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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Four South Carolina public schools win prestigious Blue Ribbon School Award
September 23, 2005

September 23, 2005 / Blue Ribbon 2005 winners 
COLUMBIA - Four South Carolina nominees were honored today by the U.S. Department of Education as National Blue Ribbon Schools. 

The National Blue Ribbon Schools program honors public and private K-12 schools whose students achieve at the highest levels or have made significant progress in closing achievement gaps.  The winning schools were nominated last fall by the State Department of Education for the prestigious award.

The 2005 honorees are Aiken Elementary (Aiken County School District), Stono Park Elementary (Charleston County), Sampit Elementary (Georgetown County School District) and Woodruff High School (Spartanburg District Four).

"These wonderful schools are very different, but they have things in common, too," said State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum.  "They have high expectations for all children, and they are committed to improvement and excellence.  These four schools are outstanding models for other schools across South Carolina and across the entire country."

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said, "The achievement gap is closing and that is great news for every student.  These Blue Ribbon Schools are an example of what teachers and students can achieve."

The National Blue Ribbon Schools program was modified three years ago so that the selection criteria corresponded philosophically with the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.  The program honors elementary and secondary schools that make significant progress in closing the achievement gap or whose students achieve at the highest levels.  The number of nominees in each state is determined by the U.S. Department of Education, and each state develops specific criteria to nominate schools.

In South Carolina, the State Department of Education's nominations fell into one of two categories: schools with at least 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced priced meals and performing in the top 10 percent of the schools in the state, and schools with high levels of poverty that are improving dramatically and reducing performance gaps.

South Carolina's four winners for 2005 exceeded the achievement levels of other state schools with similar student populations, and differences in student achievement between demographic subgroups were also reduced.  In all cases, they met 2004 and 2005 Adequate Yearly Progress requirements under NCLB.

Profiles of South Carolina's new National Blue Ribbon Schools

Aiken Elementary School (Aiken County)
Aiken Elementary ranks in the top 10 percent of schools in the state in student achievement despite having more than 40 percent of its students in the free or reduced-price lunch program.  Serving a diverse population of 881 students in grades K-5, the school's mission is to "provide all students with a challenging, innovative, standards-based curriculum in a safe environment with the support of our parents and the community."  For the past four years, Aiken Elementary has received a report card rating of Excellent and has received various awards such the Palmetto Gold Award from the State Department of Education for outstanding academic achievement, as well as the Palmetto's Finest Award from the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.  Redbook Magazine named Aiken Elementary as one of "America's Best Schools" and was honored by the State Department of Education as a Red Carpet School for providing a warm, positive environment and offering opportunities for participation of parents and community members.  Cited as reasons for the school's success are excellent academic programs, data-driven decision-making, excellent school/home relations and professional development programs, and teacher collaboration and teamwork.

Sampit Elementary School (Georgetown County)
Nestled in a rural community of the southwestern section of Georgetown County, Sampit Elementary School has a 70 percent minority population. More than 90 percent of its students receive free or reduced-priced lunches.  Rated "Below Average" on its Report Card four years ago, Sampit made dramatic improvement and is now ranked at the 80th state percentile in terms of student academic achievement.  The school received the Palmetto Gold Award for improvement and also was recognized for making "significant gains and closing the gap" for African-American students and students receiving free/reduced priced lunch in mathematics (2003-04).  The school's motto, "Working Together Brings Success," illustrates the process the school uses to bring about change and success.  The collaborative efforts of Sampit's leadership, staff and community create an environment for student success and school improvement, and accurate analysis of data allows guides customized instruction. 

Stono Park Elementary School (Charleston County)
Ranked in the top 10 percent of the state in student achievement, Stono Park Elementary serves a student population in which 90 percent of its students receive free or reduced-priced lunches.  Over the years, Stono Park has received various awards for high student achievement.  The reasons for Stono Park's success are the school's strong leadership and its faculty and staff's commitment to rigorous curriculum and flexible instructional programs.  The combination of rigorous curriculum content and effective instruction is aimed at engaging and challenging learners.  In each classroom, the excitement and enthusiasm for learning is contagious as teachers model and children actively participate in constructing their own knowledge.  

Woodruff High School (Spartanburg District Four)
Performing in the top 10 percent of the state and with more than 40 percent of its students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, Woodruff High is the only high school in South Carolina to receive this honor in 2005.  Located in a small rural town in Spartanburg County, the school is a place where academic excellence is the paramount objective. It has been rated Excellent in academic performance every year on its School Report Card and has received the Palmetto Gold award for the past four years.  Woodruff High leads South Carolina in the enrollment and pass rate in Advanced Placement courses; the school also traditionally ranks above the state average on both the SAT verbal and math tests despite testing more than 50 percent of its seniors.  Woodruff High's success is attributed to its excellent instruction program, which integrates with assessment.  The teachers at Woodruff High utilize a variety of instructional strategies in addressing multiple learning styles of students.  Besides semi-annual assessments and mini-tests that are aligned with standards and curriculum, teacher-designed tests play an important role in assuring the alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

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