Cherokee High School has been identified by the state as a school that needs extra support for English learners to keep up with their peers.

The Georgia Department of Education released last week its list of Targeted Support and Improvement schools as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Cherokee High School was identified as having its English Learners subgroup in the bottom 5% in three components of the College and Career Ready Performance Index: content mastery, readiness and graduation rate.

English Learners, or those for whom English is not their first language, make up 10.3% of the school’s total student population. On last year’s Milestones tests in English Language Arts, 56% of Cherokee High students on average scored at or above grade level, or proficient and above. For English Learners, that number was just 5%. English Learners fell more behind in math and science: in math, 2% had scores proficient or above, compared to the school average of 42%.

In addition to lower rates of students meeting benchmarks such as attendance, accelerated enrollment and career pathways, the graduation rate is lower for English Learners at Cherokee. The school’s average four-year graduation rate is 80%, and for English Learners the four-year rate is 57%.

School district spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said there are expanded programs at Cherokee and districtwide efforts to help close the gaps between English Learners and their classmates.

“As far as Cherokee HS, we have expanded programs there to support English Learners beyond the traditional ESOL classes. A new initiative, fully implemented this school year after a (test period) last school year, is a CHOICE program modeled after the successful initiative of the same name that serves special education students. Through the CHOICE program for English Learners, students receive additional individualized instruction and mentoring to help them successfully master classroom lessons and graduate on time,” she said.

For TSI schools, GaDOE charges school districts with providing supports, while the state provides professional learning and targeted technical assistance.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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