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Education: Waccamaw schools get top marks on report cards

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Three of the five Waccamaw schools earned top marks in meeting state education standards last year. The report cards issued by the state Department of Education show progress toward federal education standards. A second set of school and district report cards will be issued next month by the state Education Oversight Committee. Both sets of report cards are based on standardized test scores and, for high schools, graduation rates.

Waccamaw High, Waccamaw Intermediate and Waccamaw Elementary received A’s on the federal report. Waccamaw Middle and Coastal Montessori Charter received B’s. The district received a C, meaning it met the state expectations.

“There was marked improvement this year,” said Patti Hammel, the director of student performance for the Georgetown County School District. “Our expectations were not the same as last year.”

The grades are based on how many students meet “annual measurable objectives,” which increase from year to year. Those objectives are also measured for different groups of students based on gender, race, income and disabilities. The state adopted the system to get a waiver from the federal standards contained in the law known as No Child Left Behind.

The federal law listed annual results as “met” or “not met.” “Letter grades are a better measure of progress,” said School Board Member Arthur Lance. Although the state system is more nuanced, it is confusing to parents who see two report cards.

It’s hard to understand the two systems “when some of us have trouble,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said. “I think you will probably see a little different report in a few weeks on the EOC” results.

Waccamaw High received 94.7 points outa of 100. It fell short of proficiency goals in African-American student English, math and social studies scores and in the scores of low income students in those subjects. Students are also tested in science.

Waccamaw Intermediate received 94.5 point, with black and low income students missing the goals in all four subjects.

Waccamaw Elementary received 97 points. Students were short of the goals in science and low income students were short of the English and math goals.

The grades mean all three schools “substantially” exceed expectations.

Waccamaw Middle, which received 84.4 points, disabled students didn’t meet the objective in English. They fell short in the other subjects as did black students. Low income students only met the objective in social studies.

The charter school students only met the English objectives. They were short of the goal in the other subjects and earned 87.8 points.

Both schools “exceed expectations” for performance.

Around the state, high schools showed improvement and middle schools showed decline. Hammel said the district results followed that trend.

“The challenge is to get all the sub groups to make gains,” she said. “We have a significant number of sub groups.”

The district was able to continue to make progress even as the standards rose in part because it funded science coaches last year, Hammel said.

The district could use additional reading coaches, but there isn’t enough funding, she said.

The district ended up spending $587,634 from its reserve fund last year, according to preliminary figures given to the school board.

For the 2014 fiscal year, the district took in $1.8 million more than it budgeted. But it spent $2.4 million more than it budgeted. Over half of the additional spending went into classrooms, Dozier said. Most of the balance was spent on school security measures, he said.

The district’s reserve is now at $10.7 million. It wants to keep $11 million to $12 million to preserve its bond rating.

“That’s something we’re going to work on this year,” Dozier said. “We have pretty much resolved those deficit spending issues this year.”

The district saw a slight decline in enrollment at the start of the school year. It’s still unclear how that will affect finances, but Dozier believes it will be slight.

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