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Crisp County High posts strong gains in key performance metric

At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, Crisp County School Superintendent Cindy Hughes stressed to all of her employees that building relationships is key to improving student success.

Her message was simple. “My challenge to you this year is to take the time to Build Relationships. Every student is ONE caring adult away from being a SUCCESS story! You hold the power not just to change students and families but to change an entire community,” she wrote to administrators, faculty, and staff in late July.

That relationship-based approach has begun to pay off already. Crisp County High School’s ranking on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), a key tool for measuring student success, has risen 4.5 percent over 2018’s level, according to recent reports. CCHS now stands at 69.2 percent on the state index, compared to 64.7 percent a year ago. The average index score is 77 percent in Georgia, and public school stakeholders are diligently working in the classrooms to implement county initiatives in vocabulary and writing across the curriculum, which should lead to further increases in CCHS’ future CCRPI rating.

For the administrative team at CCHS, personal and professional development for both educators and students plays an important role in fostering improvement.

“Professional development is held at least once a month to learn and implement new instructional strategies. Teachers attend a weekly collaborative planning session in their department to ensure continuity of instruction,” said CCHS Assistant Principal Leah Slimp. “An emphasis on student/teacher relationships has been the focus through advisement, which is held on Wednesdays, to ensure they are meeting all requirements for graduation. We have found that building relationships fosters the improvement of attendance. Attendance is a vital part of a student’s education.”

That focus on advisement has led another state educational association to recognize CCHS’s efforts to improve student success. The Student Support Team Association for Georgia Educators (SSTAGE) honored CCHS with its Star Award for Promising Practices. The award is given to schools that use innovative methods to improve their learning environments.

The awards committed noted exemplary practices at CCHS like:

–The school’s ‘Teachers as Advisors’ program overseen by Merritt Fields,

–Grade-level-specific advisement activities held each Wednesday that are designed to prepare students for their post-secondary pursuits,

–The school’s committee focused on building strong relationships between teachers and students,

–CCHS’s ‘Extended Learning Time’ that is dedicated to providing extra learning opportunities for students at risk,

–Ongoing professional development that is centered on classroom practices, and

–Teamwork between faculty and staff to ensure each student’s individual needs are met.

CCHS’s Tara Peavy-Shurly and Hope Sowell will be presented the SSTAGE Star Award in January at a conference in Athens.

The high school has also been awarded the Breakout Award from the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP) for dramatically increasing student achievement. GASSP notes specific reasons for recognizing CCHS:

–The school’s graduation rate has risen 26.6 percent over the last six years, from 61.4 percent in 2012-13 to 88 percent in 2018-19,

–CCHS’s aforementioned rise in the state CCRPI,

–The school’s specific focus on support for at-risk students, and

–CCHS’s ‘Teachers as Advisors’ program.

Dr. Rusty Sowell, principal at the high school, will accept the award along with other members of the school’s leadership team at a presentation ceremony next week in Savannah.