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WHS rates excellent on state report card

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw High principal David Hammel is pleased with his school’s performance on the state’s annual report cards, which were issued today. Waccamaw earned an overall rating of “Excellent” and a growth rating of “Good” for 2010.

It was the third consecutive year the school received an “Excellent” overall rating. The growth rating did drop though. In 2009, Waccamaw earned an “Excellent” in that category.

“We were happy with the way it turned out,” Hammel said. “To have an excellent absolute rating for three years in a row is a great accomplishment. Though the growth rating dropped, you have to remember that it was compared to the highest score in school history that we had last year. The only way to keep it at that level was to repeat a near perfect score. Even though we had a good year, we weren’t able to do that.”

Report cards for elementary, middle and intermediate schools were released in November, but high school report cards were delayed until schools revised their graduation rates to meet federal guidelines.

Hammel said Waccamaw was not required to do any of those revisions and the school’s on-time graduation rate of more than 94 percent far exceeded the state average of roughly 72 percent.

Waccamaw’s 2010 ratings were the highest among Georgetown County’s four high schools. Waccamaw also made “adequate yearly progress” toward federal education goals for the second consecutive year.

Carvers Bay was the only other high school in the county to meet AYP.

Federal law allows students from schools that serve low-income areas and do not meet AYP requirements for two consecutive years to transfer to another school in the district that is meeting that requirement. With test scores and academic performances that are typically the best in the county, Waccamaw is the school of choice for many.

“We have earned a reputation for excellence and we take pride in that,” Hammel said. “We strive to meet the needs of our students and our goal is to provide them with the best education we possibly can.”

One change that will impact Waccamaw on future report cards is the Georgetown County School District’s decision to switch from half-semester, 90-minute blocks for core courses to full-year, 55-minute classes. A primary reason for this switch was the belief that it will benefit students on end-of-year course exams, especially history. More than 30 percent of Waccamaw students who took the exam failed to score 70 percent or higher.

“I think the schedule change will have benefits,” Hammel said. “I believe we’ll see an immediate increase in end-of-course scores and gradually better numbers on the ACT and SAT. Our freshman academy is already doing the year-long courses. The big test will be to see where they are at in two or three years.”

Like other schools around the nation, Waccamaw High faces a continuing challenge in dealing with the achievement gap, where groups of minority students, low-income students and students with disabilities score lower than average on tests like the state exit exam.

“Early identification is a key,” Hammel said. “You have to be able to identify those students who need extra attention as soon as possible and then make sure their needs are met.”

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