State's High School Graduation Rate Jumps in Georgia; Gov. Sonny Perdue Credits the Graduation Coaches Program for the Increase

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Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

MARIETTA - With graduation rates up by nine percentage points since the beginning of his first term in 2003, Gov. Sonny Perdue said he believed the state could reach a rate of 80 percent by the time he prepares to step down in 2010.

Speaking to a gym full of students at Marietta High School in suburban Atlanta, Perdue announced that the state's graduation rate for the 2006-07 school year was 72.3 percent, up from 63.3 percent when he took office.

"Education is a big ship to turn around," Perdue told the students. "And these kinds of results are rarely seen so quickly."

According to Perdue, 2,272 fewer students dropped out of high school last year than did the year before, despite an overall growth in the student population.

He gave credit to the graduation coaches that were placed in high schools in an initiative he pushed through the General Assembly in 2006. This year, the plan was extended to middle schools.

"I do attribute a lot of the success to a program that's only 1 year old," Perdue told reporters after the speech.

The governor stressed the economic importance of encouraging more students to graduate, saying that when Georgia tries to recruit companies to locate in the state, "the quality of our workforce is the real bottom line. …