PARCA ranks OHS tops for better scores

Published 10:34 am Friday, April 19, 2019

The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama ranked Opp High School number one in the state on improving their American College Testing scores over the past three years.

In 2015, the average score at OHS was 18.09. In 2018 they increased their average score to 19.69.

OHS principal Aaron Hightower said that the increase comes from the Opp Bobcat culture.

“Number one, I think it starts off with school culture,” Hightower said. “You really can’t measure that, but you can walk through the halls and see the relationships that have been built between the staff and the students. Kids feel safe. Kids trust teachers and therefore they are going to do what they can to make sure that everybody in the Opp family is successful. Like I said, you can’t measure that, but it is so significant.”

He said that there is no substitute for great instruction.

“You can get all of the supplemental programs you want,” Hightower said. “But if you have great instruction, you can look at kids in the ninth and 10th grade and see their ACT scores start growing all from that great instruction. That instruction has to be strategic, which means it will increase student engagement, which means there will be more student achievement. So, with strategic lessons, student engagement and great instruction, you will start seeing some changes.”

Teaching the standards and emphasizing on the ACT are some of the things that Hightower said are key to increasing the score.

“We can’t teach just what we are comfortable with,” Hightower said. “You have to teach what is required for the students to grow. I think our AP classes are very rigorous, but by introducing the training of DOK, which is depth of knowledge, a couple years ago, I think that made a difference. On the ACT, most of the levels of DOK are twos and threes, so we wanted to ensure that our kids are being asked higher level, harder thinking questions. Not just recall questions. So our teachers and administration started working on DOK because we have got to start thinking at a higher order. For example, we shouldn’t just give kids a list of vocabulary words and have them look them up. You should give them the vocabulary and let them do something that is applicable to the words. Our teachers have done a great job of putting the emphasis on that.”

For Hightower, being the best is one of the most important things that he tells his students.

“When we talk to our kids, we always talk about being the best,” Hightower said. “Whether it’s on the football field, on the court or in the academic arena, we truly believe that we have got the best kids in the state and the best kids in Covington County. We want to resemble that belief. We do that through collaboration with our teachers and staff. It feels great to be number one, because that means that we are getting better as a whole.”

Hightower said that there are so many other programs that they have put in place that help with their score, other than great instruction.

“We believe that you have to have an IEP for every child,” Hightower said. “Every kid should have an individualized educational program. We are going to look at that program and attack the needs for that student. We have built a schedule that we think is conducive to attacking every child’s needs. Our central office has been amazing by providing resources for our students to continue to be successful.”

He said that every class that comes through Opp High School is different, but they all continue to be successful.

“Some classes are stronger academically than others and some are going to be stronger athletically than others,” Hightower said. “But as administrators we have got to create processes that will be sustained no matter what class comes through. That is the main thing we are trying to do, we have to make sure that the processes that we are creating are going to also create success.”

The Covington County School system was ranked 24 in the state, increasing their score over the past three years by .59.

Andalusia City Schools were ranked 41 in the state, increasing their score over the past three years by .39.