Children in a batch of Rock Hill schools continue to achieve at higher levels, according to state report cards released this morning.
While all of the district's middle and elementary schools met South Carolina standards for improvement, 12 - nine elementary and three middle - received especially high marks for academic growth. That means students improved on state tests last school year.
Three elementary schools - India Hook, Old Pointe and Rosewood - were rated "excellent," the top rank, for their students' progress.
Asked about their approaches, principals at those schools ticked off similar strategies for tackling achievement.
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It's not about teaching to the test, Old Pointe Principal Tanya Campbell said.
"I don't think we've ever had a meeting where we said, 'The test is coming. Time to practice, practice,'" she said. "You have to know your students and build relationships with them."
One key, principals said, is having good teachers who work together analyzing student data and planning lessons. The schools use various test results to pinpoint students' weak spots and target them.
Dutchman Creek Middle sets goals for each child.
"It's almost like an individual plan," Principal Norris Williams said. The school also polls students for feedback on lessons.
"It's about finding gaps in students' knowledge," India Hook Principal Crystal Guyton said. "It has to be timely intervention. You can't wait until the end of the nine weeks."
Those strategies are part of an effort that Superintendent Lynn Moody said is spreading across all 25 schools.
"We've put a lot of emphasis on that," she said. "Teachers and administrators have been meeting a lot to discuss how we can do that better."
The state Education Department annually issues report cards that rate schools and districts based on standardized test scores. The reports, available online, include a wealth of data - school profiles, test scores, federal ratings and answers from teacher, parent and student surveys.
Schools are rated in two categories: how all students fared overall and how well students improved over the year before. Schools get one of five labels in both categories: Excellent, good, average, below average or at-risk.
Report cards for elementary and middle schools are being released today. Reports for high schools and districts will be released in January.
The reports are intended to keep parents in the loop and spotlight both high and low performers.
While no school in York County ranked lower than average, ratings were mixed.
Every one of Fort Mill's middle and elementary schools rated "excellent" in both categories.
In Rock Hill, only India Hook Elementary received an excellent in both.
Four Clover elementary schools rated the same.
In York, Harold C. Johnson Middle was rated "good" for student improvement. Hunter Street Elementary rated "good" for overall student performance. The district's four other schools rated "average" in both categories.
The ratings don't paint a full picture, though. For instance, they don't account for achievement gaps between student groups. And schools rated "excellent" can have significant shares of students failing.
Still, educators pay attention to report cards, Dutchman Creek Principal Williams said.
"It helps to place some validity to the hard work the teachers are doing and parents as well."