Muscogee County has one of Georgia’s 2018 Distinguished Title I Schools

Muscogee County Public Education Center
Muscogee County Public Education Center

A Muscogee County school is among Georgia’s highest-performing when it comes to educating students from low-income families this past year.

Early College Academy of Columbus is one of the 84 Title I Distinguished Schools for 2018. The Georgia Department of Education announced the prestigious list Tuesday.

“After receiving this news, through my elation and joy, I personally congratulated our staff and paused to thank God, who has truly blessed me,” Early College principal Michael Forte said in the Muscogee County School District’s news release. “We are very appreciative of this honor and realize that we have a unique setting that allows us to maximize the learning opportunities for our students. We would like to thank everyone who has recognized our school for this achievement.”

Forte succeeded Early College’s founding principal, Susan Willard, who retired in May 2017.

Early College is a 12-year-old total magnet school, meaning it doesn’t have an attendance zone, so students from anywhere in the district can apply. As of October’s state enrollment count, 124 students in grades 9-12 were attending Early College. They can earn college credit while still in high school through the dual enrollment program.

MCSD superintendent David Lewis told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Tuesday, “I commend the Early College administration, faculty, staff, students, parents and community partners for their hard work leading to this prestigious honor. . . . This recognition reflects the ongoing focus and commitment that the Early College Academy community has placed on assisting students to achieve at high levels and prepare them for postsecondary success.”

This past year, Early College expanded its dual enrollment menu, adding Columbus Technical College and Georgia Military College to the Columbus State University option.

“By doing so, it created a culture of expectations with a natural byproduct being success,” Forte told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Tuesday.

Title I Distinguished Schools are those with a College and Career Ready Performance Index score in the top 5 percent of the state’s Title I schools that aren’t receiving state intervention.

The CCRPI is the way the state summarizes how well public schools and districts educate their students, combining indicators such as the standardized test results from the Georgia Milestones Assessment System and graduation rates, which were released earlier this year.

Early College’s 2018 CCRPI, based on a 100-point scale, is 89.6. And its graduation rate is 100 percent for the third straight year.

Title I is the part of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that provides extra money for schools with at least 40 percent of their students coming from low-income families. The federal definition of low-income depends on the number of people in the household. For example, in 2018, the threshold for a family of four is $50,200.

This is the first year the GaDOE has named Title I Distinguished Schools, a requirement in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. The GaDOE previously honored Title I schools with the Reward School designation, based on three years of data, for either “high achievement” or “high progress”. Early College as well as Gentian and Reese Road elementary schools were the MCSD schools named High Progress Reward Schools in 2017. Early College also earned the honor in 2016.

All of Georgia’s Title I Distinguished Schools are eligible to apply for the national awards. Each state selects two of those schools to receive funding to participate in the national conference.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.