Special Assignment: Graduation Coaches

By: Kate Tillotson Email
By: Kate Tillotson Email

May 3, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Last year, less than 70 percent of all Georgia's high school seniors graduated. In Richmond County, the number was roughly 60 percent.

Governor Sonny Perdue wants to improve those graduation rates, so he's put coaches in every high school.

In a News 12 Special Assignment, we investigated how well it's really working.

This time last year, T.W. Josey High School senior Regina Nabriat was feeling down.

"I was very worried," she said. "I didn't want to disappoint nobody."

Science just wasn't her subject, and she knew she needed help.

"If you don't pass the test, you don't graduate," she said.

Lucky for her, graduation coach Malissa Collins was hired. Collins has been tutoring students like Regina since September.

"It's what I love to do," Collins told News 12.

The two have met multiple times a week to get Regina's science score up so she could graduate.

"It's like once I get to the test, I end up forgetting," Regina said.

But not this time. This time, she passed, raising her score roughly 20 points.

"Without the motivation, I don't think I would have," she said.

"They're individuals, they're persons," Collins said. "They're people we need to invest in."

Dr. Carol Rountree is director of guidance in Richmond County. She supervises Collins and nine other coaches--one in each of the high schools.

"The primary objective was to reduce the dropout rate," Dr. Rountree said.

For a state that consistently ranks at the bottom of the nation's graduation rates, a lot is riding on this $21 million program.

"I wouldn't call it pressure," Dr. Rountree said. "These are individuals who have come to this job expecting to interact with students and make a difference."

Like the other coaches, Collins works with 150 students, assuming the roles of tutor, mentor and counselor.

"She helps you in other ways too...helps you believe in yourself," Regina said.

"I'll never give up," Collins said. "But the earlier we can get in to intervene, the better our success rate and our graduation rate is going to be."

This year, Collins and other coaches have worked with 200,000 students across the state of Georgia.

While Collins and Regina were successful, it's still unclear what, if any, progress other teams have made. The tests given March 16 have yet to be officially scored. Also, some students still have time to complete course requirements. In other words, they haven't received their final grades.

We'll check back in with Richmond County in a couple of weeks. They'll have the official test scores on May 21.

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  • by Molly Location: Thomson on May 9, 2007 at 06:25 PM
    There are three graduation coaches in McDuffie County Schools. One full time at Thomson High and two part time at the Crossroad center. All are very engaged in helping the students to graduate on time.
  • by Concerned Location: Thomson on May 4, 2007 at 08:04 AM
    What a wonderful idea !! Please introduce this to McDuffie County Schools as far as I know we do not have coaches to help our students and since it has become a major issue that these students pass these test to be able to move forward it needs to start in Elementary school and with coaches so that no child gets left behind or feels like a failure.I'm sure we would see a big difference and great results.
  • by Concerned Location: Thomson on May 4, 2007 at 07:30 AM
    This should be something McDuffie County School system starts looking into. No child who has attended school for 12 to 13 years to look forward to the big graduation day, the once in a life time event that cannot be replaced but in the end they are being told I'm sorry there was a part of the test you didn't pass so you will not be able to graudate with your class. What a devasting moment. A lot of these student have good report cards and particpate in school events. This is a major problem and is very discouraging to students who may just not be good at test. For instance a child makes honor roll all year his parents are telling him how proud they are of him but then they get a letter saying your child may not go to the next grade because he has not scored high enough on a certain test that they are required to take. So on one hand your say we are so proud of you but on the other hand it's a possibilty you will not go to the next grade because of a test. That can be very confusing to a child or parent and very discouraging. If they are able to make honor roll that should tell you something that they must not be good at test. Personally I think this whole thing needs to be re-evaluated and thought through. We are building these children up to let them down which has a big inpact on a childs emotions and makes them feel like a failure after trying so hard all those years. But now it has started in Elementary school so who is to say that these children will ever make it to high school if it all depends on certain test scores they will so discouraged by middle school and fall so far behind they will end up dropping out. Seems as if we are basing everybody's intelligance on the same test but on the same hand some people just don't seem to get catch on like others with out one on one help.
  • by Jackie Smith Location: Hephzibah on May 3, 2007 at 05:28 PM
    As an educator, I feel any type of positive intervention is needed. Students need all the encouragement they can receive and someone that has a vested interest in our youth would be a great benefit to them and society. Graduation coaches are truly needed.
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