Although the Beaufort County School District maintained its overall "good" rating on this year's state report cards, it did not improve as it had in previous years, according to the grades released Friday by the state Department of Education.
More schools rated "good" or "excellent" than in any year since the report cards were first published in 2001.
Two schools, however, dropped to "below average": St. Helena Elementary School and Whale Branch Middle School. Last year was the first that no school received a "below average" or "at-risk" rating.
All other schools are rated average, good or excellent.
Each year, public schools and districts in South Carolina are given one of the five rating, according to criteria set by the Education Oversight Committee. Those include state-mandated tests, student-teacher ratios, money spent per student and amount of instructional time.
The district is excited to see the 21 schools now earning one of the two top ratings -- an improvement from 19 schools last year -- but is disappointed to see the two schools moving backwards, head of instruction Dereck Rhoads said.
Whale Branch Middle earned an "F" and St. Helena Elementary a "C" on the federal report cards released in October. The district seeks to increase its support to both schools and help them determine where students are struggling.
Overall, the Beaufort County's 2014 ratings were boosted by higher elementary and middle school scores on the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards test and improvement on the high school exit and end-of-course exams, spokesman Jim Foster noted in a news release.
The district's on-time graduation rate -- the percentage of students who earn a diploma in four years -- continues to improve. It has jumped from 69.1 percent five years ago to 78.3 percent this year.
"Last year was our first-ever district-wide good rating, and we've maintained that rating this year," superintendent Jeff Moss said. "But our goal is an excellent rating, and we're going to keep pushing toward that."
- Schools rated excellent: Beaufort High, Bluffton Elementary, Bluffton High, Coosa Elementary, Hilton Head School for the Creative Arts, Hilton Head Island High, Okatie Elementary, Pritchardville Elementary, Red Cedar Elementary and Riverview Charter School (elementary and middle grades)
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.