A record number of Beaufort County public schools have earned state recognition for academic performance or for closing achievement gaps for minority, low-income or disabled students.
The S.C. Department of Education announced Monday that more than half of the county's public elementary and middle schools earned Palmetto Gold or Silver awards for the 2009-10 school year. They join more than 400 schools across the state.
The 15 county schools earning recognition is up from nine for 2008-09. It's the highest number of local schools recognized since the program began 10 years ago, according to data from the Education Department.
Superintendent Valerie Truesdale said she is proud of the awards and encouraged the community to celebrate gains in student achievement.
"Students, teachers and school leaders have been vigilant in their focus on reading and mathematics," she said in the release. "We applaud their hard work."
The program recognizes schools with high academic performance or improvement rates based on school report-card ratings. For elementary and middle schools, those ratings are determined by scores on the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards, a state-mandated test given to students in grades three through eight.
It also recognizes schools making progress in closing achievement gaps among certain demographic groups. Those awards are based on gains made by black students, Hispanic students, students participating in federal free or reduced-price lunch programs, and students with non-speech disabilities.
For several years, the awards came with a monetary prize. However, those prizes were eliminated as a result of state budget cuts. Winners now receive flags and certificates, according to the Education Department.
Palmetto Gold and Silver awards for high schools have not yet been announced. The Education Department plans to name those winners after state report-card data for high schools is released in late February.
The following schools were recognized for general performance:
The following schools were recognized for closing an achievement gap: