FLORENCE, S.C. — Nearly all schools in the Florence One Schools district improved their scores on this year’s school report cards. Some of the improvements are dramatic.

The annual report cards, issued by the South Carolina Department of Education, rate schools based on national and state standardized test scores, student growth, graduation rate and student engagement, among other factors. Schools receive one of five ratings: excellent, good, average, below average and unsatisfactory, according to the South Carolina Department of Education.

This year Florence One saw 10 of its 21 schools move from below average or unsatisfactory to good or higher.

“It’s a little scary that we did so well in a short period of time, if I could say,” said Richard O’Malley, who became the district’s superintendent shortly before the 2018-19 school year.

For the 2018-19 school year, only one school is still in the below-average category. O’Malley said Theodore Lester Elementary School missed scoring in the average category by 0.27 point.

The district had four schools to score excellent, the highest category on the report cards, according to data from the S.C. Department of Education website.

One of the four excellent-rated schools, Henry Timrod Elementary School, rose from the below-average category to the excellent category.

Principal Michelle McBride said seeing the growth that Timrod made in one year is surreal.

“We have a tremendous amount of growth,” McBride said. “The one category on the school report card that I’m very impressed with is our student progress.”

McBride said the school went from a rating of 13.3% to 82.6% in the student-progress category.

The school recently adopted the blended-learning model. McBride also said the school has had an emphasis on the whole-child initiative, or making sure all student needs are met.

“It has truly paid off for us,” McBride said.

The district had six schools score in the good category on their report cards, which is the second-highest category on report cards. For the 2017-18 school year, the district had only one school score in the good range.

Because report cards are based on a school’s growth, O’Malley said it is interesting for schools such as Royall Elementary that were already in the excellent category remain in that category, because they must continue to keep doing better to score.

“I always say climbing the mountain is one part, but staying on top of the mountain is even harder,” O’Malley said. “So when you take a school like Royall, they scored even higher this year. The higher you get, the harder it is to show growth every time.”

Though this year’s report cards show positive growth, O’Malley said the district has plans to keep pushing toward higher scores and continued growth.

“We are super excited about how hard our people worked,” O’Malley said. “It just really gives us great momentum to keep moving forward to continue this growth for more schools to be excellent and more schools to be in the good category.”

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