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Dana Studdard "As we move into spring, it is time to look ahead and prepare for an amazing educational experience for the upcoming school year. We would like to take the opportunity to introduce our MERIT program to parents within our community. We are very proud of the many wonderful things going on within the MERIT world and would like to share it with potential parents.  We enjoyed meeting many of you at our MERIT Meet and Greet on April 11th! For those of you who were unable to attend, I have posted a slide presentation of general information shared during our Meet and Greet.  I will be happy to meet with you to discuss criteria and answer questions about our program. Please feel free to email , call , or schedule a meeting with me very soon! 

MERIT Coordinator, 

Dana Studdard





TCMS MERIT Information


The Thomas County School System offers gifted and high achieving students in grades 5-12 a unique program integrated into our middle and high school campuses. Known as the MERIT program (Maximizing Education to Realize Intellectual Transformation), the purpose of MERIT is to challenge students to achieve their maximum academic potential while providing a supportive learning environment. MERIT offers the most comprehensive and flexible academic options for gifted and accelerated study in our area. 

MERIT students receive advanced content and accelerated instruction in academic subjects, including “Honors” and advanced placement classes. The program allows MERIT students to be part of the same exploratory or elective schedule as their peers who are not in the accelerated program as well as continue to participate in all aspects of school life including fine arts, athletics, extracurricular, and social functions.

To be considered a MERIT student at Thomas County Middle/Upper Elementary School, interested students must first apply to the school for consideration and be accepted to the program. Each grade at the middle school has a MERIT “team” consisting of all MERIT students for that particular grade. MERIT students take Honors and Advanced classes in each of the four academic areas and beginning in sixth grade, students receive an academic course in Spanish each year. This allows students who begin the program by fifth grade to earn two full years of high school Spanish credit while still in middle school. Middle school MERIT students will have the opportunity to earn high school credits in English, math, foreign language, and science. 


An advantage of transitioning Spanish from an exploratory class to the academic team is that MERIT students will take Spanish all year and will still have two exploratory options each grading period. Students on a MERIT team will continue to have exploratory classes with their grade level and will have full access to all exploratory classes offered. 


Acceleration during the middle school years means students can take more challenging courses in high school, enroll in dual enrollment programs such as ACCEL, Move-On-When-Ready, or pursue an Associates of Arts in Liberal Studies degree by the time they graduate from high school. More academic rigor in high school prepares students for high end post-secondary opportunities with an enhanced rate of successful matriculation and graduation from a major college or university.




Students who wish to be designated a “MERIT student” must complete a minimum of 20 hours of service learning in the community per year, and they must participate in at least one academically oriented extra-curricular activity and two academic competitions per year. Ten hours of service learning earned during the summer prior to the school year may be applied to the 20 hour minimum.


To qualify for placement on a middle school MERIT team, students must meet the following criteria:

  1. Meet or exceed expectations on every section of the most recent Georgia Milestone
  2. Have no serious disciplinary referrals within the last year and/or no more than two minor referrals within the last year: a serious referral is one which resulted in a home suspension of three days or more
  3. Submit an application
  4. Provide a letter of support (Parent/Student Compact) signed by the parent and the student
  5. Teacher Recommendation Form
  6. A graded writing sample
  7. Gifted eligibility OR three of the following :
  • Achievement at or above the 75th percentile on the reading and math sections of the most recent ITBS
  • All A’s or all A’s and one B in core academic classes for the previous year
  • Achievement at or above the 75th percentile on the most recent CogAT or other test of mental ability
  • Exceed expectations in a minimum of three areas on the most recent Georgia Milestone