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CCHS principal discusses changes | News | The Press and Standard

by | February 26, 2016 5:00 pm

Last Updated: February 24, 2016 at 1:53 pm

The 2015-2016 school year has been a good one so far at Colleton County High School.
Interim principal Dr. Melissa Crosby recapped the year so far at the last Colleton County School Board Committee of the Whole meeting and again last week at the school for members of this year’s Leadership Colleton class.
Her mission in her first year as principal, has been to focus on “what’s happening inside our classrooms,” Crosby said.
And this year has seen a lot of changes in those classes.
The first is an expanded partnership with USC Salkehatchie to offer more college courses within the entire school, not just in Cougar New Tech. “We are trying to bring the same philosophy to the entire school. This year we had 211 students who took dual-credit courses first semester. The pass rate was 89.1%, which is tremendous,” Crosby said. And 189 students are enrolled in college classes this semester.
College classes start being offered to 10th graders, and Crosby is working with Dr. Ann Carmichael and Jane Brewer from USC Salk to work out a plan that will let high school students graduate not only with a high school diploma, but an associate college degree. “Next year we hope to expand even more. Some CCHS teachers will be teaching for Salk, offering dual credits on our campus in addition to the Salk professors they send to us,” Crosby said. They also use the online Palmetto College for some classes.
Another big success this year was the signing of four CCHS athletes to play college sports. “The profile of a S.C. graduate says we want all graduates to be college and career ready,” she said. “Only one percent of high school kids go to college, so it’s pretty nice to see four of our kids who have signed to go. And we know we will have others as the seasons progress.” All four are also honor students, which makes Crosby especially proud.
Graduation rate is another hurdle that is getting lower. CCHS met its goal last year with 83.6% graduating. This year will be close. So far, 303 are on track to graduate on time, and 28 are working to catch up, attending a full day of classes at CCHS, then night classes through S.C. Virtuals. All but about six “have a really good chance” of graduating on time.
Graduation rates are tough, Crosby said, because there are students in every high school that don’t graduate with a typical diploma. Severely handicapped students, for instance, may get a certificate and can stay in high school until they are 21, but they never count as a graduate because they don’t get the traditional diploma. The same applies to those who get GEDs, who attend adult ed, the Will Lou Gray School, Job Corps or other “non-traditional” graduates.
“In a county like Colleton that’s so impoverished, there’s always a high rate of students who are going to received those types of diplomas,” she said. But every non-traditional diploma counts as a dropout in the statistics, so the 13 GEDs in this year’s class won’t count toward graduation numbers.
Attendance is also a big problem affecting graduation rates. “Students must have a certain number of ‘seat hours’ to get credit, and a lot of them don’t see the value of being in school. When attendance starts to slip, then their grades start to slip,” she said. CCHS offers “seat time recovery” days on Saturdays so students won’t fail due to absences, but students have to take advantage of the opportunity.
Right now, the graduation rate is projected at just over 79%. That rate will hopefully climb as graduation gets closer.
Crosby’s strategy to improve on these rates comes from studying quarterly data. Every quarter, she’s looked at how many students are failing by teacher, then by course. Then she tries to combat problems by increasing the ability of the students to monitor and take responsibility for his/her work; give students increased feedback and lots of grades; and making sure parents are involved.
When they really started to target course passage rates, there was a four-percent reduction in failures between the first and second quarters. “I’m hoping we can continue to bring that number down,” she said.
She’s also spent a lot of time studying the success of one of New Tech’s teachers who had a 90% passage rate last year on state biology exams. “I wondered what she was doing that we could translate into other classrooms,” she said. So she organized training sessions with the teachers, and the passage rate on the biology exam alone climbed from 39% last year to 70% this year. “This is a tremendous gain, and we’re still working,” she said.
The high school is also working with the middle school, USC Salk and other partners to implement the “project-based learning” used in New Tech in all math and science classes.
And she’s working to help students “build character. One of the challenges we face is that students often lack the ability to self-manage and have responsibility. Through programs like Cougar New Tech, JAG, ROTC, we’re trying to make sure we’re touching every single student and providing them with the opportunity to grow,” she said. One teacher asked students for their thoughts on “being an agent of your own learning.” One student replied, “It’s not about being the best. It’s about being better than yesterday.”
And that’s what Crosby is striving for — being better than yesterday. “If we can grow more learners that really believe this, and they can come to school every day for that purpose, then we will be better than we were yesterday.”

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