Two schools in St. Clair County are eligible to take part in a statewide project, thanks to a grant from the Alabama State Department of Education.
The St. Clair County Board of Education applied — on behalf of St. Clair County High School and Ashville High School — for the Alabama High School Promotion Team Initiative, a two year cycled project funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. The program is designed to learn more — in a rigorous, data-based way — about the in-school factors and the best work that schools do to help more ninth graders to be promoted and move through high school on time, passing courses on the path towards graduation. This project tests a model of school organization for promotion and graduation rate improvement for student success developed at the Everyone Graduates Center (every1graduates.org) through Johns Hopkins University.
Over 70 schools in the state were eligible to apply for this grant. Fifty-five schools applied, and 20 were randomly selected. From that group of schools, 10 were randomly selected to be a control group and 10 were selected to be an implementation group.
The control group schools each receive $5,000. Control schools will collect data and use their current resources to further the mission of the initiative. The implementation group schools each receive $36,000, as well as a state-appointed Promotion Coach to work 2-3 days per week in the school working intensely with a team to assist in ninth grade success. Each group will use this same amount of grant money for year one and year two.
Both Ashville High School and St. Clair County High School were eligible for the grant, and both schools were selected for the implementation group. Because of this unique situation of a district qualifying for two part time coaches, the state agreed to appoint a full-time promotion coach who would work half of the week in one school and half of the week in the other as well as into the summer for planning and data meetings.
Kay Atchison-Warfield and Dr. Linda Felton-Smith with ALSDE Prevention and Support Services organized the effort to search for someone who had knowledge of the culture of the communities, adequate certifications, and knowledge of how to motivate and work with at-risk students. The grant was a fast process that processed applications on Oct. 19, made school group selections Oct. 29, and appointed promotion coaches on Nov. 2.
The ALSDE appointed Deanna Rice as the promotion coach for these schools. Rice is an experienced, certified social sciences teacher with a unique background. She worked in crime scene investigation with the Gadsden Police Department and worked with the C.E.D. Mental Health Center. She also worked in this coaching capacity with students through the Educational Talent Search Program at Gadsden State Community College.
Rice’s husband, Anthony Rice, works at Ashville High School, and her son attends Ashville Elementary School.
Rice attended a three-day workshop this week, along with principals Patti Johnson, Brian Terry and School Improvement Coordinator Jan Bailey. Officials from Johns Hopkins University and the ALSDE led the workshop, which focused on early warning indicators such as Attendance, Behavior, and Course Success (ABC) and about how to use the team concept to motivate students.
Rice’s work will focus on improving the ABCs with ninth graders to help them on their path towards graduation. She will work with a team of teachers and stakeholders to mentor students and provide interventions for all ninth graders to help them be successful.
Brandi Caldwell is the Technology Integration Specialist for the St. Clair County School System.