Horry good, Georgetown excellent on state school report cards

Graduation rates increased in Horry and Georgetown county schools, while the Georgetown County School District earned the highest absolute rating for the first time, according to results from the 2012 annual state report cards released Tuesday by the S.C. Department of Education.

At the state level, there was a significant increase in the number of schools and districts with an absolute rating of excellent or good, according to the education department. It said graduation rates increased for the second consecutive year, from 73.6 percent in 2011 to 74.9 percent this year.

Horry County Schools retained its absolute rating of good and a growth rating of average this year. The district’s graduation rate was 77.3 percent this year, up from 75 percent in 2011.

Georgetown County schools improved its absolute rating to excellent this year, up from good in 2011, and the growth rating improved from below average in 2011 to average this year. The district’s graduation rate also rose to 86.1 percent this year, up from 83.8 percent in 2011.

State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said continued gains in graduation rates are important to South Carolina’s future prosperity. He said the state’s long-term economic growth and job creation will improve as more students graduate from high school with the skills necessary to compete for jobs in the workforce, enlist in the military or enroll in an institution of higher education.

Ratings formulas are based on student achievement levels set by the Education Oversight Committee, which was created by the General Assembly to guide implementation of the state’s Education Accountability Act of 1998.

Schools and districts receive absolute ratings – excellent, good, average, below average or at-risk – along with growth ratings that measure improvement from one year to the next.

This year’s report card held no surprises for HCS, said Teal Britton, district spokeswoman. She said the report card combines previous assessments that already have been reported and other information – from student and teacher attendance to the amount of instructional time – that is designed to help parents and educators get a quick glance at their progress and school makeup.

“It’s a snapshot, and a very useful snapshot, that puts a lot of things in one place,” Britton said. “It’s all about patterns that you see over time. If you see a school that has progressively moved forward, that’s what you’re looking for, or if they’re progressively getting worse.”

HCS retained the same absolute rating as last year, which took a lot of work, Britton said. She said a school or district can do better this year than last year, yet have the same or lower rating than before, which is why the information sometimes can be misleading.

Seven of Horry County’s 10 high schools had an absolute rating of excellent this year, with Loris improving to excellent from its rating of good in 2011. Conway and Green Sea Floyds repeated their 2011 ratings of average, while Early College, in its first year as a standalone high school, does not have a rating. Growth ratings were excellent at five of the high schools, with Myrtle Beach rating excellent this year after being below average in 2011.

Graduation rates improved at eight high schools, four of them with rates at more than 80 percent. Socastee improved to 84 percent, up from 75.6 percent in 2011; Loris is at 83.8 percent, up from 75.9 percent; Aynor is at 81.9 percent, up from 80.7 percent; and Myrtle Beach is at 80.2 percent, up from 76.6 percent.

Four of Horry’s 11 middle schools had excellent absolute ratings – Forestbrook, Ocean Bay, St. James and North Myrtle Beach, which improved its score from good in 2011.

Of the district’s 25 elementary schools, 14 had excellent absolute ratings this year. Burgess, Carolina Forest, Forestbrook, Lakewood, Midland, North Myrtle Beach, Ocean Bay, Seaside, Socastee and St. James retained the rating from 2011, while Conway, Green Sea Floyds, Myrtle Beach and Palmetto Bays improved from ratings of good in 2011.

Horry County has three charter schools that received report cards this year. Bridgewater Academy had a rating of average for its elementary and middle grades, while Palmetto Academy for Learning and Success had a rating of excellent for its elementary and middle grades The Academy of Hope was not rated in 2011 but had an absolute rating of below average for grades kindergarten through four.

In Georgetown County, spirits were high about the district’s excellent rating, said Patti Hammel, executive director for student performance and federal programs, in a release from the district.

“As we have evaluated academic progress, this marks a milestone in reaching the goals for achievement set by the district. … While we are most thrilled about the growth and overall achievement, we know that there is still room to make gains,” she said.

Two of Georgetown County’s four high schools received ratings of excellent, with Waccamaw repeating and Georgetown improving from a rating of good in 2011. Andrews improved from below average in 2011 to average this year, while Carvers Bay dropped from good in 2011 to average this year. Growth ratings improved to excellent this year at Georgetown and Andrews, which rose from at-risk in 2011, with Waccamaw rated good this year and Carvers Bay rated at-risk, down from excellent in 2011.

Graduation rates rose for three of the four schools, with Waccamaw at 91.2 percent, Georgetown at 86.3 percent and Andrews at 82.4 percent. Carvers Bay dropped almost 5 points but still came in at 81.8 percent.

Of the Georgetown elementary and middle schools, Waccamaw elementary, intermediate and middle schools had absolute ratings of excellent, and Pleasant Hill improved to good this year from average in 2011. All of the other schools had absolute ratings of average, including Browns Ferry, which improved from below average in 2011.

Hammel said the district’s success is a result of everyone – the community, teachers, students and parents – working together. She said even with difficult budget scenarios, the district is working to be on the cutting edge of technology and instructional practices.