Fifteen struggling South Carolina schools, including four in the Augusta area, were added to a state program designed to improve student achievement. Meanwhile 20 others, including three local schools, were allowed to leave after meeting improvement goals, the state Department of Education announced today.
Local schools added to the Palmetto Priority Schools list are:
- Allendale and Fairfax elementary schools in Allendale County
- Denmark-Olar Middle School in Bamberg School District 2
- Estill Elementary in Hampton School District 2
Those that were removed from the watch list are:
- Blackville-Hilda High School in Barnwell School District 19
- Estill Middle and High schools in Hampton 2
Local schools that remain on the Palmetto Priority Schools list are Allendale-Fairfax Middle and High schools in Allendale County.
The newly identified schools are among the poorest in the state, with poverty ratings of 97 percent.
After the Education Accountability Act of 1998 was passed, the Education Oversight Committee established guidelines for school report card ratings that defined the progress schools were expected to make each year. Schools that received an absolute rating of "At Risk," the lowest, are monitored for three years to determine whether they meet expected progress. For schools that do no meet the goals, the state superintendent of education is required by law to recommend one of three actions:
- Furnish continuing advice and technical assistance in implementing the recommendations of the State Board of Education.
- Declare a state of emergency in the school and replace the principal.
- Declare a state of emergency in the school and assume management.
After superintendents in each of the 15 newly identified schools' home districts "bought in," State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais declined to recommend states of emergency and instead recommended their participation in Palmetto Priority Schools. The pincipal, superintendent and school board chairman for each of the newly identified schools attend today's state board meeting or participated electronically.
Each of the newly identified schools will receive technical assistance through a "tiered" approach and be represented in the Palmetto Priority Schools' leadership team by its principal, superintendent and school board chairman. Education Department team members include Zais, Deputy Superintendent Charmeka Bosket, Project Director David Rawlinson and state liaisons assigned to each school. This group meets regularly.
Rawlinson said teacher recruitment is an issue at high-poverty schools, with annual turnover rates sometimes as high as 40 percent. Another challenge is continuity of leadership. Rawlinson said that of the original 16 Palmetto Priority Schools identified four years ago, none has the same principal today. In the eight districts where those schools are located, none has the same superintendent that it did four years ago.