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Bamberg County’s schools range from excellent to unsatisfactory.

All three District 1 schools -- Bamberg-Ehrhardt High, Richard Carroll Elementary and Bamberg-Ehrhardt Middle -- received average to excellent school report card ratings, according to the S.C. Department of Education’s 2019 data.

District 2 schools -- Denmark-Olar Elementary, Denmark-Olar Middle and Denmark-Olar High -- all received below-average to unsatisfactory report card ratings.

School report card ratings are based on a number of indicators such as student achievement, student growth and a school's positive and effective learning environment.

Schools are scored on a 0-100 point system. Schools with English language proficiency are weighted differently.

The higher the total number of points, the higher the rating. Ratings are categorized as excellent, good, average, below average and unsatisfactory. Elementary, middle and high schools have different scoring scales.

Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School received a total of 67 points for an overall rating of excellent.

Richard Carroll Elementary and Bamberg-Ehrhardt Middle saw an overall point total of 51. RCES has an average rating and BEM has a good rating.

Denmark-Olar Elementary School received a total of 34 points for a below-average rating.

Both Denmark-Olar Middle School (24 points) and Denmark-Olar High School (39 points) saw overall ratings of unsatisfactory.

Bamberg School District 2 Superintendent Dr. Thelma Sojourner said the district has made it a priority to improve the test scores of its schools.

"The district has been meeting on a regular basis to address the scores that were made in each school, and several initiatives have been put into place to address the 2018-2019 student performance," Sojourner said.

"We have hired math consultants from University of South Carolina-Aiken, and we have begun to use additional assistance in the area of ELA through the State Department of Education,” she said.

Sojourner also said additional professional development has been added to address the standards for each grade level in each of the core areas.

"There have been a few internal changes made as well," she said.

Sojourner is confident student scores will improve.

"The district will continue to provide assistance to ensure that the graduation rate improves for the coming year," she said. "Students are monitored for enrollment and attendance on a regular basis."

"Specific guidance is also provided and the instructors are meeting with students for mentoring sessions," she said.

Bamberg School District 1 Superintendent Phyllis Schwarting said the overall ratings do not present a true picture of how well the schools are doing.

"Keep in mind the overall ratings are developed by comparing each school’s data to all other schools in their category across the state," Schwarting said. "What does provide a better picture is the growth rate, which is the student progress indicator."

"Both RCES and BEHS have good student progress indicators, and the BEMS indicator is average," Schwarting said. "Average meets the state standard, and good exceeds the state standard."

Schwarting said the growth indicator picks up, "small changes directly tied to student achievement."

"It allows us to respond quickly to any major changes we see," Schwarting said. "The schools are analyzing their results and looking at student achievement gaps. From this information, they will determine teacher professional development and student academic needs."

Overall, Schwarting expressed her pleasure at Bamberg District 1's scores that exceeded the state average and was “not happy about the scores that didn't."

"I know we have work to do and there is improvement to be made even where the scores did exceed the state average," Schwarting said. "The principals and teachers at all three schools are digging in to get that work done."

SC READY

The South Carolina College-and Career-Ready Assessments (SC READY) are statewide assessments in English language arts and mathematics.

In SC READY ELA, Richard Carroll Elementary third-grade students met the state standard at 61 percent.

It was the only grade the school met state standard in ELA.

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"At Richard Carroll, the fourth through sixth grade has fully implemented the curriculum that brought about the improvement in third grade, so we expect to see that achievement improve this year," Schwarting said.

Denmark-Olar Elementary failed to meet state standard in ELA from third- to sixth-grade levels.

Sixth- to eighth-grade students in Bamberg-Ehrhardt Middle and Denmark-Olar Middle were able to meet state standards in ELA.

"At the middle school, the principal worked with teachers this summer to ensure the curriculum and the standards are aligned," Schwarting said. "ELA teachers are also participating in intensive professional development this year."

In SC READY math, at Richard Carroll Elementary, 74.4 percent of third-grade students met state standard. The state standard was 57.7 percent.

It was the only grade at Richard Carroll Elementary to meet state standards in math.

Schwarting said the district is analyzing the math data, looking at student achievement gaps and ensuring instruction is focusing on closing those gaps.

Denmark-Olar Elementary failed to meet state standards at all grade levels tested.

Bamberg-Ehrhardt Middle students met state standards in math in grades 7 and 8.

In grade 7, 38.8 percent of the students met the standard. The state average was 35.3 percent. About 39 percent of the school's eighth-grade students met the standard, with the state average being 36.6 percent.

Denmark-Olar Middle failed to meet the average state standards in math.

SCPASS

The S.C. Palmetto Assessment of State Standards is a statewide science and social studies assessment.

Bamberg-Ehrhardt Middle saw 76.5 percent of its seventh-grade students meet state standards in the social studies portion of the SCPASS.

At Richard Carroll Elementary, Denmark-Olar Elementary, Denmark-Olar Middle all grades failed to meet state standards in either science or social studies.

Schwarting said in SCPASS the district is, "looking at the gaps and making sure we are filling them."

EOCEP

The End-of-Course Examination Program is a statewide assessment program of end-of-course tests in English/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies, according to the SCDOE.

Neither Bamberg-Ehrhardt High (55.4 percent) nor Denmark-Olar High (48.4 percent) met the state average of students passing the algebra portion of the EOCEP. The state average for the algebra EOCEP is 68.6 percent.

BEM did not have enough students test in Algebra 1 to form a subgroup, which could lead to identification of individual students, Schwarting said.

BEMS was the only school to see its students meet the state average in passing the English portion of the exam. All of the students passed the English EOCEP. The state average is 79 percent.

BEHS scored 70 percent and DOH scored 65.4 percent.

In the biology, neither BEHS (61.5 percent) nor DOHS (54.3 percent) met the state average passing rate of 67.2 percent.

In history and Constitution EOCEP, BEHS saw 68.7 percent of its students pass, which is above the state average of 66.9 percent. DOH saw 35.3 percent of its students pass the exam.

Graduation rates

Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School's graduation rate for 2019 was 87.7 percent, exceeding the state average of 81.1 percent. Denmark-Olar High saw its rate at 74.6 percent.

"The graduation rate is complicated and can be impacted by a number of factors," Schwarting said. "Our district has become more transient over the years and if we can’t verify where students transfer to, that can have a major impact due to our small numbers."

Schwarting said another factor that impacts graduation rates is student attendance.

"Again, with our small numbers, a few students with attendance issues can impact these results as well," she said.

Schwarting said the district continues to focus on providing attendance recovery for students and initiating attendance intervention plans when those are needed.

"Since we are small, we know our students and we know what issues they are dealing with and provide the help they need," Schwarting said.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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