Fifteen Beaufort County public schools have received state awards for student achievement. Although that total is down from 18 last year, the number of schools receiving gold awards nearly doubled.
The S.C. Department of Education announced on Wednesday the state's Palmetto Gold and Palmetto Silver awards for overall school performance and for progress in closing achievement gaps during the 2012-13 school year.
Beaufort County schools won 22 awards overall, and two schools -- Hilton Head Island High and Okatie Elementary -- won gold in both categories.
Beaufort County school board chairman Bill Evans attributed much of the district's success to providing effective professional development, as well as proven instructional practices.
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Superintendent Jeff Moss agreed.
"I think the secret to success is having a quality principal and quality teachers at each school and providing support at the district level," Moss said. "We also provide a variety of teaching methodologies that promotes individualism in the classroom for all students."
Twelve district schools earned 2014 gold awards for general performance, up from seven last year. Seven schools this year -- an improvement from last year's four -- also were double winners, recognized for both general performance and closing achievement gaps.
Only six of the state's 84 school districts had more than 15 schools win awards, and all of those districts have more schools and larger student enrollments than Beaufort County.
Two years ago, a record-setting 27 Beaufort County schools earned 34 awards in all. However, the state's Education Oversight Committee changed the criteria for the awards after a substantial increase in the number of winning schools.
That year, 852 schools -- 72 percent of all schools in the state -- received either a gold or silver award. That number has since declined to 677 schools awarded last year and 592 schools, or 53 percent, recognized this year.
The awards are based on standardized tests scores and schools' ratings on the state school report cards.
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.