McDuffie educators have adopted a new concept to encourage academic excellence. The program, called Renaissance, is a national education-focused program created to recognize and reward students' academic achievements.
"I've used Renaissance in several school systems before, and the results were very clear," said Dr. Mark Petersen, McDuffie Board of Education superintendent. "Academic achievement soared, attendance soared, school climate improved, community participation increased, customer satisfaction increased."
Renaissance was created by Jostens, Inc., a company which provides products such as yearbooks, class rings and graduation products. Participation in Renaissance is free, and schools are not required to purchase from Jostens in order to participate.
The Renaissance program focuses on four target areas: increasing student attendance, improving overall academic performance, increasing graduation rates and creating a positive, safe school environment.
Renaissance encourages the involvement of students and teachers, as well as parents and local businesses. The program is based on the principals of performance, promotion and partnership. Dr. Petersen said he plans to bring the founder of Renaissance to Thomson to talk with students, parents and staff; and to explain the concept of the program at a power lunch with local business members and leaders in the community.
"We think businesses will want to be involved in the most important business in town, which is educating the kids," Dr. Petersen said. "This is an attitude; this is a shift in the way we think about recognizing children. We're not asking for money or anything like that. Our community already supports our schools tremendously."
Laura Hughes, principal of Dearing Elementary, said McDuffie County schools have always rewarded academic achievements of students, but with Renaissance, "it will be county-wide, a lot more visible, like knock-them-over obvious."
At the Board of Education Leadership Retreat on July 19, principals shared Renaissance reward ideas including gifts, academic pep rallies, painted handprints on entry walls, and positive phone calls to parents from the principals.
"For kids that normally don't get good phone calls at home from the principal, it will be a positive experience," said Steve Rhodes, Norris Elementary principal. "Renaissance recognizes when a student improves academically, regardless of where they are. It doesn't hit just the top students who are always making good grades. It will recognize all improvements."