LaGrange High Celebrates Academic Gains
LaGrange, Ga., December 8, 2017 – At the November Troup County School System (TCSS) meeting of the Board, there were a group of LaGrange High School (LHS) Varsity soccer players that filled the front of the room for one reason – the entire boys and girls team’s received a 3.25 or higher GPA. While this news received national coverage, the 30 soccer players represented only a small number of the LHS 1,163 student body that has seen an increase in academic scores.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year. Principal Alton White, along with student leaders and the entire freshman class gathered in the auditorium to sign their name on a graduation gown as a sign of agreement to graduate.
Then in May 2017 at the LHS graduation on the Callaway Stadium field, there were over 250 seniors donned in their Granger Blue cap and gown. Principal White and the class valedictorian, Karan Lakhwani, encouraged each student to be themselves, do great things in the future, and to remember they will always…ALWAYS…be a Granger.
After that honored day in May, new graduate Te’a Winston shared a message for future students that included making their freshman year the most important year because it puts them on the path to graduation and scholarships, while former LHS football player JaDarius Young said he will miss going out on the field in his uniform because “There is something about playing in blue and white…it’s something about that star…it’s something about being a Granger that makes you want to stay and do your best.”
Fast-forward to September 2017 when the TCSS graduation rates were released - LHS students, faculty, administration, and staff had something to celebrate because they received the highest graduation rate in the district and also a big jump in over a three-year period. The current LHS 79.9 percent graduation rate is just a tenth of a point shy of 80 percent and is a 9.2 percent gain over the 2015 graduation rate of 70.7 percent.
The highlights didn’t stop there, because in November when CCRPI scores were released, the blue and white nation received a 7.5 score increase over 2016, with an overall score of 78. This CCRPI score is the highest in the district and is one point above the state of Georgia’s overall score.
White said, “We celebrated the day the information was released. Our students had Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen and I cooked out for all faculty and staff. We had a picnic on the pavilion. We also made banners that are displayed throughout the school and we shared it with the community via social media.”
He continued by saying a school-wide focus on increasing rigor and developing a Freshman Academy was key in the uptick of scores and rates, “We had a concentrated school-wide focus on increasing rigor, coupled with higher expectations for all students. We participated in several professional learning sessions dedicated to rigor and, in turn, our teachers challenged the students by expecting more of them.”
Teachers and staff account these glowing gains to building relationships and constantly looking at data. For example, Randy Hardigree, a 23-year veteran teacher and LHS Biology & Environmental Science teacher who traveled to Harvard with five other TCSS teachers this past summer said, “it’s a combination of great leadership, flexible/dedicated teachers, and hard-working students. We all have to be open-minded and willing to think outside the box if we want to continue growing and reaching new goals.”
New LHS Geometry instructor and Cross Country Coach, Chase Wilson, says in his first year he sees where teachers are making necessary adjustments after reviewing student data. “We work tirelessly on analyzing student success…and we are starting to see it pay off.”
White said moving the needle to increase scores and graduation rates requires a combination of activities, one of them being Freshman Academy. He stated, “The development and implementation of the Freshman Academy led to a decrease in freshman retention. This is the most challenging year for students. We know if they can finish their freshman year on track, the vast majority will graduate in four years. For Freshman Academy, the numbers went from 18 percent down to 9 percent. As we continue to work and improve Freshman Academy, we expect to continue seeing drops in freshman retention rates.”
As for future school-wide gains, White said, “What we currently see is evidence of the focused work that is occurring at LHS. There is no shortcut to school improvement. Our teachers worked extremely hard to improve rigor and relevance. They have challenged our students with higher expectations. The students have risen to the challenge. With these increases, the students are seeing their hard work validated. These dividends will certainly provide encouragement to stay the course so we can see these increases continuing in the future.”
About Troup County School System
Troup County School System is an accredited educational system with over 11,900 students in grades K-12. TCSS does offer a free Pre-K program at each elementary school. The system is comprised of eleven elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools, one college and career academy, and one alternative learning center. Students within the school system are taught a rigorous and relevant curriculum that helps them make college and career choices beyond graduation and succeed in life. The system 2017 graduation rate rose 6.6 percentage points in three years to 78.0 percent. To learn more about Troup County School System, visit troup.org and the Troup County School System Facebook page.