New PLC celebrates first graduate
New Performance Learning Center celebrates first graduate
Posted on 08/16/2011

The new Performance Learning Center (PLC) has produced the first graduate from the program just two weeks into the new school year. While most students are getting started in classes, Alex Reyes, a senior at Model High School, has officially completed his graduation requirements. The PLC is a new self-paced program at the Floyd County Education Center in Floyd County Schools that was started with a grant from Communities in Schools. Monday morning Reyes donned his Model High blue cap and gown and paraded down the halls at the Floyd County Education Center to cheers and applause from his peers working toward the same graduation goal. The graduation parade will become a tradition for those reaching their goal of graduation in the new self-paced pathway to a high school diploma.

Reyes only needed one class at the end of last year to complete his graduation requirements. He finished his work by passing the Money Management final on Monday morning to complete his graduation requirements. Before the formation of the Performance Learning Center, a student would have faced the dilemma of returning to high school for the one course and completing the class on the regular semester schedule or moving on with life without a high school diploma. Many do not make the decision to return to school and become a drop-out statistic. That is a reality for too many teens that fall behind in their graduation requirements and lose sight of their graduation goal. The PLC’s mission is to reduce the number of students electing not to complete their graduation requirements when faced with such a decision. The PLC allows students to work at their own pace on the course work needed to complete requirements in an alternative setting that is flexible for work or family schedules. “Alex really came in and focused his efforts and time on what he needed to do to complete the course he lacked for graduation,” stated Melinda Strickland, principal of the Floyd County Education Center. “He is a shining example of what this program is all about and what the program can do for young people in our community.” The PLC program is flexible but demanding. Students must pass course work with a grade of 80 or above to complete the course work which is 10 points higher than the requirements for regular classes. Strickland said, “We want to make sure that the students have a solid grasp of the course content when completing a class at the PLC.” 

The PLC began this year with a plan to serve 35 students but had grown to 49 students by the end of the first week. The new Performance Learning Center will have the capacity to serve 75 students with a 1 to 15 teacher/student ratio by the end of the first year. The PLC model developed by Communities in Schools creates a business-like learning environment where students complete assignments using online, computer-based curriculum. Students learn at their own pace with assistance from support teachers providing individualized instruction. The PLC also provides experiential and service learning opportunities. Students are challenged to develop marketable skills in preparation for college and/or the workplace. The PLC provides students with mentors, internships, dual college enrollment, and technical training. In addition to the CIS components of the PLC, Floyd County Schools will vary the program to include a freshmen-focused learning environment to get students prepared to face the educational challenges of high school. “We know that the decision to drop-out of school begins before high school so we felt strongly that a focus on helping our older middle school students needed to be a part of the PLC program in our system,” said Dr. Lynn Plunkett, superintendent of Floyd County Schools. 

The PLC model has been lauded by state and federal education officials as one of the most effective strategies for improving graduation rates. In 2007, 91 percent of the nation’s PLC students improved their academic performance, and 75.7 percent of PLC students classified as seniors at the beginning of the year graduated. Dr. Melinda Strickland, principal of the Floyd County Education Center, has been working to transform the school into an alternative education program and is excited about the possibilities. Strickland commented, “There is no "one size fits all" in education and the FCEC is focusing to meet the students where they are by providing them with the opportunity to develop work-ready and college-ready skills in whatever avenue they choose to pursue after graduation.” “Our mission is to get them to graduation,” added Plunkett. “Leaving school with a diploma and a quality education will greatly enhance the quality of life for these teens and for our community.” 

Floyd County Schools was awarded a $160,000 grant from CIS Georgia to help fund the new PLC. The CIS grant for the new program came from federal funds awarded the Georgia Department of Education in its Race to the Top application, which included plans to expand Performance Learning Centers in Georgia. There are 21 PLCs operating in Georgia, and 18 in other states.