D29 one of seven statewide with double ‘excellent’ rating

Williston District 29 was one of only seven districts across South Carolina to earn ‘excellent' overall and improvement ratings on the 2014 State Report Card.
"With a poverty level of 86.15 percent, Williston excels at making sure all students, regardless of economics, have the opportunity to be successful in their academic choices leading up to graduation and then on to college/career endeavors," said Dr. Carol Lenderman in a press release. Lenderman is the district's director of instruction, accountability and assessment who is serving as interim superintendent.
The district earned ‘excellent' on both their absolute and growth ratings - the highest a school or district can receive. They were the only local district and one of seven statewide to do so, according to a press release from the Education Oversight Committee.
The 2014 rating is an improvement from last year when they had a ‘good' absolute rating and ‘below average' growth rating. It's also better than the ‘B' they received on the 2014 federal report card in October.
Kelly Edwards
Elementary School
The elementary school maintained their 2013 results with an ‘average' on both ratings, meaning they met the standards for progress.
Their ‘average' absolute rating was in line with a majority of the state's elementary schools that have students like KEES. The report card states 105 other schools also received an ‘average' rating while 31 received a ‘good' or ‘excellent' rating. Eight schools rated ‘below average' and one was ‘at-risk'.
Lenderman said the school made gains in the areas of writing and reading, which she credits to several factors.
Principal Nakeisha Baxley created a literacy specialist position before the Read to Succeed Act passed that funded a reading coach for each elementary school statewide. "The focus is to improve literacy skills," said Lenderman, who also credits the school's Save the Children program which provides tutoring for at-risk students during the day and afterschool.
Executives from T.J. Maxx Corporation, a major contributor to Save the Children, toured the school, community and made home visits in October after KEES was chosen for a visit based on results of the STAR test. "The executives were very impressed and appreciative of KEES and Save the Children and their combined efforts at meeting the needs of our most vulnerable students. The school visit provided hard evidence for the corporation that their funding of this program was worthwhile and needed continued support," said Lenderman.
They received a ‘B' on their federal report card.
Williston-Elko Middle School
The middle school also received an ‘average' rating for both absolute and growth. In 2013, they received an ‘average' absolute rating and ‘good' growth rating.
According to the report card, the school was in line with most other middle schools with similar student demographics as 45 schools also received an ‘average' absolute rating. Eleven were rated ‘below average' while only one school earned a ‘good' rating.
"At Williston-Elko Middle School (WEMS), Principal Greg Sweet focuses on structuring the school around the Making Middle Grades Work (MMGW) concept. WEMS is in their second year of MMGW with an emphasis on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, and a community mentorship program adds enrichment activities for all middle school students," said Lenderman.
They received a ‘B' on their federal report card.
Williston-Elko High School
The high school had the highest score of the three schools with an ‘excellent' absolute rating and ‘good' growth rating. This was the same as their 2013 score.
Part of their score is attributed to their graduation rate of 91.9 percent, an increase of 17.2 percent from last year. Principal Joel Mitchell attributes this success to the guidance program and advisement procedures from all staff.
"Being a smaller high school allows the faculty and staff to truly get to know each student and assist them with being successful and meeting the goal of a high school diploma," said Lenderman.
The school was recently honored as one of six South Carolina high schools in Newsweek's "Beating the Odds 2014 - Top Schools for Low-Income Students. They were ranked 322 out of 500 high schools nationwide.
They received an ‘A' on their federal report card.