Another school year has come to an end for most Columbia County students, but at least one of them still has work to do.
Rachael Cundey, a rising fifth-grader at South Columbia Elementary School, leaves today to travel to Washington, D.C., to compete as our entire community's representative in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
But as a story in today's News-Times "spells" out, Rachael is more than just a good speller. She's also quite accomplished in all classes. During Honors Day, she nailed the top prize for her class in every subject area.
Rachael's accomplishment, along with the astounding achievements of lots of other students, helps highlight another successful school year for Columbia County.
Make no mistake: The lure of athletic competition and the drama of discipline cases often capture the most attention for our schools. It is academics, however, that set Columbia County's school system apart.
Are there individual schools in the Augusta area with higher scores? Absolutely. Richmond County's semi-public Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School draws from the cream of the crop in that county to create an elite school that ranks academically at the top in the state.
Just imagine Columbia County creating such a school. It would be the academic equivalent of Atlanta's athletic-powerhouse Marist, a private school that recruits the region's best athletes.
The downside for Richmond County, however, is that by channeling some of its best students into one school, other schools in the system suffer. Columbia County's traditional approach is far better: Create a tide that raises all ships.
The recently released scores for the Georgia High School Graduation Test shows that it's working. Columbia County students improved in every subject on the all-important test. That's quite a feat, considering scores last year in every subject already were in the mid- to high 90s.
The scores in the elementary and middle-grades Criterion-Referenced Competency Test generally show improvement, too. Especially impressive is improvement in math scores for fifth- and eighth-graders, who must pass the test to advance to the next grade. The system now uses a more rigorous math curriculum, and students and teachers are proving to be up to the challenge.
Obviously, there is still work to be done, and Columbia County can hardly rest on its laurels. But just as Rachael Cundey will keep practicing her spelling words right up until the competition starts this week, so will the schools continue to seek ways to improve.
See them all next year. And best of luck to Rachael!
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