The school district tutors students in small groups through its Advancement Via Individual Determination program to help them recover from learning losses caused by the disruption of the pandemic. (FCS)

A homeless student’s success in graduating on time is part of the story of how Riverwood High School posted a graduation rate considerably higher than the Fulton County Schools district as a whole.

Riverwood’s 97.5 percent graduation rate – an increase of 4 points over the previous year – surpassed the 89.3 percent FCS average. The district average rose 1.6 percent over 2021 and was 5.2 percent higher than the state average.

The FCS academics framework consists of “three big rocks,” relationships and routines, tier one instruction and a robust collection of interventions for students, Zone 7 Superintendent Kibbey Crumbley said.

When the tier-one instruction by teachers isn’t enough, targeted supports are implemented as an intervention. She said these include credit recovery, extended learning, small group tutoring, and summer school.

Zone 7 Superintendent Kibbey Crumbley (FCS)

She detailed one success story using this intervention strategy from Riverwood.

“High school counselors reported that if it were not for the opportunities extended by the district during and after the pandemic, one student, in particular, would not be a high school graduate today,” Crumbley said.

The student was homeless and struggled throughout his time at Riverwood. The challenges of the pandemic caused him to fall further behind so when he started his senior year, he had 12 previously failed or incomplete classes to recover.

“His fate for graduation was uncertain and his counselor and graduation coach knew that he would need every opportunity to ensure the possibility of reaching an on-time graduation,” Crumbley said.

The Riverwood team enrolled him in extended learning and used the FCS Advancement Via Individual Determination program to help him. The school’s graduation coach worked with him to help recover his previously failed courses, even staying up late to monitor his online work. When he struggled, the student’s counselor gave him pep talks and motivation to keep working. The Riverwood team brainstormed and gave him encouragement and support with the help of a teacher mentor.

“A once struggling Riverwood senior beat the odds and graduated on time,” she said.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.