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Education: Waccamaw schools get Excellent grads on state report cards

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The four Waccamaw schools all received overall grades of Excellent on the state’s annual report cards, which were issued today.

Three schools rated Excellent in progress toward the state’s 2020 education goals despite not meeting federal goals for “adequate yearly progress.” The one school that met the federal goals, Waccamaw Elementary, rates Good in progress toward the state goals.

They were the only schools in the county to receive Excellent ratings overall. Carvers Bay High rated Excellent in growth.

The Georgetown County School District was rated Good overall, an increase from Average in 2010, but Below Average in growth, a decline from Average last year. Its overall rating places it 17th among 86 districts in the state.

The overall grades are based on results on state standardized tests and, for high schools, graduation rates. The rating standards are set by the S.C. Education Oversight Committee. The growth ratings are based on how students progress from year to year toward the state goals of improving performance by 2020.

The Excellent ratings mean the schools significantly exceed the state standards. The Good growth rating for Waccamaw Elementary still means it exceeds the standards.

The report cards have been around for more than a decade and no longer seem to produce the buzz they once did, school officials say.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of weight put in with the community on this,” said Tim Carnahan, principal at Waccamaw Intermediate. “They want to know more about their child’s report card.”

He thinks that’s because the community expects excellence in the Waccamaw schools.

“When they were new, they were more important to the community at large,” said David Hammel, principal at Waccamaw High. The school’s reputation “is about relationships. No report card could ever change that.”

Still, Carnahan said, “We will brag about it. It’s important to have a good report card.”

The double-Excellent is “reaffirming,” said Bill Dwyer, principal of Waccamaw Middle.

“I’ve always felt we have a wonderful community. And we have a great faculty,” he said.

Carnahan and Hammel also took the opportunity to praise their teachers for the result.

“It’s a great morale booster,” Dwyer said. “It gives teachers the chance to say, ‘I’m doing what I go in the business to do.’ ”

The difference between progress toward state and federal standards is something principals acknowledge as an irony of the state of school assessments. The federal goal is to have every student “proficient” in reading and math by 2014, and as that deadline nears the amount of progress students must show has increased.

“With AYP, it’s gotten to the point that the bar has been raised so high it’s almost impossible to meet,” Carnahan said.

“It stings” when the school doesn’t meet the federal goals, Dwyer said. The middle school missed two of 17 objectives for progress: those for black and low-income students in English. In both cases, the number of students who missed the target was small, but that translated into a large percentage, Dwyer said.

“Accountability is useful. How we gauge it and assess it is something we need to revamp,” he said.

Hammel noted that the state and federal standards measure different things. “A lot of it is open to debate,” he said.

While the report cards are a chance for some bragging, principals aren’t taking credit for some of their best numbers. Waccamaw Intermediate’s report card shows that student attendance last year was 99.9 percent.

“I wish we were that good,” Carnahan said. “Obviously that’s not right.”

He said the school didn’t supply that figure. The actual number is around 97 percent.

At Waccamaw High, the report card shows 99 percent of students take Advance Placement or International Baccalaureate classes. “I wish,” Hammel said.

He said the correct figure is around 79 percent.

Go to the source: State report cards

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