Greenbrier High School might soon become a model for other Georgia high schools on effective methods to improve graduation rates.
Last week, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education recognized Greenbrier High as one of 15 Georgia schools that have excelled at graduating their students on time.
"What we want (are for) low-performing schools to learn from these schools," said Donna O'Neal during a Thursday press conference in Atlanta.
An education consultant, O'Neal researched graduation rates and wrote a report for the Georgia Partnership on common techniques used by schools producing the most on-time graduates. The agency intends to share that report with other high schools to use as a guide.
The graduation rate measures the number of high school students graduating in four years. It is a benchmark statistic most high schools use to determine Adequate Yearly Progress as outlined by the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.
Last year, Greenbrier posted an 88 percent graduation rate.
Though online courses and credit recovery programs were tools used to bring up the graduation rate, the largest factor in the school's success was building relationships between at-risk students and counselors, said Greenbrier graduation coach Terri Duncan.
"We want them to see there are always options," Duncan said of Greenbrier students. "Some of the options may not be easy and may take more time, but we can get them to see the light at the end of the tunnel if we can establish that relationship with them."
Relationship building will play a large role in methods the Georgia Partnership recommends to other schools, Duncan said.
"If kids feel like they're wanted, that there is hope, they're more likely to stay in school," she said.
Greenbrier Principal Margie Hamilton said her school's graduation rate is indicative of a changing culture there.
"We've set our sights on being well-rounded," Hamilton said. "We were kind of an athletic Mecca when we first started. Now, to me, we're much more well-rounded by focusing on our academics."
Hamilton said that last year the school was recognized by Gov. Sonny Perdue for improved SAT scores, and recently by Sen. Johnny Isakson for its high participation and pass rate among students taking advanced placement courses.
Much of the school's success, Hamilton said, stems from the efforts of counselors and graduation coaches, and also from planning efforts by teachers.
"We started paying great attention to being sure if one teacher had a bag of magic that it was being shared," she said. "That's made a big difference."
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