THOMASVILLE — Three Thomas County schools are embracing their Title 1 Distinguished School status.

Garrison-Pilcher Elementary (first and second grades), Cross Creek Elementary (third and fourth grades) and Thomas County Middle School (fifth through eighth grades) all made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year and also maintained or garnered Title 1 status.

“Having three ‘Distinguished’ schools really elevates Thomas County’s commitment to excellence for all students,” said Dr. Jean Quigg, assistant superintendent. “The schools worked hard with parents to continue improvements of all subgroups to continue to make AYP and we’re showing improvement, which is proof of everyone’s hard work.”

The criteria to become a Title 1 Distinguished School is very straight forward.

“To be a distinguished school, a school has to make AYP for three consecutive years,” said Kathy Keown, Title 1 Director/Special Projects Coordinator for Thomas County schools. “If they make it for three years, the school is considered a Title 1 in designation.”

Keown said a school receives a certificate for its first year as a Title 1 school and a monetary award for each consecutive year it maintains that status.

“We won’t know until after Christmas how much they will receive,” she said. “There is a lump sum in Atlanta that is divided out among schools that make Title 1. The schools with more years receive a larger amount. Title 1 schools are also invited to a banquet in the spring in Atlanta.”

Garrison-Pilcher has made AYP for eight consecutive years and has been designated a Title I Distinguished School for six years.

“I think what makes it a little more unique this year is that the past seven years we actually earned that title through our kindergarten GCAP scores (Georgia assessment test for kindergarten),” said Garrison-Pilcher Principal Karen Kugelmann. “Kindergarten moved to the new school, Hand-in-Hand, so last year was our first year without kindergarten. Our scores on the CRCT were counted, and we did better on our scores. Another unique situation last year was that there was a brand new principal and, when a new administrator comes in, there are changes and there is a little reflection of that in test scores. The staff worked very, very hard and we care so much for our students at Garrison. It’s just a very nice reward for them. It’s a job well-done.”

Kim West, instructional coach for math at Garrison-Pilcher, helped prepare the students for their standardized tests.

“What we’ve done in Thomas County is to put in place instructional coaches in the area of math and reading and language arts,” said West. “Mine is math, and I’ve gone in and helped teachers develop new strategies for teaching math that will prepare students for meeting goals of standardized tests and to learn the concepts. The students love to have someone new come in and demonstrate lessons and give them a different point of view. They seem to really enjoy it. The teachers enjoy it as well and expand their toolbox of skills. I’m extremely excited about this and I look forward to again meeting AYP. Parents have been excited about it, too. It’s good to know that your child is excelling in areas that AYP covers.”

Cross Creek has made AYP for four consecutive years and has been a Title I Distinguished School for two years.

“I think it is great and really special for the teachers who have worked really hard for a number of years and the students who get to move on and shows that they really are learning,” said Bernice Mitchell, principal at Cross Creek. “I guess the main thing is that we have a lot of teachers who are using effective strategies and working very hard. Our attendance is good, and students can’t learn unless they are at school. We’re excited, proud and working hard for next year.”

This is Thomas County Middle School’s third consecutive year of making AYP and its first designation as a Title 1 Distinguished School. Efforts to contact Principal Debra Knight were no successful.

The schools are also ready to add another year to the tally for the 2006-07 year.

“We’re going to continue to move forward and we want to continue to raise our scores and continue doing what is right for our children,” said Kugelmann.

Quigg said AYP is important, but not the only factor for a good education. She also said that the school system intends to do more than just meet AYP.

“AYP means that we met expectations on statewide tests,” she said. “The system’s goal is that students will exceed expectations on all system tests that we administer. We’re very proud of our teachers, staff and our students and excited, but we’re continuing to work. We have to move on to the new school year, and we know we have work ahead for this year if we want to continue to show that progress.”

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