Principals making own strides to improve progress

In addition to district-wide plans to raise test scores and meet federal standards for adequate yearly progress, principals have their own ideas about how to improve.

At Rock Hill's Independence Elementary School, for example, students who scored below basic on state tests are given in-school tutoring to address their problem areas. The school has a computer lab open to fourth- and fifth-graders in the morning so they can work on reading and math.

The school is one of two Rock Hill Title I schools that must offer students the option to transfer to another school because it did not meet AYP. The other is Sunset Park Elementary.

"It's disappointing," principal Mary Chandler said about the failure to meet AYP. "But you take anything and you use it in a positive manner and figure out where do you have to go."

At Northside Elementary School of the Arts, a Title I school that met AYP last year but not this year, teachers, guidance counselors and principals will be having conferences with students to set personal goals.

Principal Linda Crute said that will give students more ownership of their learning and also will give parents a way to tell where their child is supposed to be.

At the high school level, many programs are in place not just to bring up test scores, but also to improve the graduation rate, which is one of the lowest in the state.

Northwestern students have begun taking English and Algebra classes in connsecutive semesters during the same year, instead of taking the first class in each subject during freshman year and the second class in their sophomore year.

The consecutive scheduling provides more continuity and makes it easier for students to remember the material from one class to the next, Principal James Blake said.

That combined with a successful tutoring program that builds relationships between students and adults has Blake hoping the school will continue its upward trend in test scores and the graduation rate.

Northwestern came close to meeting AYP this year but missed three of 21 objectives.

At Rock Hill High, Principal Judy Mobley has high hopes that next year's data will prove the success of programs introduced several years ago.

This year's seniors will be the first to graduate after having gone through the freshman academy, which puts students on teams with teachers who work together to stay involved in students' progress, and having had the same homeroom teacher for multiple years.

Mobley said the school's 58.7 percent graduation rate does not tell the whole story.

"I believe that the overwhelming majority of our students who enter in the ninth grade will graduate in four years," Mobley said. "I say that because I believe in what we do here day in and day out. I believe in our teachers and what they do in the classroom."

To make sure students entering the ninth grade are up to speed, Castle Heights Middle School is requiring students who did not show basic proficiency on state tests to take in-school remediation classes. Once they show they've caught up they can opt out of the program, Principal Kelly Kane said.

"No matter how high the bar is set," she said, "You always want to go ahead and make that bar."