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Smoke Rise Elementary and Hill City Elementary recognized as National ESEA Distinguished Schools

MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Frick, GaDOE Communications Office,

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November 10, 2021 – Two Georgia public schools – Smoke Rise Elementary School in DeKalb County and Hill City Elementary School in Pickens County – have been recognized as 2021 National ESEA Distinguished Schools.

This is a national honor awarded by the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA) to two of the highest-performing Title I schools in every state; in Georgia, the top-performing five percent of Title I schools based upon the most recent CCRPI score are eligible to apply.

“Despite the challenging circumstances of the last year, Smoke Rise Elementary and Hill City Elementary are putting forth an outstanding effort to provide an excellent education for every student," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “This is a well-deserved national honor for the faculty, staff, students and parents of each school. I wish to thank them for representing the state of Georgia so well." 

A total of 75 Title I Distinguished Georgia schools from 41 LEAs were eligible to apply for this recognition. These honorees were selected based on academic achievement utilizing the school's FY19 CCRPI score, poverty level, increase from FY18 CCRPI score to the FY19 CCRPI score, and written responses to initiatives implemented that resulted in outstanding academic achievement among traditionally underserved subgroups of students.

Smoke Rise Elementary School, DeKalb County Schools
Smoke Rise Elementary has made notable progress in student growth and achievement in ELA, math, science, and social studies over the last four years. In 2019, the school was recognized as both a Title I Distinguished School and a Beating the Odds School. Administrators, counselors, teachers, and paraprofessionals analyzed content standards and formative assessment data to ensure students were receiving standards-aligned and differentiated instruction, conducting monthly learning walks and observing classrooms. Students at Smoke Rise also have access to a wide array of enrichment opportunities, including STEM, science lab, agricultural lab, gifted/advanced content courses, guided reading, an extended-day afterschool program, extracurriculars from art club to chorus to coding, and more. The school also has fostered a culture of collaboration, with more than 40 community partners actively volunteering time and resources to support students.

Hill City Elementary School, Pickens County Schools
Hill City Elementary is keenly aware that active student and family engagement is the foundation of improved achievement. The school has a long history of implementing innovative practices to encourage engagement, including flexible classroom seating, a book vending machine, and an elementary agriculture program. Recently, following a careful study of student performance data and conducting a comprehensive needs assessment, the school launched new initiatives to better meet the needs of all students, including the economically disadvantaged and those with disabilities. That work included implementation of a schoolwide balanced literacy program – including a 135-minute daily reading block – building teacher capacity to deliver math standards, and improving school climate and supporting student well-being. 

Each winning school will receive a $20,000 grant from the GaDOE Title I, Part A program to support registration for the school team to attend the 2022 National ESEA Conference, and to support the school's Title I initiatives.​