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Building model for success

In June, while students were enjoying their summer break, approximately 129 Troup County teachers attended the annual Model Schools Conference to learn how to better serve at their schools.

“The International Center for Leadership in Education, or ICLE, headed by Dr. Bill Daggett has for many years identified the highest performing or most rapidly improving campuses in the country and studied what best practices they utilize to bring about that improvement,” Troup County Schools Superintendent Cole Pugh said. “As you know, we are beginning implementation of those best practices in Troup County.”

Troup County will be the first county in the United States to be studied by national groups for its implementation of the program, but the school system was also recognized for its progress so far during the conference.

“They created and used actionable data, and used executive coaching (to improve over the last two years),” said Dr. Bill Daggett, the founder of the International Center for Leadership in Education.

The school board has credited Daggett’s Rigor Relevance Framework with a large part of the improvements that have been made to local schools in terms of culture, behavior and education on several occasions in the past.

“We have improved culture on campuses in the last two years,” Pugh said. “Significant positive changes took place last year because of rigor, relevance (training) and development and executive coaching.”

Those concepts have only really begun to be applied throughout the school system within the last school year though, so their full affect is yet to be seen. Troup County Comprehensive High School was one of the schools that led the way in the program, attempting to rise above the problems of previous years.

“The problem that we probably saw the most was student apathy, so we were always looking at how we were going to motivate kids,” Troup County Comprehensive High School Principal Chip Medders said in a video shown at the conference.

“How are we going to make them want to come to school? That was a struggle, and that turned into teachers that were frustrated — teacher burnout, administrative burnout — because we were facing these same problems year after year after year.”

When ICLE went into Troup County Schools to find their weaknesses and determine how to fix them, those performing the assessment quickly came to the conclusion that there was a disparity between what teachers believed was difficult content to learn and what students believed was difficult content prompting recommendations for additional training for teachers and administrators.

“We came to the conclusion that we not only needed professional development for the teachers, but we really, really needed executive coaching for the principals,” Daggett said. “What we were asking them to do was no longer just be the person keeping order, we were asking them to be the change agent.”

The effect of those changes can already be seen in some of the schools.

“It is unbelievable the cultural change, and the inspiration that the school has given the community,” Medders said.

Pugh was excited about the selection but warned that this is only the beginning.

“This selection does not mean that we’ve arrived,” Pugh said. “We still have a great deal of work to do, but it does mean that Dr. Daggett thinks we have the potential to be a line from the boardroom to the classroom, and it means that he believes we have good people and tremendous potential to prepare students to be both college and career ready.”

According to ICLE, the presentation at the conference led by Troup County Comprehensive High School Principal Chip Medders, Teachers of the Year Michelle Ashmore and Kayla Yeargin and Tabetha Stephens and LaToya Wityard was the highest rated presentation of any at the conference.