Public education, including Horry County Schools, has plenty of critics and some may have valid points but everyone should join educators, parents and students to celebrate achievements and success.
And the district has been honored recently for several statewide and national achievements.
Here is one measure of success. Compared to schools across the United States with similar demographics, HCS elementary and intermediate youngsters show fall-to-spring growth in both reading and math. The data is from 2012 for Horry schools and their “virtual comparison groups’’ across the country.
Loris Elementary School has the most growth in both reading and math; every school shows growth in both. Loris Elementary has an extremely high poverty level with 83 percent of the children in families living below the poverty index. The school serves 770 students in child development through 5th grade.
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Loris Elementary principal Mark Porter explained the child development programs at his school for the most at-risk youngsters. There is a waiting list for places in the 40 groups each school year. When a family moves from the attendance area, “we don’t waste any time’’ having a replacement in the group, Porter recently told the Rotary Club of Little River.
Porter is an Horry County native, growing up on a small tobacco farm in Longs and attending Loris schools. He’s a 25-year veteran of HCS and July 1 will become principal of North Myrtle Beach Middle School.
The development programs “focus on oral language and early literacy development.’’ Here is why they are success stories. The most at-risk youngsters who have the kindergarten preparation become the highest performing students each year in kindergarten.
“We have a national literacy crisis,’’ Porter says. One-third of eighth grade students read at grade level and “70 percent of unemployed Americans read at the two lowest reading levels.’’ One needs no more than the astounding fact that 61 percent of low-income families do not own a single book to understand the importance of programs such as those at Loris Elementary and other schools -- and of Freedom Readers, First Book and the Horry County Literacy Council.
Another measure of success: For the first time in the same year, two Horry schools received 2014 Palmetto’s Finest awards from the S.C. Association of School Administrators. Palmetto’s Finest go to five S.C. schools -- two elementary, one middle, one high school and one specialty. Schools are rigorously evaluated on student achievement, instructional programs, professional learning communities and school culture. The awards started in 1978.
The HCS 2014 Palmetto’s Finest winners are Midland Elementary in Galivants Ferry and Forestbrook Middle in Myrtle Beach. At the Midland celebration, 11-year-old Luke Berg declared, “This is awesome. ... We have a great atmosphere here, and it’s the kids, our principal, the teachers -- it’s just everyone.’’ Well said, young man, and we understand that “everyone’’ includes parents and the community.
Midland is the smallest in the district with 537 students. “Today is a tribute to how much we have grown, principal Jennifer Parker told her assembly.
At Forestbrook Middle, Principal April Scott said “... we are so blessed to have amazing parents and great community support. We have amazing teachers, great kids and, all together, we understand the importance of being a team....’’ She has 1,100 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
Another noteworthy award, Best Communities for Music Education, went to HCS, one of two S.C. districts chosen from more than 2,000 districts and schools across the United States. The award is from the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation.
Congratulations to the Palmetto’s Finest winners and thanks to all who strive to teach children to be better readers and successful citizens.