Beaufort schools, district continue gains on report cards

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Beaufort schools, district continue gains on report cards

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@beaufortgazette.com
Published Thursday, November 10, 2011   |  644 Words  |  

Beaufort County public schools' state report card ratings continued a three-year climb this year, and for the first time since 2004, no schools were rated "at-risk," according to data released today by the S.C. Department of Education.

Overall, the district was rated "average," the same rating it earned in 2010.

Each public school and district in the state receives one of five ratings -- excellent, good, average, below average, or at-risk. The ratings are based on a formula that takes into account scores on state-mandated tests, student-teacher ratios, money spent per student, amount of instructional time and several other factors.

Four schools achieved excellent -- Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center, Coosa and Okatie elementary schools, and Hilton Head Island High.

The district's scores were boosted by higher elementary and middle school scores on Palmetto Achievement of State Standards exams and improved scores on high school exit and end-of-course exams. The improvement mirrors a statewide trend, according to the S.C. Department of Education. Of the state's 86 school districts, 20 improved their ratings and 57 maintained them.

More of South Carolina's schools and school districts reached excellent status on their state report cards in 2011, as areas of high poverty smashed stereotypes to claim their spot among the state's best. On the flip side, however, several districts slid backward into the bottom tier, according to the data.

Beaufort County's ratings have risen since 2009, said Superintendent Valerie Truesdale. She attributed gains in part to a more rigorous math curriculum adopted in 2008, coupled with increased instruction time in math and reading.

A one-on-one approach is also helping, Truesdale said. It's common to see teachers discussing individual students' progress -- not a class or a grade level -- on state-mandated assessments, she said.

"We're demystifying assessments for teachers through data analysis," she said. "They're all studying data, and they're doing it down to the individualized student level."

Hilton Head Island High principal Amanda O'Nan said focusing on individual students has made a difference at her school. Teachers worked one-on-one with about 70 students struggling to pass some state assessments, and almost every one passed those exams the next time, she said.

Several Hilton Head High students said teachers holding after-school office hours have been a big help. Each teacher must be available after school for at least an hour per week. O'Nan said classrooms are frequently full during the extra time.

For senior Santiago Tovar, those office hours made him feel as though his teachers were accessible.

"With every one of them, I feel comfortable asking for their time," he said.

Hilton Head High's excellent rating this year was a jump of two levels from average in 2010.

"Our faculty and staff have really developed a whatever-it-takes attitude," O'Nan said. "They want to see every kid get to the finish line."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. School report cards
  2. School district's report card improves; staff disputes graduation-rate data; March 17, 2011
  3. County schools' report cards show improvement; Nov. 12, 2010
  4. How does your school rate? Good at best, at-risk at worst; April 15, 2010
  5. Several county schools earn improved state report cards for '08; Feb. 20, 2009