SC schools show improvement on state report cards

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP/WCIV) -- More of South Carolina's public schools and districts received "excellent" ratings again this year, as test scores and the graduation rate improved.

The state Department of Education released data Friday showing that 50 of the state's 82 districts achieved the top two ratings of "excellent" or "good" on 2013 state report cards. That compares to 42 last year.

The top tiers showed only slight improvement when broken down by schools. Five additional schools received an "excellent," while two fewer schools rated "good." In the bottom tier, 14 schools are no longer considered "at risk."

By student population, 59 percent of students attend the state's best-rated schools, compared to 9 percent in the worst. Thirty-two percent attend "average" schools.

The on-time graduation rate improved to 77.5 percent, up 2.6 percentage points.

For a breakdown of every school district in the state click here.

Locally, Charleston County School District received a "Good" rating with an "Average" growth rating.

Officials touted improvement, with the number of CCSD students in "Excellent/Good" schools increasing and "At Risk" schools decreasing.

The rate of "At Risk/Below Average" schools dropped from 53 percent in 2007 to 18 percent. "Excellent/Good" schools rose from 30 percent to 47 percent.

"The big takeaway for me is the steady progress we have been making over the past five or six years in an environment with scarce resources and an economy that has been on the mend," said Superintendent Nancy McGinley. "We have seen a decline in 'At-Risk' schools, our graduation rate continues to improve, and more and more students are attending schools rated 'Excellent/Good.' This is the first year in recent memory that we didn't have one single school take a step backward with an 'At-Risk' rating and this is a sign that our momentum is building."

Maurice Cannon, principal of Burke Middle and High schools, said for the first time in history, the middle school as moved from an "At Risk/Below Average" rating to an "Average" rating.

He said he attributes the growth in the middle and high schools to individualized instruction and technology-based learning initiatives.

Berkeley County received a "Good" rating with a "Below Average" growth rate.

Dorchester District Four was given an "Average" rate for both ratings.

Dorchester District Two earned an "Excellent" rating in both absolute and growth. It's the first time the district got such high marks in both categories.

"We are pleased that our schools continue to make gains through increased rigor in every classroom," said Superintendent Joe Pye. "The performance gap is narrowing across the district as most all schools saw increases in student achievement.{} We are particularly pleased with the significant gains in our high schools and the large increase in the graduation rate of 4.2 percent. This indicates that Dorchester School District Two is well on the way to being a world class school system."