Hall County and Gainesville juniors outperformed students across the state in their writing scores for the state graduation test.
In Hall County, 97 percent of first-time test takers met or exceeded the state average, and Gainesville City Schools officials report that 96.6 percent passed at Gainesville High School. The statewide average was 95 percent, according to Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Hall County.
Barron said writing test scores for Hall County are moving in the right direction.
"We're elated that students are writing at this level," she said. "We went up three percentage points from last time."
In September, high school juniors took the Georgia High School Graduation Test, which must be passed to graduate.
The writing portion requires students to write an essay.
Officials from both school systems said writing is being emphasized across curriculums, which likely contributed to the increase.
Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said teachers in subject areas such as math and physical education are also including more writing exercises.
"In the elementary schools, students use a math learning log to write down the process of how they solved the problem," Dyer said. "There are a lot of resources out there for teachers to connect writing to their curriculum."
Barron believes advances in technology are also a factor for writing test scores.
"The technology makes it easier for students to write. It allows them to move ideas around in what they've written and use spell check," she said.
Juniors from Woods Mill High School took the graduation test for the first time this year, Dyer said. The alternative high school in Gainesville opened in August.
About 94 percent of students passed the writing portion, meaning 16 out of 17 students who took the section passed, Dyer said.
"We were very pleased with the results," she said. "At Gainesville, of the 299 students who were tested, only 10 did not pass."
Students who did not pass the test have a chance to retake it in February and again over the summer. There is no limit to the number of times a student can retake the test.
Dyer said the school district will continue to look for improvement in writing.
"The common thing at each school is practice," Dyer said.