G’town schools recognized for student achievement numbers

By Wayne Gates – 

The Georgetown school district is getting attention around the state for positive changes in student performance related to the 40 developmental assets program.
Georgetown Jr./Sr. High School Principal Jerry Underwood traveled to Zanesville on Jan. 24 to present the data to educators from around the state.
The meeting was hosted on the Ohio University branch campus by the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools.
CORAS, according to the organization website, “is an organization composed of 136 school districts, institutions of higher learning and other educational agencies in the 35-county region of Ohio designated as Appalachia.”
The district is also scheduled to present data to the Ohio State Board of Education next week and to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in March.
Underwood presented data showing that HS graduation rates have gone from 85% to 96%, out of school suspensions have gone from 230 to 61, and the failure rate in the high school has gone from 18% to 2%. Academic achievement is also up by 10% in 3rd Grade reading and 26% in 3rd Grade math.
One of the big keys to the recent success has been the implementation of a student advisory period, where every child in the district spends at least one hour per week in small groups with teachers.
The period focuses on ideas like personal choices and community involvement rather than academics.
Older students are spending time mentoring younger students and groups of students are also participating in community service projects.
“The one question that I get asked by my colleagues is ‘What’s the cost of this academically or financially?’ And my response back to them is always ‘What’s the cost of not implementing it.’ I believe the answer to that question is that we will have a generation lost if we don’t,” said Georgetown Superintendent Christopher Burrows.
“We have to as educators place equal value on character education as we do academics. In order to get to student’s minds, we first have to go through their hearts. If we don’t do that, we are missing the boat and kids are being left behind.”
Underwood said that fellow educators were impressed with what they heard.
“If you have data, it’s much easier because that’s what people want to see. They want to see results and how the impact happens. You have to have data to make that discussion viable for other districts,” he said.
“There is all kinds of data that we have that we presented to them on how this is having a positive impact on those areas,” he said.
Underwood said one of the biggest values of the 40 developmental assets program is that it benefits everyone in some way.
“No matter what student you are in our building, there are still benefits to everything that we are doing. It’s social skills, it’s community involvement. It helps answer the question of ‘how do I become a better person or student’ outside of academics for those students who are not struggling in the classroom.”
Underwood added that one of the biggest factors in getting the program started was getting the staff to buy in to the idea.
“It means everything, because if your staff is not on board, it’s never going to be what it needs to be. That was part of the process from the very beginning. Everyone from the top down has to believe in the program for it to be successful.”
Burrows said that the program helps those students who may not be getting the help they need.
“Kids have mental health needs that are not being addressed, and that is across all social classes. Schools, legislatures and other people in authority need to recognize that and take action.”
Burrows said he was looking forward to sharing the success of the program with state education leaders.
“People in authority are starting to see the impact, and that’s exciting to me. Maybe we are starting to realize that the whole child is important and that success doesn’t just mean passing a test.”