Decatur schools boast highest graduation rate, fastest growth in metro Atlanta

The City of Decatur now has two new titles to brag about — it features the fastest-growing school district with the highest graduation rate in metro Atlanta.

In 2015, schools in the City of Decatur graduated an impressive 97.1 percent of its eligible students, according to a report released by the Atlanta Regional Commission. This was the highest graduation rate in metro Atlanta, above the City of Buford and Fayette County, who both fell behind at 92 percent. Decatur came in fourth place in the state of Georgia for its graduation rate, only a fraction lower than the first-place City of Chickamauga with a graduation rate of 97.3 percent.

While it is important to note that Decatur only has one high school for all of its students, the district's graduation rate has steadily increased from 88.4 percent in 2010 to its current level, according to data from the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.

Student enrollment in Decatur City schools increased by 67.3 percent from 2010 to 2015, the highest increase in the metro Atlanta area and the second-highest in Georgia. Decatur held a significant margin over the runner-up, again the City of Buford with an increase of 35 percent.

Over the course of those five years while student enrollment was rapidly expanding, the population of Decatur only increased by 12.1 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. City Schools of Decatur's enrollment increased by 1,955 students from 2010 to 2015.

"We’ve been asked for many years about the reason why our enrollment has grown," said Courtney Burnett, the communications director for City Schools of Decatur. She has been in her position for four years and has witnessed much of the growth.

"I think it’s a combo of the schools and the city together," she said. "They have done a really great job of making this a really livable town ... and we have great programs here, great staff."

Burnett also attributes the growth to Decatur's smaller school system compared to Atlanta Public Schools and other nearby districts. Another feature that may attract families to the area is the structure. With one high school, one middle school and the 4/5 Academy, students attend classes together with the same peers from the fourth grade until they graduate.

"We just have a really great school system," Burnett said.

Other school districts with the highest increase in enrollment in metro Atlanta included Forsyth County, the City of Gainesville and the City of Marietta.