Making Gains


Smoke Rise Elementary Recognized for Student Achievement

Exciting things are happening at all seven of Tucker’s cluster schools. Students are achieving and growing, and great strides are being made inside and outside of the classroom. No school is a better example of that than Smoke Rise Elementary.

The school has been on an upward trajectory for several years now, a turnaround that has drawn attention at the local and now even the state level. On December 3, Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods met with Smoke Rise administrators and toured the newly constructed school, an opportunity to see firsthand how progress is being made there. He also celebrated with staff the accomplishment of being named an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished School.

“It’s nice to have some celebration at this time after what we’ve been facing over the past couple of years,” Woods said. “It’s proof that education and learning continue on. They don’t stop.”

The turnaround at Smoke Rise started in December 2014 when Pamela McCloud became the school’s principal. She admittedly took over in a difficult position, at a time when student achievement had fallen well below state standards. Over the course of the past seven years, McCloud and her staff have gotten the school STEM certified and brought test scores back to the point where they are now at an 89.2 percent College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) score, among the highest scores in the State of Georgia.

Smoke-Rise-success“We’ve worked real hard to get to this point,” McCloud said. “It’s been an awesome journey.”

The principal says the school’s progress started with her efforts to connect with staff. Once relationships and priorities were established, she reached out to parents and students at the school to get them onboard. Several years later, they’re all one harmonious group.

“Watching Principal McCloud and her talented and dedicated staff work together over the past several years to transform Smoke Rise Elementary has been amazing,” said Lyle Collins, a member of the Smoke Rise Principal Advisory Council. “They often say it is a true blessing to teach and help raise all of our beautiful children. The recent accomplishments by the school show their passion is at work daily.”

Parents point to McCloud’s philosophical stance (“We don’t have the word ‘no’ at our school anymore; it’s either ‘yes’ or ‘not yet’”) and her belief in inclusion (“When we say ‘all students’ with a capital A-L-L, we mean all students have to be taught”) as reasons for her success as a principal. But it’s the cultivation of a family environment at the school that has helped Smoke Rise to meet – and surpass – its achievement goals.

“Everyone has a part in this from custodians to the cafeteria,” Woods explained. “If you’re a part of this education family, you’re a part of the team.”

With the STEM certification, the ESEA honor and the skyrocketing achievement scores, Smoke Rise has built a basis for success in the years ahead. It’s just another example of the tremendous progress being made at our Tucker Cluster schools.

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