Pitsco Education Star Academy plays role in state’s economic ambitions

DOUGLAS, Georgia (December 10, 2013) – Individuals who earn a high school diploma will make on average 50% to 100% more than those who do not, so it is no surprise that states looking to improve their economies often begin by addressing high school graduation rates. When this fact is combined with the knowledge that 66% of students who fail a grade eventually drop out of school, it is evident that truly effective dropout prevention starts before the high school years.

For this reason, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal traveled to Coffee County on Tuesday, December 10, 2013. Deal delivered a speech and attended a tour and ribbon-cutting ceremony honoring the successful start-up of the district’s Star Academy located in the town of Douglas. Star Academy is an award-winning program created by Pitsco Education that gives eighth-grade students who have been held back a year a chance to rejoin their age peers by earning two years’ credit in one year’s time.

The Star Academy in Douglas was funded by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development. And though it is in its first year, it is an important piece both in the district’s strategic planning with community partners to improve education in the region and in the governor’s stated vision: to make Georgia the best state in the country in which to do business. Both of these goals depend upon creating a skilled, qualified workforce.

“I applaud the efforts of the Star Academy for working to change the lives of at-risk students by guiding them in their education,” Governor Deal said. “This program is nationally recognized as one of the most effective dropout prevention solutions in the country, and we’re glad to have a branch of it in Georgia.”

The creation of the Coffee County Career Academy, a school focusing on technical and career-oriented skills, was already in the works for high school-level students. But the superintendent, Dr. Morris Leis, saw the need to take it even further.

“I was looking for a foundational piece, something to bring the whole program together,” Leis explained. After visiting a Star Academy in Greenville, South Carolina, he knew he’d found something special. “When we saw what they were doing up there, it became obvious that the Star Academy could be our foundational piece for those students that we want to reach that haven’t been as successful as we’d like.”

The Star Academy was implemented as a school within a school in the Coffee County Career Academy. Though the Career Academy as a whole serves high school students, Star Academy serves overage middle school students. The Star Academy students work individually and at their own pace, progressing through hands-on, project-based curricula focusing on the four key areas of math, science, language arts, and social studies.

As Governor Deal expressed in his speech and as the decision of the Office of Workforce Development to fund the Star Academy implied, the students represent the future of Georgia’s economy.

During his speech, the governor spoke directly to the Star Academy students who were working to regain their path to a timely graduation: “Sometimes when you get behind, you get embarrassed. I know that. We’ve all been in that posture. . . . But if we let those disappointments and those failures to achieve the goals that we want for ourselves to stop us dead in our tracks, then all is lost.”

Clearly the district, the community, and the state are working to ensure students can overcome setbacks.
For more information about Pitsco Education Star Academy, visit www.pitsco.com/staracademy.
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