Upson Lee High School opened the Ninth Grade Academy in 2011 as a way to ease the transition for students coming up from 8th grade, and to get freshman students quickly on the right track to successfully complete school and graduate.
The ULHS Class of 2015 was the first class to go through the Ninth Grade Academy, and the results are showing the academy, plus the hard work by students and teachers in the upper grades, to be a success. The Georgia Department of Education on November 9 released the high school graduation rates for 2015, and Upson Lee’s graduation rate rose to 85.1 percent, higher than the state average of 78.8 percent and a significant increase over the school’s rate of 69.8 percent in 2014.
“This 2015 graduation rate of 85.1 percent is proof that the programs and initiatives we have put in place are working,” Superintendent Dr. Maggie Shook stated. “A PK-12th grade focus, vertical & horizontal collaborative planning, a mentoring program, early identification of students at risk of failure and/or dropping out, community partnerships, and the ULHS Ninth Grade Academy are just a few examples of the investments we have made to prepare our students for success in high school as well as in college and career. The graduating class of 2015 was the first to come through the ULHS Ninth Grade Academy, and their success shows we are making real progress.”
The academy allows ninth graders to take their core academic courses within a smaller learning community. Highly qualified teachers work closely with one another to ensure that all ninth graders are mastering the demands of the rigorous, college-prep curriculum embodied in the Georgia Performance Standards. In addition, the Ninth Grade Academy offers courses and support initiatives at all levels to ensure that academy students are successful and on-track to graduate at the end of this crucial first year of high school.
Upson-Lee High School’s 85.1 percent graduation rate is the highest in over a decade. In 2005, the ULHS graduation rate was 53.5 percent. In 2011, when the state began calculating the graduation rate using the adjusted cohort rate, ULHS posted a rate of 64.5 percent. All states now use the adjusted cohort rate formula to calculate graduation rate, as required by the U.S. Department of Education.
At the Thomaston-Upson County Board of Education meeting on Nov. 10, board member Leon Fowler congratulated the entire system for the work being done.
“I want to commend the whole system on this graduation rate improvement,” Fowler said. “Certainly the high school teachers and administrators there did a good job, but it takes the whole system to do this sort of thing and I think things are coming together. I just applaud and commend them.”
Board member Jacqueline Hollis echoed Fowler’s sentiments.
“I just want to express how proud I am of Mr. Caldwell and the high school for that significant gain in the graduation rate,” Hollis said. “We want to send kudos to that group over there for their hard work.
Dr. Shook also expressed her appreciation, but added that there is more work still to be done.
“I want to commend our teachers, administrators, staff, students, and their families for their hard work, their focus on the importance of a quality education, and their dedication to success,” Shook said. “We are very encouraged by the 85.1 percent high school graduation rate, but we know that there is still work to be done. We will not rest until every student in the Thomaston-Upson School System graduates from high school ready for college and career. “
Larry Stanford can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.