Development Authority of 
Peach County Georgia | 425 James E. Khoury Drive | Unit B | Fort Valley, Georgia 31030 | (478) 825-3826 |

Maximum teaching time, minimum distractions propel school’s scores

January 9, 2017
ANDREA HONAKER - The Telegraph (Macon)

The latest state achievement scores showed that Peach County High School is doing many things right.

The Fort Valley school earned a 99.8 score on the 2015-16 College and Career Ready Performance Index, released by the Georgia Department of Education last month.

The annual report measures schools on a 100-point scale, taking into account such things as graduation rates, test scores and other data. Peach County High, up from 76.4 the previous year, led the Middle Georgia area and was among the top scorers in the state. The Peach County system as a whole increased from 66.2 to 71.5, falling just below the state average of 73.6.

District officials said a number of factors have contributed to Peach County High’s more than 20-point gain.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing because we think (it’s) good for student achievement,” said Al Pollard, now in his second year as the school’s principal. “We continue to tweak anything we think we can to do better. If there’s a need, we do it.”

The school’s Academic Focus extended learning period has made a huge difference, he said. All students are required to attend, and they receive a grade in the class, said Peach County Superintendent Daryl Fineran. Students were divided into almost 50 focus groups for the current semester, said Gina Clark, a math and science instruction coach at the school.

If students aren’t taking an end-of-course exam, the school looks at what classes they’ve taken and which ones are next, Clark said. So, if they don’t have another math class till August, they might be placed in a focus group that will prepare them for algebra or calculus. Or, older students might be assigned to an SAT or college prep group, said Pollard, a former Central High School and University of Georgia football star.

“It’s really whatever the child needed,” Clark said. “We looked at their schedule last semester, their grades last semester and their transcripts to see what they’re missing. It’s really very tailored to the student.”

Juniors and seniors who have mastered certain subjects help teachers by serving as tutors a few times a week, Pollard said. About 50 upperclassmen tutor throughout the year. The tutors make it possible for focus groups to be split up if all the students are not at the same level.

Students who are short on credits or failed a class can use Academic Focus to do credit repair, which was a big contributor to the school’s 91 percent graduation rate, Pollard said.

Peach County High School has had extended learning time for several years, but the program has been refined in the past couple years, Fineran said. Administrators, instructional coaches and teachers dictate which concepts will be studied each week during Academic Focus.

Administrators visit classes on a weekly basis, and they encourage teacher input so they’ll know how practices can be improved, Pollard explained.

“These teachers do a very good job in the classroom, no question about it. That’s where it all starts. Our main job is to support the teachers and give them the resources they need.”

Students have a longer day than most, going from 7:20 a.m. to 2:56 p.m., and every bit of that instruction time is maximized, Pollard said. Academics are a priority, and students stay engaged, Clark said.

Tardiness is deterred by a lunch detention program, announcements aren’t made over the intercom during class, and students are not called out of academic courses for meetings, Fineran said. As a result, few distractions or discipline issues come up during the day.

“In terms of the school environment itself, we’ve cut out a lot of interruptions and noninstructional activities during the day,” Fineran said. “Classroom instructional time is sacred. We use it to teach bell to bell.”

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Call: (478) 825-3826 or peachcountydevelopment@ymail.com425 James E. Khoury DriveUnit BFort Valley, Georgia 31030