Clarke Central High School students sit in the Mell Auditorium. CCHS was recently redesignated a Breakthrough School because of several factors including test scores, graduation rates and service to students in poverty. “As both a district employee and parent, it has been no secret to me that my children are receiving a rigorous, quality, education at (CCHS),” Gaines Elementary School Media Specialist Angela Pendley said. “It is nice to see that others are also aware of the amazing things that are happening at CCHS. This national recognition just emphasizes what we already knew — that CCHS is a leader in educational practices that take their students to the next level.” Photo by Julie Alpaugh.
By ELENA GLBERTSON-HALL – Staff Writer
The National Association of Secondary School Principals initiated the Breakthrough School Award in 2007 to recognize middle and high schools that have made academic achievements while serving many students of poverty.
Clarke Central High School has been redesignated by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) as a Breakthrough School due to its service to economically disadvantaged students.
An increase in graduation rates, as well as College and Career Readiness Performance Index scores over the past few years, despite the large number of students below the poverty line attending CCHS, contributed to the school being chosen for redesignation.
“The primary focus of Clarke Central High School’s improvement efforts has been the implementation of collaborative planning teams that enable teachers to both plan together and receive the important information needed to adjust and tailor lessons,” according to the NASSP website. “With (a large portion) of its student population economically disadvantaged, this 9–12 urban school has used rigorous coursework and differentiated instruction with an emphasis on literacy, global connections and use of digital tools to bring about significant improvements in student achievement, while meeting the new challenges presented by state curriculum and assessments.”
From 2011-2014, NASSP designated 39 schools, including CCHS, as Breakthrough Schools. The schools were reevaluated this year to see if they had maintained their student achievement levels, and CCHS qualified as one of the 26 schools nationwide to be redesignated as a Breakthrough School.
“I am thrilled our (CCHS) community is being honored with this prestigious national recognition,” CCHS Principal Marie Yuran said in a press release. “We continue to show our community that barriers can be overcome and that a high level of achievement is possible. None of these achievements would be possible without the hard work and dedication of our outstanding faculty, staff, students, parental partnerships and the continued support of our school district leaders and community.”
According to Clarke County School District Interim Superintendent Jack Parish, the redesignation is an important recognition of the work of all CCSD students and staff.
“I wish to extend my sincere congratulations and appreciation to the entire (CCHS) community on the redesignation as a Breakthrough School,” Parish said in a press release. “Being redesignated as a Breakthrough School demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement. The award also demonstrates the outstanding work of our students as well as that of school leaders, faculty and staff who arrive at school each day committed to making a difference in the lives of students.”
English department teacher Ginger Lehmann feels that awards such as the Breakthrough School award are important because they recognize teachers for their work to close the achievement gap and serve students at disadvantages.
“The schools that have challenges like we have (at CCHS), the teachers of those schools are working very hard so it’s always nice to be recognized for the efforts people are putting in place. We have people putting in many hours outside of their regular classroom hours and even during their classroom hours, their work with individual students is very challenging and time consuming.” Lehman said. “It’s always rewarding for teachers to know someone is saying, ‘Yes, you are doing a good job and you are having a positive impact on students.’”
Though many students are unaware of the honor, senior Diana Villafana feels the Breakthrough School redesignation is well deserved for CCHS.
“I haven’t heard about the award before, but the (CCHS) staff is always looking out for students in poverty, so I think it’s important (for CCHS to be recognized) because it lets the community know that CCHS is trying to help the future generation whether they’re wealthy or poor,” Villafana said.