Seven county schools earn Palmetto Gold and Silver awards

More good news is coming forth from the county’s schools. This week, the S.C. Department of Education recognized seven Chester County schools among 853 schools statewide for academic achievement and closing achievement gaps during the 2011-12 academic year. Earning the Palmetto Gold awards were Great Falls High School for closing the achievement gap and Lewisville High School for general performance and closing the achievement gap. The Palmetto Silver awards for general performance were earned by Chester Park School of the Arts, Chester Park Center of Literacy through Technology, Lewisville Elementary, Lewisville Middle and the Academy for Teaching and Learning. The awards honor schools that attain high levels of absolute performance, high rates of growth and substantial progress in closing the achievement gaps between groups of students. The general performance recognition is based on overall performance on the absolute and growth ratings and the growth index as indicated on the school report card. Ratings are determined by the state’s Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) scores for the elementary and middle schools. For the high schools, ratings are based on exit exams, graduation rates and the percentage of students passing the end-of-course tests. “It’s a team effort,” said LES Principal Wanda Frederick. “I commend the faculty, staff, parents, teachers and students for all of their hard work and dedication.”

Lewisville Middle School Principal H.L. Erwin expressed similar sentiments. “As a school, we’re delighted to receive the silver award,” he said. “It’s a team effort! We’re very pleased to get the silver but our next goal is to get the Palmetto Gold.”

Robyn Brakefield, director at the Academy for Teaching and Learning, said the honor is indicative of the school’s hard work. “It just shows the hard work our teachers, students and parents put in everyday at our school,” she said. “We’re very proud of our students and teachers, they exemplify excellence in all they do with their hard work.” Although there is much to celebrate with this week’s announcement, there also has been some controversy involved. State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais expressed concern about more than 300 additional schools that received the Palmetto Silver award this year based on new criteria.

“While congratulations are in order for many schools, it cannot be overlooked the new criteria added by the Education Oversight Committee drastically increased the number of award recipients,” Zais said. “This issue should be corrected by the Education Oversight Committee so the public is not misled and those schools that made real gains in student achievement do not have their recognition diminished because of award inflation.”

This year, schools could qualify for a silver award if their ratings were above a “School At Risk” in 2011. Also to qualify, these schools had to achieve a certain score on the state’s growth index for three consecutive years. This is the first year three years of PASS data was available. LHS Principal Dr. Jim Knox said his school has won these awards in the past and he is proud of the recognition for his students’ and teachers’ most recent performance.

“This award is much appreciated for the hard work that has taken place with our students and our teachers,” Knox said. “For us to be able to achieve, our students have to buy in with a commitment themselves to hard work and excellence and our teachers have to be committed to teaching the state standards along with each day inspiring our kids. We also have great support from our community who values education. I’m very, very proud of our school’s performance. We’ve won these awards previously and we continue to strive to provide the best opportunity and the best education we can here at Lewisville High School for all of our kids and our county.” Chester Park COLT Principal Kristi Langdale said the award is reflective of the hard work that’s lead to the school’s academic growth. “We are thrilled!” Langdale said of the silver award. “It’s a reflection on the part of students, parents and teachers. I’m thankful that the hard work we’re doing here at COLT has paid off to show academic growth.” Chester County recipients will be recognized by the superintendent and board of trustees at the April 16 meeting board meeting at 7 p.m. in the district office.