published Thursday, November 1st, 2012

6 North Georgia schools in state's top achievers list

REWARD SCHOOLS

Among state's top 5 percent in achievement

Chickamauga

Chickamauga Elementary School

Dalton

Westwood Elementary School

Brookwood Elementary School

Murray County

Woodlawn Elementary School

Trion

Trion Elementary School

Whitfield County

Tunnel Hill Elementary School

Ten schools in the Northwest Georgia region were recognized for academic performance and progress:

Chattooga County

Summerville Middle School

Calhoun

Calhoun Elementary School

Dalton

Dalton High School

Gordon County

Tolbert Elementary School

Swain Elementary School

Fairmount Elementary School

Murray County

Eton Elementary School

New Bagley Elementary School

Northwest Elementary School

Walker County

LaFayette High School

Six Georgia schools, including Chickamauga Elementary, Tunnel Hill Elementary and two Dalton elementaries, were among the highest-performing schools in the state on test exams.

And 10 schools in the Northwest Georgia region were recognized for their improvements in performance and progress.

Principals credit parental support, dedicated teachers and, in Dalton, their efforts to improve every student's reading and writing skills.

"I'm so excited for our school," said Tunnel Hill Principal Connie Kopcsak, who is new to the school this year. "There's a lot of pride in that community, and the teachers love the school."

The reward schools are a new classification in Georgia created to keep accountability in place of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The highest-performing schools are within the top 5 percent of Title I schools with the highest academic performance over a three-year period, compared with the high-progress schools that are among the top 10 percent of Title I schools showing progress.

Reward schools won't receive money this year, but Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said there may be a monetary reward in the future. The reward money is linked to whether the state's Title I schools allocations increase over a year, he said.

Principals say the achievement can be attributed to hard work. At Chickamauga Elementary School, Principal Jeff Sikes said his teachers have focused on raising the number of students who exceed state standards. The number has doubled, he said.

Chickamauga Elementary teachers also are putting more emphasis on math skills. Teachers are using three math programs that help gauge student comprehension and monitor childrens' progress through the school year, Sikes said.

"We are definitely noticing a difference," he said. "We just don't want to send students to middle school struggling in math and reading."

Principals at Brookwood and Westwood Elementary schools in Dalton credited the district's literacy collaboration as key to their improvement. The program challenges teachers to use techniques to help students develop reading and writing skills.

"It's given children more confidence," Brookwood Principal Celeste Martin said. "We work really hard to try to make the work interesting."

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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