Determined principal transforms Title I school with high refugee population, preparing students for college and careers

CaseStudy-ClarkstonHS-thumb-340x440

SUCCESS STORY

Determined principal transforms Title I school with high refugee population, preparing students for college and careers

Clarkston High School, Clarkston, Georgia

When Clarkston High School, a diverse and high-needs school in DeKalb County, Georgia, was designated as a low-achieving school by the Department of Education, school administrators were determined to improve student performance. With the help of a federal School Improvement Grant, the principal, teachers, and staff dedicated themselves to implementing a research-based school improvement model to completely restructure the school. Through significant professional development, teachers learned to work together more collaboratively, assess student data, change their teaching practices, and build a continuous improvement culture. As a result, students are achieving higher yearly growth.

During the 2009–2010 school year, Clarkston High School came to a turning point. The principal and teachers had struggled for years to consistently reach Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards. They had made some improvement, yet lacked the needed funding to sustain the work.

Changing demographics also posed challenges for the school. Nearly ten years earlier, the town had become a resettlement location for large populations of Southeast Asian and African refugees. The town had a strong infrastructure, but this demographic shift added a new dimension to the town not seen before by city and school officials. Nearly 30 percent of the students entering Clarkston were from refugee families. Not only did these students have to learn English as a second language, but they also had to learn how to live in a new country and function in a new academic environment. In addition, more than 90 percent of the total student population was economically disadvantaged.

The principal and teachers tried to help their students reach state-level standards, but the school received a needs improvement designation in 2009. To turn around the school, the principal at the time, supported by the district, applied for a federal School Improvement Grant, which was approved in the spring of 2010.

View the success story