IM this article to a friend!

December 13, 2002

Pickens, Anderson schools win Palmetto awards

From: Greenville News, SC - 13 Dec 2002

More than 300 South Carolina schools, including 12 in Pickens County, have earned awards for high achievement or above average improvement on their latest report card.

Winning schools will receive cash awards ranging from $1,000 to more than $12,000, money that some principals said could lessen the blow from state budget cuts.

"We're very excited about it," said Betty Randolph, principal at Forest Acres in Easley, which won a Gold award for its excellent rating on the report card. "It's the fruit of a lot of hard work."

Sixty-nine Upstate schools received awards.

Twelve Pickens County schools and nine in Oconee were honored.

Four Laurens County schools -- three in District 55 and Joanna-Woodson Elementary in District 56 -- received awards.

Seven Anderson District 1 schools received awards, four schools each in Anderson Districts 2 and 5, and three schools in District 4.

Twenty-four Greenville County schools and 19 in Spartanburg County were honored.

The Palmetto Gold and Silver awards were created by the 1998 Education Accountability Act of 1998.

Award criteria were developed by the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, and Chairman Bob Staton said it's important that communities recognize the accomplishments of the winners.

"Just as it is important to provide assistance to our low-performing schools, we must celebrate and recognize our high-performing and high-improving schools," he said.

A total of 330 schools statewide received awards: 236 Gold and 94 Silver. Among elementary schools, 119 won Gold awards and 45 won silver. Among middle schools, 16 won Golds and 27 won Silvers. Sixty-two high schools won Golds and 20 won Silvers.

Thirty-five career centers, including two in Greenville, won Gold awards and one center received a silver. This was the first year career centers were eligible for the awards.

Four special schools, including the Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville and the S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg, won Golds. One special school won silver.

The award criteria were based on the absolute and improvement ratings that were assigned to each school on the 2002 report cards.

The report card ratings are determined by Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test scores for elementary and middle schools. For high schools, the ratings are based on Exit Exam results and eligibility for LIFE scholarships.

Primary schools, like Cone Primary in Greenville, with grades two and below weren't eligible for the awards.

Schools receive a Gold or a Silver award for a combination of report card ratings. Only unsatisfactory schools were ineligible for the awards.

Good, average and below average schools that had high improvement ratings were eligible for an award. Excellent schools with excellent, good or average improvement ratings received a Gold award.

Randolph said Forest Acres is focusing on math this year through its "Math is Everywhere in Easley" program.

The school had a math scavenger hunt for students and parents and will have two special math nights for parents, she said. Each class surveyed a local business about how it uses math and a book with their findings will be published in January.

"We carried the math theme everywhere, but special programs cost money," she said.

Randolph said the school could use the $2,928 it will receive with the award to pay for another special program. But the school will watch the budget cuts from the state before making that decision, she said.

"That is absolutely wonderful," said Martha Gamble Hall, principal at Alexander Elementary, a Title I school in Greenville which received a Palmetto Gold award after earning an excellent improvement rating on its report card.

"It's a tribute to our teachers."

Gamble Hall credited her school's Gold award to the "hard work of the quality teachers in the classroom."

When she became principal at the school four years ago, Gamble Hall said she told teachers to "stretch and have high expectations of every child."

"I asked them to stretch and they have really stretched this time," she said.

The school's next goal is to bring its below average absolute grade up to average and then good, she said.

"We're going to get over that hump. We just have to stretch a little more," she said.

Copyright The Greenville News.