A Gadsden County charter school has been designated as one of the best in the country and it's leaders say there's still more work to do.
It’s not easy being an A-rated school for seven years in a row. And Crossroad Academy Principal Kevin Forehand says, the school did not start out that way.
"It actually evolved from an alternative program. When the charter school law started in 1996, we picked it up in 1997," Forehand says. "I don’t want to say we had to shave the alternative image, but we had to become more than an alternative school.”
Crossroad had to change its image from the school of last resort to first choice. It was rated a “C” school in 2003, and got an “F” in 2004. 2008 marked the start of its A-rating streak which has continued ever since, despite numerous changes in state expectations for student learning and standardized testing.
Crossroad is a charter school—a public school, that is funded and operates independently of its school district. A few weeks ago it was named a national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a recorded announcement, explains Blue Ribbon schools as, "schools that are leading their students to highest levels of achievement or making outstanding progress in closing the achievement gaps.”
Still, Crossroads shares the same struggles as other charter schools. The majority of the students are black and Hispanic and are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Enrollment is dictated by space. Crossroad has had to turn some students away. The kids currently enrolled there face a very structured, fast-paced learning environment.
During a 2011 visit to Crossroad Academy students were learning how to write persuasive paragraphs in a hand-on kind of way. Forehand says that’s part of what makes Crossroad Academy different: it does more than teach the basics, it makes students translate those skills into real life. He also says Crossroad Academy is not for everyone.
“Everybody can’t handle a high-performing environment. That’s just with students and parents, its teachers who think they want to work there. Everyone can’t handle high-performing. It’s like Wall Street.”
Crossroad currently serves Pre-K though 10th grade students. Forehand says he hopes to add 11th and 12th grade classes in the 2015-2016 school year.
*This story is part of a reporting partnership between WFSU and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate Initiative.