Beaufort News

Graduation rates down from last year in 2 Beaufort County schools, rise overall

Despite mixed results among individual high schools, the Beaufort County School District's overall graduation rate rose for a fifth consecutive year in 2015, according to data released Tuesday. 

The percentage of students who completed high school in four years improved to 78.7 percent in 2015, up from 78.3 percent the previous year and 61.8 percent five years ago. The graduation rates serve as the district's greatest indicator of success this year, as the S.C. Department of Education will not be issuing grades until it releases report cards under a new accountability system in the fall of 2017.

The graduation rate fell at two schools: from 77.3 percent to 71.4 percent at Whale Branch Early College High and from 75.8 percent to 73.6 percent at Bluffton High. 

School officials noted Tuesday that Whale Branch is a newer school and has only had graduation rate data since 2012, when 80.9 percent of students graduated on-time. 

Superintendent Jeff Moss and chief instructional officer Dereck Rhoads said they have or will meet with Bluffton High principal Mark Dievendorf and Whale Branch principal Mona Lise Dickson and are optimistic both lagging schools will see improvements in coming years. 

The greatest improvement came from Battery Creek High School, where the on-time graduation rate rose to 81 percent from 78 percent, and up from less than 55 percent in 2010.

Beaufort and Hilton Head Island high schools also improved.

Battery Creek, they added, once boasted the worst graduation rate in the district -- 64 percent in 2011 -- but has managed dramatic change. 

Battery Creek High Principal Ed Burnes said the school's dramatic improvement in grad rates was the result of more effectively identifying students when they started to struggle academically, and then providing them with intensive counseling and direct help from teachers and in an after-school program.

He also credited efforts to keep students in school, from the Knock Out Drop Out initiative to teachers like Ken Hoffman, who spends time many weekends calling the families of students on the verge of dropping out. 

District-wide, the drop out rate fell in 2015 from 3.8 percent to 2.1, lower than the statewide 2.3 percent, according to the district's newly released state report card.

Two Battery Creek students attended Tuesday's meeting of the school board to speak about how they'd turned around poor grades to be on track for on-time graduation. Both said credit recovery helped them earn credits in courses where they had struggled.

"Now I'm graduating early," senior Tanejah Anderson said. 

"Battery Creeks teachers, they help everyone, they give everyone equal opportunity, and they're great with everything," fellow senior Natressa Jones said. "I just love them because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be on the track that I'm on."

Raw data

Battery Creek High54.26471.1777881
Beaufort High64.971.175.679.779.280.2
Bluffton High63.470.470.171.275.873.6
Hilton Head Island High63.473.781.783.586.787.7
Whale Branch Early College HighNANA80.974.277.371.4

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at

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