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Crenshaw County Schools receives high ranking in 2017 survey

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In a recent study done by Niche.com, Crenshaw County Schools was ranked 60/173 in the 2017 Best School District in Alabama.

“We do celebrate the good news and we look at the data constantly to see where improvements need to be made and where we can revamp our curriculum or increase our instruction,” said Superintendent of Crenshaw County Schools Boyd English.

“But to me, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for. When you say we’re in the top 60, we celebrate that, but at the same time we’re ready to be in the top 10. That’s going to be our goal moving forward.”

According to the website, the rankings were based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state, test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, public school district ratings and more.

English believes that it is the system as a whole that created this higher ranking, not just one school versus another.

“I think the strength of our system is our three communities. You have Brantley, Luverne and Highland Home. Each is unique, each has its own strength, but we couldn’t have our system without one of them,” English said.

“In the differences lie our strengths.”

In this study, Crenshaw County Schools received a B- in academic, an A- in culture and diversity, a B in health and safety, a C+ in teachers, a B- in resources and facilities, a B in clubs and activities and a B+ in sports.

Overall, the system ranked as a B and received a 4.1/5 in parent/student surveys on overall experiences.

English credits this high mark to the administration and the students of Crenshaw County Schools.

Neighboring school systems, such as Butler County Schools received a ranking of 107/173, and Troy City Schools received a ranking of 88/173.

In regards to the one low grade on the ranking, a C+ for teachers, English says that he believes that grade to be untrue of his staff.

“I don’t know where the C+ came in, but our teachers are great. I think that the number one thing our teachers have to do going into this new year is revamp their goals. It’s a new beginning. One thing it has to start with is love for kids,” he said.

“It starts with love for kids, then it goes strictly to academics and how we’re going to prepare our students. If you do what you’re supposed to in the classroom, that data will take care of itself, and you will be able to see the benefits of the data. Really, we shouldn’t be teaching to a test or to try to make the data move, because the data will move when we do the right thing.”

While English does believe that Crenshaw County Schools has grown tremendously over his two years here, he knows that there are still many mountains to climb before they reach the peak of excellence.

“It’s not about funding from the state, property tax or sales tax revenue. It’s about how do we invest in the child and are we really preparing them for college and career readiness,” English said.

In the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, English says that the Professional Leadership Team (PLT) met to discuss where they were academically and where they wanted to go.

“It’s hard to do a true comprehensive strategic plan in one year, so we just said what are some themes that define who we are,” English said.

“All three schools are along HWY 331, so that’s where the ‘Paving Alabama’s Championship Highway’ came from. To me, that encompasses everything we want to do. Our vision is there, our buy in from our teachers and parents is there and our students do want more opportunities.”

In 2015-2016, Crenshaw County Schools looked at their data and took note of what changes needed to be made. English notes that a huge emphasis was placed on classes going from departmental rotations with kindergarten, first and second grades to going back to traditional, self-contained classrooms.

“That may be seen as a small move, but to me it’s a large move because our teachers now will be able to track how they are reading, how they are doing in math and teaching them those foundational skills that will carry them on through,” English said.

Another change that came this year to the third grade students was a slight dip in the number of Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) reading coaches assigned to the school system.

“We have somebody who supports us, but we don’t see her very often because she’s spread out,” English said.

“So what we had to do was internalize a little bit and shift our focus. We have one of our reading coaches who has a little more flexibility that’s providing professional development for our teachers.”

In grades nine through 12, English says that the success of the Virtual School has grown more than he imagined.

The curriculum used for the Virtual School is OdysseyWare. The current package created by Odysseyware for Crenshaw County Schools offers 140 open enrollments, and there is no cost for students in Crenshaw County to be part of the virtual school.

Students are able to complete an entire degree online if need be, according to English, and those students who do choose to be 100 percent virtual will still be accredited and can still receive a diploma from Crenshaw County Schools.

“It’s giving a rural system like ourselves the ability to offer more for our students such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses,” English says.

“We have four students taking AP history for the first time. We’ve rolled out some of our other core areas, like English, and students can take foreign languages like French.”

English also notes the elective opportunities that have been opened up, such as the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) courses.

Dual enrollment opportunities were also enhanced in the 2016-2017 year with more college classes offered at LBW Community College Luverne Center.

Even though there are still areas English says the system needs to work on to improve, he is confident that the staff and faculty of Crenshaw County Schools will be up for the challenge, as long as they remain united as one system.

“The more we’re successful, whether it’s academics, athletics or extracurricular, I think we’re only as strong as the school that’s to our north or south,” he said.

“We all three have to be successful for our system to move up in the ranks. One school can’t carry the other two; it’s going to take all three. We have people that bleed green, blue and red, but at the end of the day we also have to understand that competition is good, but we have to want the other schools to be successful so our system is put out there like it’s supposed to be.”