ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — Atlanta Public Schools had some good news to share at a Thursday press conference on graduation rates. The Georgia Department of Education released statewide data showing how districts fared during the pandemic.

School district officials marched their way into the Booker T. Washington High School gym to the sounds of drums, dancing and cheering, before Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring shared why they were celebrating. “The Atlanta Public School System achieved an 83.1 % graduation rate for the cohort 2021,” she announced, following a drum roll. It means APS is closing in on the state graduation rate of 83.7%, and it’s an all time high for the district. “This is the first time in the history of this data tracking that APS has been this close to the state graduation rate,” Herring said.

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They applauded the principals, teachers, students and parents who made it all possible, especially during a pandemic. “So appropriate that we are all here at this historic building, the first high school in Georgia for African American students,” said Herring, referencing the high school’s history dating back to 1924.

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In 2021, 2,557 APS students graduated on time, which is more than any other year since 2012. Eight out of the 17 schools with graduating classes had more student graduate, and Carver S.T.E.A.M. had the largest, with a more than 18% gain. Six schools had graduation rates greater than 90%. “We are so, so proud of how far we’ve come,” said Atlanta Board of Education Vice Chair Eshe’ Collins. There’s still an uphill battle when it comes to the achievement gap and economically disadvantaged students. “This is indicative of the fact that we still have work to do,” said Herring. She says the district’s strategic plans will guide the way in addressing the challenges.

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For now, the district is marching on and looking ahead to more milestones in the years to come.