‘COACH ‘EM UP’
“Coach ‘em up” is the team approach Gaffney High has taken towards increasing graduation rates and reducing the number of 9thgrade repeaters.
Gaffney High has seen its graduation rate increase from 73.4 percent in 2013 to 79.5 percent in 2016. The school has seen 9th-grade repeaters drop from 102 students three years ago to 46 this year.
Graduation coach Daniel Foster and principal Dr. Raashad Fitzpatrick will share their school’s recent success in these areas Monday at 8 a.m. in a presentation titled “Coach’ Em Up” at the 2017 At-Risk Youth National Forum in Myrtle Beach. The conference is sponsored by the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University.
Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney is the keynote speaker for the conference, which runs from Feb. 19-22. The Clemson football team has an 84 percent graduation rate and ranks in the top 10 nationally.
Educators will travel from California, Texas, Maine and other states for the national dropout conference to learn about strategies for making a positive impact on at-risk teenagers through education.
“Success is not owned. It is leased and the rent is due every day,” said Foster, referring to one of his favorite quotes by Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. “I always tell our students they have to come to school every day and put in the work. I’m really look forward to gaining new knowledge and having my mind blown at the conference. I have taken many ideas from past national conferences and smashed them together with guidance from Dr. Fitzpatrick into a team approach that works for our students at Gaffney High.”
Gaffney High started a summer bridge program in 2015 in which rising 9th-grade students are invited for a weeklong program before school starts. Topics covered include study skills, conflict resolution, positive decision-making and social skills.
The bridge program is free for students and is used to help them make a successful transition from middle school to high school. A credit recovery course allows 9thgrade repeaters to complete high school units so they can stay on track with their classmates to graduation.
“We know ninth grade is a critical year,” Foster said. “Research has shown once a student is a 9th-grade repeater that there is a greater likelihood that they could become a high school dropout. We want all students to graduate from high school, which is why we started the summer bridge program.”