The mission of Ridge Creek School is to provide a successful learning experience for students who have struggled academically or socially in other settings. We provide an opportunity for teens to turn their lives around after other interventions have failed. We do this through the cooperative effort of our academic department, counseling department, recreation department, and the parents of the students placed in our care.
Ridge Creek School admits students on a case-by-case basis and evaluates every potential admission in an effort to screen out inappropriate placements. We rely on the openness of parents to inform us of their child's psychosocial history, including history of violence and legal charges, current, past, or pending. Sometimes parents do not completely reveal to us their children's problems in their desperation to save their child. Despite this, and the challenges it brings to the integration of the child into the student body, once admitted we are focused on helping that teen be as successful as possible in completing both their therapeutic and academic goals.
Overall, prior outcome studies have clearly demonstrated our effectiveness in helping teens move away from their self-destructive life course toward futures bright with promise. We have found that the best outcomes came with students who competed the therapeutic curriculum and graduated from our program. Students who were withdrawn early, prior to completing the program, did not do as well.
Ridge Creek School is an accredited college preparatory high school. Our review on February 8 and 9, 2011, by AdvancED (formerly known as SACS, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) resulted in a 5 year reaccreditation. The Quality Assurance Review Team commended the school for the following strengths: "In light of the fact that Ridge Creek School is in large part a "last chance" opportunity for the students, the commitment of all staff to the success of students is remarkable." "All stakeholders repeatedly provided dialogue referencing incredible passion for student success required daily by each staff member. The interviewees shared numerous success stories about students who have made successful transitions extending beyond RCS. Although the students stated that they would certainly rather be someplace else, when they were asked this question, "Three to five years from now, will you look back on this as a positive experience?" a resounding and unified voice of "yes" echoed throughout the room." 'The staff has electronic access to student data to effectively address the academic needs of students and guide instruction."
"Teachers and counselors work collaboratively to address the therapeutic and academic needs of each student by means of the Individual Service Plan (ISP). The school uses the BestNotes program to identify a student's academic and therapeutic needs based on past history. Teachers use the ISP as a resource to implement interventions and differentiate instruction to ensure the academic success of students. Students are given multiple opportunities to pass required courses by means of academic support sessions and course extensions."
"RCS effectively uses data obtained from pre-tests to ensure that students are properly placed and given opportunities to achieve educational goals." "The beautiful, pristine, and remote wilderness setting of RCS provides a unique environment for the therapeutic, academic, and recreational services available for students, while providing opportunities for students to participate in athletic, cultural, and service sports/projects." "The school uses multiple modes of communication to keep all stakeholders involved in the continuous improvement process."
The suggestions for improvement made by AdvancED included scheduling interdepartmental meetings, the creation of a curriculum map to assist with guiding instruction, engage in a comprehensive process to monitor the effectiveness of the educational program provided using a system of ongoing data analysis of both formative and summative student assessment results, and develop a Continuous Quality Improvement Committee to address issues of staff/student retention, outcome measurements for therapeutic and academic components, and alignment of the school's future direction/goals. We have implemented some of the suggestions made and are in the process of developing better quality assurance processes.
We are very proud of our students at Ridge Creek. Many come to us with academic failure after academic failure, but they learn to be successful here. All of the students who received their high school diploma from Ridge Creek in May were accepted into college. A young man who is slated to graduate at the conclusion of our summer semester not only was accepted to the school of his choice, but he was also awarded a $40,000.00 scholarship.
Our students come to us as spiteful, oppositional, defiant teens. They learn through various service projects that they can make a difference in the lives of others. They volunteer regularly at the Humane Society, local food pantries, local homeless shelters, and take responsibility for keeping a stretch of highway clear of litter. Through giving back through service projects to the community at large or to the campus community, our students learn to look beyond themselves.
Family involvement is critical in the success of our program. We offer parent workshops to help our parents develop more effective ways of interacting with their child. Our students and families report successful interactions within the family unit during our break weeks, something that many families didn't believe would be possible.
As our students move through the program, they take on a sense of ownership for their actions and stop blaming others for their problems. This sense of ownership results in the students holding one another accountable. Our students began and took ownership for an on campus NA meeting and this ownership is evidenced by the successful reduction of drug and alcohol use during our break weeks and the reduction in attempts to smuggle in contraband. There are many other small and large successes that lead our students toward a bright and promising future.
One of our recent graduates had this to say about Ridge Creek: "While this is a new chapter in my life, it's just the beginning and because of Ridge Creek it's not the end." Another stated, "what I will leave here saying is I never thought I would be standing here feeling this proud of myself, thank you mom and dad, I love you. And even though I hated this school to the end, it really worked."
The recent report on Atlanta's Fox 5 television station was biased and reflected the opinions of two disgruntled individuals. We chose to not be interviewed because of our commitment to professional standards of confidentiality and privacy of our students and parents. We continue to be committed to the mission of the school, our students, and parents. We stand by the successes we see every day despite those who would undermine the future of the school and our students. Most importantly, we are here for the children.