Lakelands area schools posted mixed results against state benchmarks in academic performances for the 2018-19 year, with all three of Greenwood County’s districts falling below average.

On Tuesday, the South Carolina Department of Education released district, school and state report cards as part of the federally mandated Every Student Succeeds Act.

Each school was graded in core areas including how well students fared on state and national assessments, student growth, graduation rates, English language proficiency, student engagement, safety and classroom, on a 100-point scale.

“I hope that parents and communities will use report cards as a tool to engage in important conversations about the previous year’s successes and challenges that schools across our state face every day,” state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said in a release. “We are continually working to ensure that our accountability system accurately reflects the hard work being done by educators to meet the needs of all students.”

In the aggregate, students in the state are testing better, with the percentage of those meeting or exceeding SC READY English Language Arts assessment jumping by 3.7%, to 45.4%.

Mathematics also saw a small uptick, by .5% to 45.1% of all tested students.

Graduation rates are stable at 81.1%, but enrichment programs to prepare seniors for the workforce are having a positive effect, with 75.1% of diploma earners considered college or career ready, a 5.3% change.

Greenwood County

School District 50In Greenwood’s largest school district, 36.4% of students don’t meet expectations on the SC Ready English Language and Mathematics assessments, compared to a statewide average of 26.5%.

In 2018-19, just 14.1% of District 50 students exceeded expectations, against 19.8% of students who did so.

On the state’s 100-point scale, Greenwood High School scored a 57, while Emerald High School posted a 51 — both falling into the “average” band as defined by state officials, joining 63 others.

Greenwood’s new superintendent, Steve Glenn, took over May 29 from Darrell Johnson, who helmed the district through the most recent assessment period.

Glenn could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Greenwood County

School District 51Ware Shoals educators saw 28.7% of their students fail to meet expectations on the SC Ready tests, with 14% posting scores that exceed expectations.

“We gained points in 12 of the 16 rated categories, improving to ‘Excellent’ on the College and Career Ready category at the high school. We made great strides in student progress in grades K-8. However, there’s room for improvement in every category,” Superintendent Fay Sprouse said.

“Our teachers are reworking their assessments to be sure they are rigorous and thorough. Students are receiving timely interventions so they don’t fall behind and stay behind. There’s quality work taking place in our classrooms, and our goal is to deliver instruction that fully prepares students for success,” she said.

Ware Shoals High School posted a 58 in its overall performance.

Greenwood County

School District 52A quarter of Ninety Six students failed to meet SC Ready expectations, while 17.3% of them surpassed the average. Ninety Six High School earned a 64 overall score, putting it in the state’s second-highest tier.

Three-quarters of first graders, 67.6%, are tracking for success in mathematics heading into the second grade, while 45.9% are meeting goals for English.

“This is a work in progress. When I came in, I created an instructional team made up of early childhood, elementary and mid-level specialists to look at our educational system and make recommendations,” Superintendent Rex Ward said.

The high school’s performance, he added, is part of long-term trend of excellence in the district. Last year, graduated 91.6% of its students.

“We see room for improvement, with more students making A’s and B’s, but overall, we’re pretty satisfied,” Ward said.

The high numbers of early elementary students at or above progress bodes well for the district’s academic performance into the next several years, Ward said.

“We’re very pleased with our elementary school, because they went up three points on the final rating. We can see growth there, and we’re really excited where we’re going, because we’ve restructured our primary and elementary schools to make sure we’re meeting needs early on,” he said. “If we can keep them climbing there, we’re going to see improvement at every grade level.”

Abbeville County

School DistrictAbbeville officials found much to celebrate in the release of Tuesday’s data.

“We are pleased to announce that Abbeville County School District exceeded the state average on ALL standardized tests including the SCReady, SCPASS, and high school End of Course Exams! Our students, teachers, and staff worked diligently to help students master the standards and skills measured on these tests,” Brandi Sears, the district’s director of instruction and accountability, said in an internal memo shared with the Index-Journal by Superintendent Julie Fowler.

“We are particularly proud of JCCE (John C. Calhoun Elementary) moving up two levels from Below Average to Good. WWE (Westwood Elementary) was one point shy of also moving up two levels; they moved from Below Average to Average. AHS moved from Good to Excellent. We had three schools maintain their ratings and with this new accountability model, they are to be commended,” Fowler said.

Composite SAT scores at Dixie High School of 1050 outpaced the state’s 1021 average, while Abbeville High School saw a record number of students take the test.

“Three of the county’s schools received Excellent ratings on their report cards. Abbeville High School, Cherokee Trail (6th & 7th Grades), and Wright Middle School each earned an overall rating of Excellent. These schools are to be applauded for their performance on Academics, Progress, College and Career Readiness, Classroom Environment, and other reported measures,” Sears wrote.

McCormick County

School DistrictJust more than half — 50.3% — of students in the district failed to meet expectations on the SC Ready English Language Arts test, with 46.6% falling short in mathematics, although forward-looking data suggests those numbers are set to improve.

For example, 55.7% of district first graders are on track for success in mathematics when they reach second grade, and 50.8% are at or above expectations in English.

“I wasn’t expecting a lot different. I’m trying to be very honest and transparent. Our academic achievement didn’t get here overnight. It’s been on a downward trend for a while and to turn that around, it’s going to take time, and I’ve made sure people understood that,” Superintendent Betty Bagley said. “I’m realistic and I’m hoping that everyone around me understands that.”

Bagley said administrators saw areas of strength as well.

“I’m pleased with our SAT score from the high school, I’m pleased with the college career readiness, we had improvement in almost every area there. When I look at the SC READY, there is some slight growth in reading and when I look at the end-of-course tests, there’s an increase in A’s and B’s, so you have to look at the whole thing. You just can’t look at one element and say, ‘well, that’s McCormick County School District,’ because when we look at achievement, it’s more than one thing. You have to believe in what you’re doing. I know we’re on the right path, and I know it because all the pieces are in place, and there are indicators in the report card that show promise.”

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.