Laney's graduation rate surges in 2009

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Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden called it one of the most embarrassing statistics -- 31 percent.

The 31 percent graduation rate for the Laney High School Class of 2008 was the lowest of any traditional public school in Georgia.

But that was last year.

Laney, a small inner-city high school steeped in history, saw its graduation rate surge 25 points, and most of the Class of 2009 completed school with a diploma.

"I think that's huge," Dr. Bedden said. "We're absolutely ecstatic about it."

Hawthorne Welcher, who retired as Laney's principal last month, called the school's progress "significant, quite significant."

"I'm pleased with the young people," Dr. Welcher said. "We accepted that challenge that was put before us."

He attributed Laney's success to coordinated efforts on multiple fronts, including an after-school program, credit recovery and consultants such as Frank Roberson, a former Aiken County assistant superintendent.

"This was not a fluke that this happened," Dr. Welcher said. "This happened on purpose."

Staff members were even able to draw former dropouts back to complete their work, he said.

"The young people are more than capable," Dr. Welcher said. "They just need to put their mind to it."

Dr. Roberson, now the superintendent of Marlboro County schools in South Carolina, said dropouts were asked why they left school. They learned that the former students lost interest in class and thought teachers didn't care about them.

"They were confusing that with teachers wanting them to be more successful and holding them to certain standards," he said.

Laney's leadership team met weekly for strategic planning sessions and developed ways to engage students and keep them focused, Dr. Roberson said. One technique was making the material relevant to students -- for example, teaching Shakespeare and literary devices through the use of music popular among high school students.

"I think it's the beginning of a process that is going to show even more impressive results when teachers realize what they did worked," Dr. Roberson said. "There's nothing more rewarding than seeing that level of success among students."

School board member Venus Cain, whose district includes Laney, said she was at a loss for words.

"I think it's awesome. It's cool. It's just awesome. I'm speechless," she said. "A lot of work was put in over there, and it's paying off."

Dr. Bedden said he wants to change the image of the school for the sake of its namesake.

Lucy C. Laney was one of Georgia's "most influential educational leaders," who started the first school in the city for black children.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (21) Add comment
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HillGuy
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HillGuy 07/16/09 - 01:55 am
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Sounds like Grade inflation

Sounds like Grade inflation to me.

Just My Opinion
5456
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Just My Opinion 07/16/09 - 04:33 am
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56%? Well, I guess that IS

56%? Well, I guess that IS better than 31%. Now, I'm not trying to douse their fire here, but how many of those kids that graduated were kids who were held back last year, or even the year before? My point is that those kids, if they even stayed in school, are much older and SHOULD be more mature this time around to focus on their studies and graduate. Regardless, glad to see this improvement.

colcamp1
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colcamp1 07/16/09 - 06:29 am
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O knew you fools would be on

O knew you fools would be on here early in the morning with your denigrating remarks. You have one idiot that is obviously the product of incest, on here daily making disparaging remarks about Richmond County and Blacks in general. That person is obviously so in need of an esteem booster. You will away be a low life, regardless of where you live.

Grammy
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Grammy 07/16/09 - 07:06 am
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Thanks Dr. Welcher for your

Thanks Dr. Welcher for your leadership. This county will surely miss you!!

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 07/16/09 - 07:44 am
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being black myself, it not

being black myself, it not making fun of, it's realizing there is a crisis when it comes to the education within the black community, priorities must be set placing education above anything else. one will see where the priorities are in richmond county when a few years ago with laney's graduation rate less than 30% a brand new multi-million dollar football stadium was built when that money could have been used to hire or retain teachers or for that matter insure there are enuff textbooks for all students in all classes. my question since laney did not pass the crct is how many of the 56% graduates can actually read, comprehend and understand material on a 12th grade or high school graduate level...but colcamp i guess the only thing you are worried about is seeing your laney high football games come the fall...but just remember this there are a greater percentage of black males who don't finish high school in richmond county than black males who don't finishe high school in the entire school district of the city of detroit michigan...actually richmond county has the 6th highest drop out rate for black males in the ENTIRE country regardless of the size of the school.....j

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 07/16/09 - 07:45 am
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With just the beginning of

With just the beginning of efforts by Dr Bedden, Laney has improved greatly. This type of improvement was possible 20 years ago, but we had Lark. This is just the beginning. With an extended effort, maybe the subsidy attitude can be overcome. Congrats to all of those involved in this improvement.

justus4
99
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justus4 07/16/09 - 08:15 am
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The article is poorly worded
Unpublished

The article is poorly worded and the context appears slanted. The first part about last year's performance is misplaced because those facts are not the most important. The increase in graduation should have lead the story-not what happened in the past. Great job by the faculity and administrators at Laney, and lets hope these numbers can improve throughout the district.

