Oakman High School officials pleased to be handing out diplomas to more students
by Daniel Gaddy
Aug 22, 2010 | 2065 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Oakman High School Principal Joel Hagood displayed the school’s annual accountability report, he circled a figure entitled, “graduation rate.” Oakman High was at 94 percent, 4 percent above the state’s goal.

Hagood said the figure validates the hard work done by everyone involved with the school.

“It’s a testimony to the faculty and the student body,” he said.

The reports, based from Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test and the state High School Graduation Exam, serve as a report card for public schools. The Walker County School System was one of 51 school districts that did not meet annual goals.

Within the county, graduation rates that have not been contested range from 89 percent to 72 percent. The state average was 87 percent.

Hagood said a number of factors contributed to Oakman High’s success. He said a large component is the effectiveness of the school’s Continuous Improvement Planning committee, which breaks down data from the reports and other indicators. The committee then identifies the specific areas in which each student needs to improve and creates an instruction plan to achieve the goal. Hagood said the teachers on the committee work incredibly hard to reach the students.

Hagood also praises the success of an outreach program Oakman High’s faculty created called Project Care. Teachers who participate are assigned to a handful of students who are at risk of failing. The teachers make sure each student has enough attention, both academically and emotionally.

“We are a very nurturing faculty,” said Natalie Edgil, special education teacher at Oakman. “I think the students feel they have a lot of mommies and daddies here.”

Hagood added all of Oakman’s teachers far exceed the expectations set for them. It is common to see teachers give up planning periods or stay after school to make sure a student understands a lesson, he said.

Hagood said the largest factor in the school’s success is the personal interest the teachers take in the students.

“If you can make a connection with them, they will walk through a wall for you,” said Paulette Harbison, math teacher at Oakman High.

Hagood said educators across the country struggle with the reports every year. Last year Oakman High had a graduation rate of 83 percent, second only to Cordova High School with 86 percent. However, because Oakman had a graduation rate of 93 percent the year before, the school did not meet its yearly benchmark.

“We’re going to brag because next year it could be us,” he said.

Monica Brown, an english teacher at Oakman High, said the real validation occurs when the students leave with a diploma.

“Just knowing the kids have done it,” she said. “The numbers are great, but just to see them come out when they’ve passed everything, that’s the main thing.”

Oakman High is not the only Walker County high school that has made progress in regard to graduation rates. Diana Little, the school system’s director of Assessment, Curriculum, Instruction, and Administration, said Carbon Hill, Cordova and Curry high schools also increased their graduation rates recently.