Five schools win awards

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Gold, Silver Palmetto Awards based on ratings

By Reece Murphy

Five Lancaster County District schools are recipients of this year’s Palmetto Gold and Silver awards for academic excellence.

Winning gold for general performance this year is Discovery Charter School of Lancaster. Silver award winners for general performance are McDonald Green Elementary and A.R. Rucker Middle schools, both in Lancaster and Indian Land Elementary and Indian Land Middle schools.

McDonald Green Elementary also received a second Silver Award for its success in closing the achievement gap.

“We’re certainly pleased that our schools received these awards,” Superintendent Gene Moore said. “Our schools are working extremely hard to see that every child succeeds, and these awards recognize the hard work our students, parents, teachers and administrators are doing to meet this goal.”

The Palmetto Gold and Silver Award is awarded by the S.C. Education Oversight Committee based on the absolute and improvement ratings given to each school on the state’s annual schools report cards.

Report card ratings for elementary and middle schools are based on the state’s Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT) while high school ratings are based on exit exam results, graduation rates and the percentage of students passing end-of-course tests.

This year’s Palmetto Gold Award was the seventh gold or silver award for Discovery Charter School.

“We’re very happy, and I think it shows what happens when you work hard to accomplish something,” Discovery Charter School Director Tom McDuffie said. “This is something our students, teachers and parents can all take pride in.”

McDuffie said in addition to the collaboration the school has between teachers, parents and students, there are other factors that figure into the school earning the award, not the least of which is the school’s mission.

Based on the work of American developmental psychologist Howard Earl Gardner that says students learn in different ways, the school focuses on teaching methods that cater to the students’ learning styles.

Among other facets unique to the school, Discovery School also has smaller classroom sizes that allow for more individualized attention, McDuffie said. 

“I think it (the award) is a validation, in a way, that what we have set forth in our mission and our vision is working,” McDuffie said. “I don’t mean to say we’ve arrived, and I don’t want people to think we’re a perfect school by any means, but I think it shows the combination of elements we focus on are working.”

McDonald Green Principal Michelle Crosby said winning the Palmetto Awards took everyone working together.

“I’m ecstatic that our school won the Palmetto Silver awards,” Crosby said. “It was a collaborative effort from the staff, our students and our administrative team, and we’re very appreciative of the support that our parents have given as well.”

Crosby said everyone working together also played a role in helping the school close the achievement gap.

The achievement gap is defined as the difference in academic performance between low-income and minority students compared to that of their peers on standardized tests.

At McDonald Green, the school’s black students met growth in achievement criterion to win the award.

“Having high expectations of all children helped us get the award for closing the achievement gap,” Crosby said. “And again, I’m appreciative of my staff, students and parents for making sure we have such high-flying Dragonflies here at McDonald Green Elementary School.”

A.R. Rucker Elementary School Principal Philip Mickles also said he was “ecstatic” about the school’s Palmetto Silver Award and said it was a reflection of the hard work and dedication all stakeholders put in every day.

He said the school also has strong teamwork among staff, teachers across all grades, parents and the community.

“This award means a great deal to the A.R. Rucker Middle School family,” Mickles said. “It proves when teachers and staff believe that all students can learn and meet high standards, while recognizing that some students must overcome significant barriers, the obstacles are not insurmountable.”

Overall, a total of 435 schools received Palmetto Awards statewide for general performance this year, 249 were gold and 186 silver, according to the S.C. Department of Education.

Among elementary school, 196 won gold awards and 124 won silver. Among middle schools, 25 won gold and 16 silver.

A total of 224 schools won Palmetto Awards for closing the achievement gaps at their schools, 21 gold and 150 silver among elementary schools and three gold and 50 silver among middle schools.