3 Muscogee County schools honored for progress in Title I program

Muscogee County Public Education Center
Muscogee County Public Education Center

Three schools in Muscogee County are among the 243 in the state to be honored this year as a Title I Reward School for academic performance or progress despite a significant percentage of students coming from low-income families.

The fiscal year 2017 Title I Reward Schools in Muscogee County schools are Early College Academy, Gentian Elementary School and Reese Road Leadership Academy, the Georgia Department of Education announced. Early College was Muscogee County’s only Title I Reward School in fiscal year 2016.

Reward Schools come in two categories:

▪ Highest-Performing Schools are among the top 5 percent of Title I schools with the best scores during the past three years on the state’s standardized tests.

▪ Highest-Progress Schools are among the 10 percent of the state’s Title I schools making the most improvement during the past three years on the state’s standardized tests.

Schools are disqualified if they were identified as a Priority School or a Focus School. Priority Schools are among the state’s lowest 5 percent of Title I schools in academic achievement. Focus Schools are among the state’s lowest 10 percent of Title I schools academic achievement gap, which measures the difference between the school’s bottom quartile of students and the state average as well as how fast that gap is closing.

This year’s Title I Reward Schools in Georgia comprise 162 Highest-Performing Schools and 81 Highest-Progress Schools. Early College, Gentian and Reese Road are Highest-Progress Schools.

In an emailed interview, Gentian principal Jessica Burnett told the Ledger-Enquirer, “We are absolutely honored to be recognized. Every day is a new adventure. Our teachers face so many obstacles daily, and we are ecstatic to see the results of hard work pay off in student achievement. Gentian is truly blessed to have an awesome faculty and staff that cares for students.”

Gentian’s score on the 100-point College and Career Ready Performance Index, the state’s overall measurement of school performance, has soared from 59.5 in 2012 to 87.0 in 2016. Asked what initiatives the school implemented to make such significant progress, Burnett said “the most dynamic initiative ... is teachers collaborating and talking about teaching. So many see teaching as an individual activity, when in reality it’s a team effort to design lessons, teach students and evaluate student progress.

“Our district provides schools with so many great resources for the classroom. Gentian takes many of these resources and utilizes them to the fullest. We focus on individual progress for students. Each student is different and deserves for us to educate and serve them in an individual way.”

The Ledger-Enquirer didn’t reach the principals at Early College and Reese Road for comment before Thursday’s deadline.

In other Columbus area school districts, Chattahoochee County Education Center is a Title I Reward School for Highest Progress. ChattCo’s CCRPI has zoomed from 68.9 in 2014 to 89.5 in 2016.

“We are both humbled and proud to be recognized as a 2017 Title I Reward School,” ChattCo principal Kenyada Heard told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Thursday. “The collaborative efforts of our faculty, staff, parents, students and community have contributed to our school's success. It is an honor to have this distinction be a representation of the fruits of our labor.”

Heard credits “the consistency and fidelity with which our faculty and staff provide standards-based instruction. Standards-based instruction guides the planning, implementation and assessment of our students’ learning. Our faculty and staff’s use of standards to streamline instruction ensures that instructional practices deliberately focus on specific learning targets.”

Also contributing to the progress, Heard said, the school has been “building and nurturing the relationships with our students. Understanding how are students function allows our faculty and staff to further individualize their curriculum and find creative ways to help students successfully grasp the material.”

Troup County has six Title I Reward Schools, all elementary schools: Hollis Hand and Rosemont for Highest Performing; Berta Weathersbee, Hogansville, Long Cane and West Point for Highest Progress. Mountain View Elementary School in Meriwether County is on the Highest Progress list, and Schley County Elementary School is on the Highest Performing list.

Thirty-seven of the Muscogee County School District’s 53 schools are in the Title I program, as are 1,623 of the 2,292 public schools in Georgia. Title I schools may receive extra federal funding, called targeted assistance, if at least 35 percent of their students are identified as eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch. That means only those qualified students can receive services funded by the Title I money, such as remedial instruction or intervention programs. The poverty threshold is 40 percent for school-wide Title I funding, meaning all students at that school may receive services funded by Title I.

For this school year in Georgia, the annual household income limit for a family of four is $31,590 for free lunch and $44,955 for reduced-price lunch to qualify for the program. Title I combines those two categories to define the poverty rate at each school.

The GaDOE also announced its four Title I Reward Districts, honoring the school systems with the best overall academic performance among its Title I schools during the past three years: Forsyth County, large district (10,000 or more students); Oconee County, medium district (4,000 to 9,999 students); Jefferson City, small district (2,000 to 3,999 students); Chickamauga City, extra small district (fewer than 2,000 students). Each of the Title I Reward Districts receives $25,000 in additional federal funding.