20 Beaufort County schools earn state recognition

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Twenty Beaufort County schools have earned 2015 Palmetto Gold or Silver awards for student academic achievement, the South Carolina Department of Education announced today.

Only four of South Carolina’s 82 school districts had more schools to earn awards in 2015, and all four have much larger student populations and more schools than Beaufort County.

“There’s a lot to celebrate here,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss. “As recently as 2007 we had only three winners, and now we have 20 winners that were competing against even more rigorous criteria. On top of that, seven of our 20 winners were honored both for their overall academic performance and for their success in closing achievement gaps between minority and nonminority students, and also between students from high-income and low-income families. That’s outstanding.”

The Palmetto Gold and Palmetto Silver program was created by the South Carolina General Assembly to recognize schools that attain high levels of absolute performance, high rates of growth and substantial progress in closing achievement gaps between groups of students.

The state’s Education Oversight Committee establishes criteria for the awards, and the Department of Education applies those criteria to determine which schools are honored. The EOC revised the eligibility criteria in 2012 to make them more demanding.

• Two Beaufort County schools – Okatie Elementary and Hilton Head Island High – earned 2015 Gold awards for general performance as well as Gold awards for closing achievement gaps.

• Five district schools won Gold awards for general performance and Silver awards for closing achievement gaps: Broad River Elementary, Mossy Oaks Elementary, Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary, Pritchardville Elementary and Red Cedar Elementary.

• Six district schools won Gold awards for general performance: Beaufort High, Bluffton Elementary, Bluffton High, Coosa Elementary, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts and Riverview Charter School (elementary and middle school grade levels).

• Seven district schools won Silver awards for general performance: Beaufort Elementary, Beaufort Middle, Hilton Head Island Middle, Lady’s Island Elementary, Michael C. Riley Elementary, Robert Smalls International Academy and Whale Branch Elementary.

Schools receive awards for general performance based on both their absolute and growth ratings and the growth index found on state school report cards. These ratings are determined by PASS scores for elementary and middle schools. For high schools, ratings are based on Exit Exam results, graduation rates and percentages of students passing end-of-course tests.

Schools receive closing the achievement gap awards based on academic gains made by students in four categories: African-American students, Hispanic students, students participating in federal free- or reduced-price lunch programs and students with non-speech disabilities.