Five local schools are among the 8 percent of public schools in Georgia to be honored this year by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for excellence in academic performance or improvement, based on results from the previous three years of standardized tests.
The honored local schools and the reasons for their awards are:
▪ In Muscogee County, Britt David Magnet Academy for performance and improvement, Columbus High School for performance and Northside High School for improvement.
▪ In Harris County, Mulberry Creek Elementary School for improvement.
▪ The Chattahoochee County Education Center, which is ChattCo’s elementary school, for improvement.
GOSA has awarded 187 out of the state’s 2,263 schools this year. The awards come from the College and Career Ready Performance Index scores, which give schools one overall number to represent how they did on the state exams. They were the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in 2013 and 2014 and the more rigorous Georgia Milestones Assessment System in 2015. The Georgia Department of Education hasn’t released the results of the 2016 Georgia Milestones.
To receive a Greatest Gains award, the three-year average CCRPI Progress Score must be in the 99th percentile for Platinum, the 97th percentile for Gold, the 95th percentile for Silver and the 93rd Percentile for Bronze. The CCRPI Single Score must remain in at least the same range, and the school may not be on the Priority or Focus lists.
Priority Schools are among the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools in academic achievement. Focus Schools are among the lowest 10 percent of Title I schools in achievement gap, which is the gap between the school’s bottom quartile of students and the state average, as well as the degree to which that gap is closing. Title I schools receive extra federal funding if at least 40 percent of their students come from impoverished families.
To receive a Highest Performing award, the three-year average CCRPI Achievement Score must be in the 99th percentile for Platinum, the 97th percentile for Gold, the 95th percentile for Silver and the 93rd Percentile for Bronze. The CCRPI Single Score each year must be at least 90 for Platinum or Gold and at least 80 for Silver or Bronze, and the CCRPI Achievement Gap Score must be at least in the 75th percentile to ensure the performance of the school’s lowest-achieving students isn’t lagging. These schools also may not be on the Priority or Focus lists.
Britt David is the only local school and one of 46 in Georgia to be recognized in both GOSA award categories. Britt David earned a Platinum Award for Highest Performing and a Bronze Award for Greatest Gains category.
Columbus High earned a Silver Award for Highest Performing. Northside earned a Silver Award for Greatest Gains. Mulberry Creek earned a Platinum Award for Greatest Gains. Chattahoochee County Education Center earned a Silver Award for Greatest Gains.
The Ledger-Enquirer asked principals at these schools for their reaction to the awards and which initiatives helped their schools achieve or improve. Here are highlights of their emailed replies:
Northside’s two-year principal Marty Richburg summed up his reaction when he said, “This, in essence, is what teaching is all about – taking a student and moving them on the continuum towards academic excellence.”
He praised his staff for being “great people that deeply care about relationships in the classroom and genuinely take an interest in the lives of the students on a daily basis.”
Richburg, who completed his second year at Northside, also credited his predecessors, Renee Mallory and James Wilson.
“This goes back to Dr. Mallory and Mr. Wilson and the decisions they made throughout the years to place great individuals in the room with our students,” Richburg said. “Our teachers and our students are the winners here. They deserve this recognition for the countless hours they invest.”
Britt David is used to ranking high in achievement, but it’s especially newsworthy for the school to be honored also for improvement.
“I am excited for the faculty, staff, students and parents to see the hard work we do pay off in this way,” said principal Clara Davis, who has led Britt David for four years. “It is our challenge to see growth in all our students – even those already performing at high levels – so the Bronze Award is very affirming to our magnet program.”
Britt David and Columbus High are considered total magnet schools, meaning they don’t have an attendance zone. Students from throughout the district may apply, and they may be returned to their zoned school if their academics and behavior become substandard. Britt David’s magnet focus is on computers; Columbus High’s magnet focus is on liberal arts.
Northside has a magnet program for engineering and engineering design, but the majority of the school’s students come from its attendance zone. The magnet students are 30 percent of Northside’s enrollment, Richburg said.
Asked which initiatives helped Britt David improve, Davis emphasized nonfiction reading and activities in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math to nurture and promote critical thinking.
“Every aspect of our program, including the media center, art, computer lab, music and even PE support the classroom teachers,” she said, “and we track multiple sources of data for each student throughout the year to monitor their learning and inform instruction.”
At Columbus High, fifth-year principal Marvin Crumbs lauded the “students, parents and teachers who have worked so hard to ensure the total success of our school.”
In addition to the rigorous academics, the magnet program has a social component that shows students how to interact in the community, capped by a senior project, Crumbs said.
“Most importantly,” he said, “we differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all the students in our building, which means we determine their strengths and teach to those strengths by using gradual release to ensure their success in the classroom.”
Gradual release is a teaching technique that transitions the lesson from “I do” to “we do” to “you do” and increasingly makes students responsible for their learning.
Justin Finney, who has been Mulberry Creek’s principal for 5½ years, said he knew the school was improving but he was surprised the improvement ranked so high in the state.
“We celebrate the fact that we are part of such a great community and school system in Harris County,” Finney said, “and we are thankful for great teachers and staff, great students and great parents, all of whom are critical to the success of our school.”
High expectations for teachers as well as students are at the core of the school’s success, he said.
“Mulberry Creek teachers and staff constantly strive to meet the needs of every child,” Finney said. “We believe every child can learn and will learn if we provide safe, caring and rigorous learning experiences.”
Chattahoochee County assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Tabatha Walton was the elementary school’s principal during the three-year period in which these awards cover. She credits the teachers for consistently analyzing data and adjusting their instruction accordingly.
“Our students and teachers have worked hard,” Walton said. “… We must continue what we have started.”
Kenyada Heard, the center’s guidance counselor the past nine years, was promoted to principal, effective July 1. She will replace Lane Lindsay, who resigned to move elsewhere, superintendent David McCurry told the Ledger-Enquirer in a previous report.