D19 gets ‘F’ despite some significant gains

For the third year in a row, Barnwell District 19 failed its federal report card; however, the high school made significant gains.
The district received an ‘F' on its 2014 report card, though their numerical score increased slightly from 43.6 in 2013 to 45 in 2014.
Superintendent Dr. Teresa Pope said she is "disappointed" in the letter grade. "The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) grade is not a good indicator of our progress. ESEA grades may come close to reflecting the growth and progress of some districts but it doesn't paint a clear, concise picture of Blackville-Hilda Public Schools," she said.
Pope cites how this report card is vastly different from their state report card. "Although this is only one indicator of the performance of students in our schools it gets more attention than the ratings from the State Report Card because it assigns a grade rather than a rating," said Pope.
While state report cards have not been released yet for 2014, last year's state report card showed the district's growth rating was ‘Good' while they had an ‘Average' absolute rating. Macedonia Elementary also received a Palmetto Silver Award for general performance while Blackville-Hilda High School (BHHS) received a Palmetto Gold Award for closing the achievement gap.
Even so, Pope said they take their federal grade seriously and will analyze the data used in the calculation. "Emphasis will be placed on areas showing a need for improvement. We can look at test scores and the growth of individual students to set goals. Our ‘Celebrating Student Success' program on October 13 highlights the fact that we have many students who score exemplary on State mandated tests," she said.
While the district's grade remained relatively stagnant, BHHS improved their failing grade from 2013 by more than 42 points. They earned a 79.1 in 2014, which is a ‘C' and higher than the 36.6 they received the year before, according to data, though Pope said it wasn't "significant enough" to change the overall grade for the district.
Blackville-Hilda Junior High's score also increased in 2014, from 35 in 2013 to 49 this year. That does not include sixth grade data since the junior high only has seventh and eighth grades. When you calculate sixth through eighth grades, which the report classifies as middle grades, then there was actually a drop. Middle grades earned 51.7 in 2013, but only 29.1 in 2014, according to the report card.
The elementary school was named a Priority School for being one of the lowest performing Title 1 schools in the state, according to the State Department of Education's website. The school must work with various stakeholders and develop a turnaround plan that will last three years. They must set aside the equivalent of 20 percent of the federal Title 1 funds they receive to assist with the plan's implementation.
Though Pope doesn't agree with the grade, she said, "We can't do what we've always done and expect better results." That's why they included change in their theme for the year: Embracing Change, Empowering Lives and Exceeding Expectations. "We're looking ahead, using what we've learned from the current data and working together to meet and exceed expectations," she said.
Pope said it's important for students to "believe in their ability to achieve," which is why they encourage students to be empowered, believe in themselves, and not let labels, such as the ‘F' grade, make them feel like failures.
"It's our responsibility as educators and parents to motivate and provide all the resources possible to help them. I see evidence of this every day and a once a year grade will not diminish or deter my thinking. It will only serve to motivate me to push harder as I know it will for our students, staff and parents," said Pope.