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Report: Forsyth County high schools among best in state, nation
South Forsyth High School students, shown here storming the field last fall after a big War Eagle football victory, have something else to celebrate. The 2016 Best High Schools rankings by U.S. News and World Report listed the school as 16th in Georgia and 513th nationally. Lambert and West also were ranked. - photo by FCN file photo

FORSYTH COUNTY — Three high schools in Forsyth County were named in the top 25 in Georgia, and four earned national recognition, according to an annual ranking by the U.S. News and World Report.

The 2016 Best High Schools rankings included South Forsyth, Lambert and West Forsyth high schools, as well as the iAchieve Virtual Academy.

“These students and teachers are achieving excellence in their state assessments, graduation rates and AP and/or IB data,” said School Superintendent Jeff Bearden.

A total of 19,908 public high schools had a 12th-grade enrollment high enough to be reviewed throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

They were judged based on how well they serve all of their students — not just those who are college bound — and how well they produce “measurable academic outcomes to prove it is successfully educating its students” across a range of performance indicators.

New this year to the rankings was a focus on graduation rates.

“High schools that make it past the first two steps of the methodology, which remain unchanged … now have to meet or exceed a national standard high school graduation rate to be considered top-performing schools,” according to the U.S. News and World Report.

Gold medals were awarded to schools ranked from No. 1 to No. 500 in the nation. Silver medals ranged from No. 501 to No. 2,673, and an additional 3,545 high schools were awarded bronze medals but were not nationally ranked by number.

All gold and silver medals were then ranked by state based where they fell nationally.

Of the 447 high schools in the state, 99 received a gold or silver medal and were, therefore, ranked nationally. The breakdown of levels awarded in Georgia includes 15 gold, 43 silver and 41 bronze medals.

The top five were the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, Columbus High School, DeKalb School of the Arts, Savannah Arts Academy and Davidson Magnet School.

South finished No. 16 statewide, Lambert 22nd and West 24th. They all received silver medals.

South placed 513th nationally, with a graduation rate of 94 percent in 2014.

“It is rewarding for the hard work and dedication of an outstanding staff and the incredible efforts of our students to be acknowledged,” said Laura Wilson, principal at South.

“As a school, our attention to rigorous instruction engages and challenges the students to think critically and develop a global perspective, and it is nice to see the benefits of our practice.”

One of the factors that played into the rankings was a college readiness index, which was calculated based on the number of seniors in the 2013-14 school year who tested and passed Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams.

The top schools in the nation had a college readiness index of 100.

All five traditional public high schools in Forsyth had a college readiness index above the Georgia average, though iAchieve did not test enough students to have one calculated.

South’s index was measured at 55.2 — with 65 percent of seniors participating in AP coursework and exams — and its student-to-teacher ratio was 18:1.

Lambert, which was ranked 691st nationally, had a graduation rate of 98 percent in the study year.

With a college readiness index of 50.1, the AP participation rate was 61 percent.

“The Lambert High School community is proud of the hard work of our students and staff,” Principal Gary Davison said. “There are countless ways that the parents, students and staff work to support a committed goal toward all kids achieving at their highest potential. I am personally proud of all of their dedication.”

The rankings showed a 19-to-1 student-teacher ratio.

West came in at No. 709 in the nation, with a graduation rate of 90 percent, a student-to-teacher of 18:1 and a college readiness index of 49.7, including a 59 percent participation in AP.

“West is honored to be recognized as one of the best high schools in Georgia and our nation,” said the school’s principal, Heather Gordy. “This recognition is a direct reflection of the effort and work that our students and teachers put forth each and every day.”

The iAchieve Virtual Academy does not have enough students enrolled to be considered for a college readiness index or other rubrics, but it did receive a bronze medal recognition for a graduation rate of 68 percent.