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Gainesville, East Hall named among top high schools

POSTED: December 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Gainesville and East Hall high schools were awarded bronze medals from U.S. News & World Report magazine in its 2009 ranking of the nation’s best high schools.

Although the schools did not break the magazine’s top 100 gold-medal high schools list, they did rank among the top 26 high schools in Georgia.

The schools join Hall County’s Johnson, North Hall and West Hall high schools, which have made the bronze list in previous years’ rankings.

Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools, said four of Hall County school system’s six high schools have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report due to the system’s emphasis on implementing a rigorous curriculum for every student. He said the system is boasting record numbers of Advanced Placement class offerings and technical college and college dual enrollment course offerings.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s because we continue to stress a rigorous curriculum for all students, and I think that’s paying great dividends," Schofield said. "High expectations go a long way."

School Evaluation Services, a K-12 education data research business run by Standard & Poor’s, determined the rankings by analyzing 21,069 public high schools in 48 states using data from the 2006-07 school year. Schools were ranked based upon students’ college readiness and state test performance criteria.

According to U.S. News & World Report, high schools earned bronze medals based on two criteria measuring how well the school serves all of its students, using state proficiency
standards as guiding benchmarks.

The first step reviews the reading and math results for all students on each state’s high school test. Analysts then factor in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students, who typically score lower, enrolled at the school to find which schools were performing better than their statistical expectations.

The second step determines whether the school’s least-advantaged students, minorities and the economically disadvantaged, were performing better than average for similar students in the state.

Gold award winners were named based on students’ performance on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test data.

Merrianne Dyer, superintendent of Gainesville schools, said Gainesville High is made up of about 78 percent economically disadvantaged students. Jeff Cooper, principal of East Hall High, said about 70 percent of students at his school are economically disadvantaged.

Dyer said the bronze award may mean the Gainesville school system’s concerted effort to increase graduation rates, begun in the 2003-2004 school year, is starting to pay off.

Dyer and Cooper also credit the hard work of students and caring teachers for the awards.

"It’s because 100 percent of the adults who work (at Gainesville High) care about the kids. They care whether they learn. They care whether they develop," Dyer said.

"A lot of this recognition reflects on standardized testing," Cooper said. "It says that the right preparations are being made for students to achieve at the levels the state is shooting for."

The December edition of the magazine that includes the high school rankings was available in stores as of Monday. The report, as well as multimedia, can be viewed on the magazine’s Web site.



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