Okatie Elementary gets well-deserved award

info@islandpacket.comOctober 1, 2013 

Students from Okatie Elementary School celebrate Sept. 24 after superintendent Jeffrey Moss announces the school was one of five South Carolina schools named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Okatie Elementary School students, staff and parents were understandably feeling in the pink Sept. 24 after being named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School.

Congratulations to all for a well-deserved honor.

The school is the second in Beaufort County to be named a National Blue Ribbon School since the program began in 1982. Beaufort Elementary earned the title in 1999.

The state Department of Education nominated Okatie Elementary for the award. The winners were announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Schools that earn the designation are either academically superior or demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.

In recent years, Okatie Elementary, which opened in 2003, has certainly made strides in student achievement.

The school's state report-card ranking improved from "average" in 2008 to "excellent" in 2010 and 2011. It has earned both an absolute and a growth rating of "excellent" for the past three years. It earned an "A" on both the 2012 and 2013 state ratings on federal accountability standards.

It also has won a Palmetto Gold award from the state for overall academic achievement and a Palmetto Silver award for closing achievement gaps among students.

But perhaps the most telling award Okatie Elementary has earned in recent years, and the one that very likely holds the key to its other successes, is its Exemplary Writing Program award, also from the state Department of Education.

As described in 2012, the program has all of the school's students writing for an hour each day. They write in every class. When they solve math problems, they explain in writing how they did it. In music class, they write lyrics; in drama, they write plays.

Assistant principal Marva Neal said then that the emphasis on writing has improved student test scores on state assessments.

That's not surprising. Reading comprehension and the ability to express what one knows should have a positive impact on student achievement.

Principal Jamie Pinckney said the school's faculty and staff want to share with others in the district and the state how they achieved success. That's an important point of these awards -- to call attention to educational success so that others can learn from it.

Beaufort County School District officials should do all that they can to help make that happen.

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