Coweta Charter Academy is a public charter school located west of rural Senoia, Georgia on Highway 16. The K-8 school is authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission, managed by Charter Schools USA and overseen by a board of local community leaders.
In 2018, Coweta Charter Academy was the top performing state charter school on Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). Students at the school received an overall score of 89.2, which surpassed Coweta County and state CCRPI averages. The school’s elementary students received a 91.2 on the CCRPI, which makes it the number one performing public elementary school in Coweta County.
Gene Dunn, Principal of Coweta Charter Academy, said he believes a school-wide focus on student improvement led to the academic success. During the last school year, Dunn said educators took part in a number of team meetings centered on the Response to Intervention (RTI) process, which he said previously was virtually non-existent. RTI is an approach that provides academic and behavioral support to students while closely monitoring their progress. Dunn believes giving teachers the right tools helped the school make academic progress.
“We try to empower teachers and focus on hiring the right people who want to be here for the right reasons,” says Dunn. “We really focus on trying to hire veteran teachers, and even though we can’t meet the pay scale of the local county, a lot of them have recognized the flexibility that they get in the classroom, and we’re not trying to micromanage, and they really like that.”
As part of its academic program, the school focuses on classroom rigor, personalized learning, the mastery of state standards and social and emotional growth. Coweta Charter Academy also partners with local businesses and community organizations to provide additional resources and learning opportunities.
The school is hoping to make additional progress this year due to the 8-step process, which provides targeted instruction to small groups of students to help them grow. The school began using the approach in January. The 8-step process relies on the heavy use of data and includes tutorials, enrichment, instructional calendars, skills review and the monitoring of instruction. Dunn says training for the 8-step process was provided by Charter Schools USA.
Dunn says he also works hard to create a positive school culture to make teachers feel like they’re part of a family. For instance, the school provides lunch on the first Friday of every month to thank educators. He also works to help teachers receive endorsements and take advantage of professional development opportunities.
To make families feel welcome, Dunn says school employees are asked to give “red carpet” treatment, which includes being kind, polite and helpful to all who walk through the school doors. He says the school also works hard to make sure parents and students receive personal attention and don’t feel like a number. Coweta Charter Academy teachers greet students and say goodbye to them every day.
“We’ve created an environment where parents have said they never felt more love and caring than they do here,” says Dunn. “If students feel like they’re safe and they’re loved most of their other problems go away, and they’re excited about coming to school.”
Last year, Coweta Charter Academy received a five-year renewal of its charter from the State Charter Schools Commission. As part of that renewal, the school expanded its attendance zone. In previous years, only students in Coweta County could attend the school. Now, the school also serves students in Spalding and Meriwether counties.