LadyCisback
4
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LadyCisback 07/16/09 - 08:20 am
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black people are not the only

black people are not the only ones with issues!!

ladyjanegrey
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ladyjanegrey 07/16/09 - 09:14 am
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wow justus you mean the

wow justus you mean the "past" is not important?......imagine that!

justbeasy
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justbeasy 07/16/09 - 11:34 am
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Welcher didn't want to

Welcher didn't want to retire...he was forced out!!! Now look what happens and I understand he had a new instructional AP, they did a good job. Looks like central may have jumped the gun...I hope this new lady..who has had trouble in the past, can keep it up. We shall see...Keep it up, we are in the right direction. Proud Laney Alum!!!

citizen0226
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citizen0226 07/16/09 - 12:50 pm
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American education has

American education has reached new lows when we are proud of a 56% graduation rate. Granted it may be better than 31%, but the fact of the matter is that almost half the kids who enter this school as freshmen do not graduate. Parents like to blame schools and school systems, when in fact they should be blaming themselves. A pathetic 56% percent graduation rate reflects the failures of 44% of Laney parents/guardians/whathaveyou to live up to their responsibilities. I know many ignorant fools out there will automatically play the race card. Come on folks, stop feeling expecting pity from the rest of us and pull yourself out of the poophole you've gotten yourselves into.

Lumbarsupport
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Lumbarsupport 07/16/09 - 02:50 pm
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This is a clear indication

This is a clear indication that President Obama's plans are startng to have an effect on our country. Thanks be to him.

Just My Opinion
5456
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Just My Opinion 07/16/09 - 03:50 pm
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You know, I remember awhile

You know, I remember awhile back there was a TV show that spotlighted education in black schools, and they took 2 girls, both of whom would be their inner-city school's valedictorians, and placed them in a suburban school's advance placement classes for one week. It became painfully obvious that both girls struggled and realized that they were academically far behind their peers in this suburban school, which BTW, was pretty equally mixed race-wise. Also, this was happening in Chicago, NOT the South! Now, take that for what it is and draw your own conclusions because there are plenty to be had!

bone
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bone 07/16/09 - 03:53 pm
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justus says to quit living in

justus says to quit living in the past LOL

HillGuy
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HillGuy 07/16/09 - 04:01 pm
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Just My Opinion.. I agree..

Just My Opinion.. I agree.. basically what I said at the beginning.. this looks like grade inflation not some magical miracle of achievement.

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 07/16/09 - 05:24 pm
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citizen, as a black man i

citizen, as a black man i agree with you 100%, and to add to your stats, augusta ranks 6th in the ENTIRE nation in terms of the percentage of black males not graduation from high school, a higher percentage than the entire school dist of detroit michigan...there is a crisis regarding education in the black community but i have found here in georgia/richmond county more emphasis is placed on sports that academics...there is no justification to spend millions of dollars for and un ecessary football stadium for a school at the time had a graduation rate of less than 30%, in addition in some clases not even having enuff textbooks for every student. i find the decsions made by the school board asinine at best. but every now and then you will hear venus cain schreech "for the children" when it comes time to waste more of the scarce property tax dollars entrusted to them by the poor property owners.

Jazzzy714
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Jazzzy714 07/16/09 - 05:59 pm
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wow! im so impressed. i didnt

wow! im so impressed. i didnt know this and i graduated with the class of 2009 at laney. reading this story made me feel even more proud of my school. im glad to be apart of something like this. i just hope that for everyone who didnt get their diploma to keep trying and for those who did to continue to further their education. congratulations once again class of 2009!!!

Jazzzy714
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Jazzzy714 07/16/09 - 06:08 pm
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may i also add that i was

may i also add that i was never kept back a grade in school. im proud to say that i was 17 with my diploma.

HillGuy
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HillGuy 07/16/09 - 06:16 pm
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jisomjr.. if you live in

jisomjr.. if you live in Richmond County.. you need to seriously consider running for the school board.. that body is in dire need of wisdom like yours.

GuyGene
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GuyGene 07/16/09 - 09:53 pm
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Congratulations Laney! Sure,

Congratulations Laney! Sure, 56% is still too low, but to have come from 31% is something. Now, Laney teachers, students, parents - you CAN do it! Go for your education, work hard and you will be rewarded.

- from an old educator

Mulanrouge25
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Mulanrouge25 07/17/09 - 12:26 am
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Jazzzy714 You should be so

Jazzzy714 You should be so proud of yourself! What a great accomplishment and Congratulations to you and the rest of your graduating class! Let's hope the upcoming senior class will follow in the same path and next years graduating percentage will be even higher!! Way To Go!!

blackambiance79
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blackambiance79 07/18/09 - 06:57 am
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It's very interesting to me

It's very interesting to me how folks have a strong opinion about everything but don't know all of the issues. "The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" I am a realist... I acknowledge the difficulty but still desire to search and seize the opportunity. Laney has made significant improvements. It's easy to judge things from the outside looking in. However, when you experience day in and day out what these kids go through, what the teachers go through, then you will see why we have something to scream and shout about. Sure...the work isn't done... far from it... I didn't read anywhere in that article where it states that Laney had arrived. Laney is improving. Isn't that what we all want? I've read many comments on here in the past and it's quite and apparent to me that there many grown children making comments about things they are either partial to or just ignorant about altogether. Remember the quote by Abraham Lincoln, "We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it."

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