Four schools in Walker County and one Catoosa County school are among the Georgia Department of Education’s lists of Distinguished Schools and Reward Schools.

The Distinguished Schools designation recognizes the highest-performing Title I schools in Georgia while the Reward Schools designation recognizes Title I schools making the greatest improvements.

Chickamauga Elementary School, Cherokee Ridge Elementary School and Ringgold Middle School have been named Distinguished Schools, and Rossville Elementary and Stone Creek Elementary have been recognized as Reward Schools.

“It is our standard operating procedure in all our schools to maximize each minute of instructional time, ensure students have a true understanding and mastery of the state standards and work with the students and their parents to prepare them for future success,” Chickamauga Schools Superintendent Melody Day explained. “Our students are safe, happy, challenged and motivated. Seeing students grow and thrive is our true reward.”

Day characterizes Chickamauga Elementary’s accolade as a “tremendous honor to be recognized for high performance — especially the top 5% of Title I schools in the state,” Day said. She is proud of the dedication and hard work exhibited by the school system’s administrators, faculty and staff to provide the highest quality education possible every day, regardless of any recognition they might receive.

Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines was also pleased with the recognition.

“We are very proud of the continued improvement of all our schools and are excited to have three schools achieving this extraordinary accomplishment,” he said.

Cherokee Ridge Elementary ranked according to its most recent College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, score as one of the highest performing schools that represents 5% of all Title I Schools in Georgia, and 71% of their students are economically disadvantaged, Raines said.

Stone Creek Elementary and Rossville Elementary schools show the greatest improvement in their CCRPI single score from the previous year and represent 5% of all Title I school-wide schools, he explained.

They also cannot have greater than 50% red achievement flags for economically disadvantaged, English Language Learner and Students with Disabilities sub-groups across all grade bands.

Ringgold Middle School has been a Title I school for several years. Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese said, “Performing in the top 5% of all Title I school-wide schools to achieve the Distinguished School Award is a major accomplishment.

“Achieving this goal validates the faculty’s laser-like focus on student achievement,” she said. She noted the school’s hard work to make sure all students are achieving at high levels and praised both faculty and students.

Fairyland Elementary School, while not a Title I Walker County school, was ranked as the 12th highest score across the state and ninth among elementary schools, Raines said.

“While we are focused on continuous improvement for all schools, it’s also essential that we recognize when schools are doing well,” State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods.

“These schools are overcoming barriers, meeting challenges and producing great gains for their students,” he said. “I commend the school leaders, teachers, parents and communities in our 2019-20 Distinguished and Reward Schools who are opening up opportunities for their students.”

Recognition requirements

Through the Title I, the Georgia Department of Education distributes federal funds to local education agencies and public schools with high rates of poor children so that all children meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards, according to

Distinguished Schools are among the highest-performing 5% of Title I school-wide schools and Title I targeted assistance schools.

Reward Schools are among the greatest-improving 5% of Title I school-wide schools and Title I targeted assistance schools.

Reward Schools also have to maintain the performance of their economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English learners to be recognized.

Chickamauga Elementary qualified under targeted assistance, and the other four recognized schools did so under school-wide.

Schools must be Title I to be eligible for these two designations and must not be currently identified for comprehensive support and improvement, or CSI, or targeted support and improvement, or TSI, support.

Distinguished Schools (Title I school-wide) are eligible to apply for the National ESEA, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Distinguished Schools Program award sponsored by the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators.

Each state selects two schools for this award; these two schools attend that national conference and are recognized during the conference.

Additionally, each school receives award funds from Title I A to support participation in the national conference.

Catherine Edgemon is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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