Twiggs County High makes huge graduation gains

jmink@macon.comDecember 11, 2013 

Middle Georgia’s biggest high school improvement story comes in a relatively small package.

Fewer than half of Twiggs County High School students graduated in 2012, but the latest figures show three-quarters of the class of 2013’s 250 students graduated.

The high school even went old school in its efforts to boost results by having its staff make home visits.

“The reaction was, ‘Wow, hard work pays off,’” Principal Jamie Paulk said, adding he recently told students, “We can change the perception of Twiggs County one day at a time.”

With the help of a school improvement grant, the school has integrated new programs, brought in more employees and tweaked some of its strategies.

First, a specialist visited the school and worked with students who were on the verge of graduating. Officials dubbed the program “graduation blitz,” Paulk said, which resulted in several students graduating during the summer.

Additionally, the school brought in graduation coaches and academic coaches who work with every student individually. Spending that one-on-one time with students has boosted academic performance and graduation rates. It’s a technique that would be nearly impossible without the help of grant money, Paulk said.

“It’s providing those resources that small districts generally do not have the opportunity to have,” he said.

Still, Twiggs’ improvement also can be attributed to a significant increase in parental involvement.

Administrators created a Parent University, hosting events on a regular basis to bring parents into the school and connect them with the school’s academics. The school even offers free transportation to parents who have limited mobility. Also, the school brought in a family engagement coordinator, who visits the home of each student.

The results have been impressive, but administrators are far from satisfied, Paulk said.

“We know what we can do now, and we can’t become complacent,” he said. “Now, we’re raising the bar higher.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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