The Georgia Public Policy Foundation named two Walker County elementary schools to a statewide list of 35 "No Excuses Schools" in its 2010 Report Card for Parents.

Though there's a belief that poverty and low test scores go hand-in-hand, foundation President Kelly McCutchen said Stone Creek and Cherokee Ridge elementary schools bucked the trend.

They notched rankings of 22nd and 75th, respectively, out more than 1,200 Georgia elementary schools in spite of high levels of poverty, Mr. McCutchen said.

"Forget about poverty," he said.

The two Walker schools "are easily in the top 10 to 20 percent" based on fifth-grade test scores, he said.

According to foundation standards, a No Excuses school has a poverty rate above the state average of 51 percent and meets adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind.

The Walker schools' test scores "are phenomenal anyway, but then you look at the poverty rate -- I think 73 and 75 percent (at Cherokee Ridge and Stone Creek, respectively) of the student body is eligible for free and reduced lunch -- that's what's really dramatic about it," Mr. McCutchen said.

Both schools also spend less than the state average per student, he said.

"You're getting these incredible results and you're not spending as much money," he said.

The difference is in philosophies, say Cherokee Ridge principal Lori Vann and Stone Creek principal Brandon Mossgrove.

"We're an extremely high-poverty school, but with very good scores," Mr. Mossgrove said. "Socio-economics don't play a role at Stone Creek."


The Georgia Public Policy Foundation's 2010 Report Card ranks 1,219 elementary schools based on third-grade test scores, 1,212 elementary schools based on fifth-grade test scores, 507 middle schools based on eighth-grade test scores and 357 high schools based on End-Of-Course-Test scores and graduation rates. Systems with the highest number of 2010 No Excuses honors include Atlanta Public Schools with 10, Dougherty County with six and DeKalb County with four. To learn more, go to

The honors are because of "the hard work of the teachers at the school," Ms. Vann said. "They believe that every child at the school can succeed and they're willing to do whatever it takes to help them get there."

Teachers perform a variety of assessments to identify struggling students and work closely with parents, she said.

If students need help, certified teachers dedicated to remediation make sure they catch up, she said. As soon as one does, the student moves on and another one is taken under the teachers' tutorial wings, she said.

Both principals said the No Excuses notice is appreciated.

"We are very honored to be recognized with this award," Ms. Vann said. "It means a lot to all of us."

Mr. McCutchen said Georgia's No Excuses schools are "proof that it can be done."


Name: Cherokee Ridge Elementary School

Principal: Lori Vann

Students: 854

Teachers: 56

Address: 2423 Johnson Road, Chickamauga, Ga.

Name: Stone Creek Elementary School

Principal: Brandon Mossgrove

Students: 435

Teachers: 33

Address: 1600 Happy Valley Road, Rossville, Ga.

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