff members who work with students from the moment they begin high school.

“We run a senior progress process with our counselors and our entire administrative team and all of our teachers,” Davison said. “And we run this same process with our juniors, sophomores and freshmen.”

While it’s an approach that’s worked for Lambert, both Davison and Evans noted each high school is different.

“Every school has to stand alone, in reality,” Evans said. “Not all schools have the same circumstances in their community.”

With a variety of countywide programs such as PROPEL, short for Pathways for Reaching Opportunities in Preparing for Excellence in Life, and the 2400 Challenge, the system has been working toward improving the rate.

PROPEL, an initiative of the school district and Cumming Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, is designed to get businesses and communities involved in working to improve the local graduation rate.

The 2400 Challenge is an effort to lift the district to first in the state on the SAT, on which a perfect score is 2400.

While the differences are minor, Evans noted even a slight percentage increase in the graduate rate is an improvement. “We’ve got to ensure that we continue to raise the level of education attainment in this community,” he said.