Three Cherokee schools win top academic honors
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
November 01, 2012 12:00 AM | 3201 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Three Cherokee County School District schools received top honors from the state Wednesday for achieving the highest performance or the biggest academic gains statewide for Title 1 schools in the last three years.

Woodstock Elementary School and Boston Elementary School made the highest-performing school list, while Teasley Middle School made the high-progress list.

“These schools are shining examples of what we can achieve in public education in Georgia,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge in a release. “I want to take what’s working at our Reward Schools and replicate that in every school in the state. These are the schools making education work for all Georgians.”

The honors are reserved for Title I schools placed in the state’s Reward Schools category that are making great strides in student achievement.

A highest-performing school is a Title I school among the five percent of Title I schools in the state that has the highest absolute performance over three years on statewide assessments and must have made Adequate Yearly Progress in 2011. A high-progress school is a Title I school among the 10 percent of Title I schools in the state that is making the most progress in improving student performance over three years on statewide assessments

Those at Teasley Middle School also learned they made the final nine schools in the state department’s first Family-Friendly Partnership School Awards, which recognize schools for their overall “customer service” for Georgia families that engage parents and students, according to the state Department of Education.

“These schools are models for the entire state on how to engage families and make parents feel welcome from the moment they walk in the door,” said Barge. “We must find more ways to get parents involved in the education of their children, whether it’s online or in person.”

“It’s fantastic,” said Principal Dr. Susan Zinkil. “We’re very excited about how hard our students and staff and community have been working.”

Zinkil said Teasley uses Title 1 funds to provide extra assistance to students in subjects like math and reading during the school day, while other students participate in enrichment activities at the same time.

“I think that’s helped tremendously,” Zinkil said. “We’re a relatively new Title 1school and we’ve just been looking at all the great practices through leadership in the central office and throughout the district. We’ve been able to pick and choose and what works for us.”

Woodstock Principal Christy Bowling said a major factor in her school’s success is the programs it has instilled over the years and a strong community culture.

“We are a community school,” Bowling said. “We have over 35 volunteers that work with the students each week and tutor them in a framework that includes parents and community members.”

Bowling credited the school’s implementation of Response to Intervention, which is a “universal screener” to track all students and their levels of achievement, as well as academic coach Bonny Keheley’s Camp Learna-Lotta.

“People volunteer to work in a small-group setting to help tutor the students,” she said. “We impact over 280 kids a week.”

Bowling said she is “just tickled” to learn the school’s teachers and volunteers are being recognized.

“I think it’s a validation for all the hard work and effort that even though we have hard economic times, we are utilizing our resources to meet the needs of all students,” Bowling said. “And I really feel that the community feeling in our school and knowing the hardships with funding public education, everyone is pulling together to make sure each child at Woodstock Elementary School is successful.”

Boston Principal Joey Moss said she is excited and proud of her students and teachers and plans to continue to strive for success, though the school is no longer designated a Title 1 school this year.

“Those things in place are continuing,” Moss said. “We are definitely making strides ahead and continuing with the hard work. Even though we’re not Title 1, we still have struggles but we can do it. We’ve established that foundation of dedication and hard work and being able to come together as faculty and staff to meet the needs of our students.

Moss said the access to professional development, classroom walk-throughs and peer-to-peer feedback are all part of helping teachers succeed at Boston.

“This is a team effort,” Moss said. “When you have a population that is struggling, then it really does take a team approach. We’re in this together.”
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