Report cards very mixed for local schools

From the top 10 to the bottom three, the 2012 S.C. Report Card held mixed reviews for Barnwell County's three public school districts.
The annual report card issues districts and schools two ratings: an absolute rating based on one-year of student performance; and a growth rating representing individual student gains over time.
Williston District 29 earned the highest marks in the county by ranking tenth out of the state's 84 public school districts. It earned an excellent rating - the highest rating - on both its absolute and growth ratings.
District 29 Superintendent Dr. Tom Siler said it's a team effort in preparing their students to be college and career ready. "I am proud of our team of teachers, students, parents and administrators who work together to achieve this success," he said. "We emphasize that 21st century graduates must be critical thinkers."
Siler said he's especially pleased with the strides made by Williston-Elko High School, increasing both their absolute and growth ratings to excellent. Last year, their absolute rating was average and growth was at risk, according to the report card data. The other two schools maintained their 2011 ratings.
The Barnwell County Career Center, which is shared by all three districts, sustained their 2011 ratings - excellent absolute rating and good growth rating.
Near the bottom of the list is Barnwell District 45, whose at risk ratings left them ranked 82 out of the 84 districts. Their ratings dropped from average last year.
"Obviously we have some areas to make improvements on," said District 45 Superintendent Roy Sapough.
He said they are focusing on curriculum with Crissie Stephens, the first director of curriculum they've had in several years, leading the way. "We're real excited," Sapough said of their curriculum focus.
Though there's work to be done, Sapough was encouraged by some data revealed on the report card, including matching the state's student attendance average of 94.8 percent and the fifth graders being "up across the board" on their PASS scores. "There are things we're real proud of," he said.
With all schools either maintaining or improving their 2011 ratings, Sapough said he's especially proud of Barnwell High School. They raised their average absolute rating to good and at risk growth rating to excellent.
Across the county in Blackville, Barnwell District 19 ranked 66 on the list. Compared to 2011 ratings, the district's average absolute rating stayed the same, while their good growth rating fell to at risk.
"It's not acceptable," said Superintendent Dr. Teresa Pope, who lists student achievement as their top priority. "It's another goal to work for."
Macedonia Elementary and Blackville-Hilda Junior High schools remained at their 2011 standings, while Blackville-Hilda High School saw a drop. Their absolute rating fell from excellent to good and their growth from excellent to at risk.
Pope said a Dec. 2-5 visit by a district accreditation team will help them evaluate what they are doing. "It's an opportunity to really look at our strengths and weaknesses," she said.
Though not pleased with the ratings, Pope said this is "closer" than the ‘F' (48.8) score they received on the federal report card released in August. "It's nothing like what we think it should be," she said.
All South Carolina schools received a federal report card this year due to a state waiver from some provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. It issued a letter grade to all state school districts and schools based upon student achievement and graduation rates.
District 45 received a ‘D' (62.6) and District 29 received an ‘A' (94.5) on the federal report card.
Comparing the two report cards, 72 percent of districts statewide received a grade of ‘A' or ‘B' on the federal report card while 50 percent received an excellent or good rating on the state report card. At the other end of the spectrum, nearly 12 percent of districts failed the federal report card, while 9.5 percent received an at risk rating on the state one.