By Ruben Lowman
South Carolina recently released its annual report card evaluating its districts and schools using a number of different assessments that measures student performance.
Graduation rates, academic achievement rates for college and career-preparedness, and progress rates for English as a Second Language students are the most detailed information on this year’s state report card, due to the COVID-19 pandemic preventing schools from carrying out the end of year testing that typically serves as the bedrock of the reports.
The average graduation rates of the high schools in the district was 83.5 percent, with the average for the state a fraction lower at 82.1 percent. North Myrtle Beach High School and Loris High School achieved the two lowest graduation rates for the 2019-20 school year among the district’s nine high schools (excluding HCS Early College High and Palmetto Academy of Learning).
NMBHS seniors graduated at a rate of 80.4 percent with LHS seniors just a shade below at 80 percent. This represents a big change in the two schools graduation rates since 2017, when NMBHS topped the district’s high schools with a 87.5 percent rate, with LHS second with 84 percent of their seniors receiving their diplomas. As Horry County’s overall graduation rate has been steadily trending upwards over the past four years, North Myrtle Beach is the only high school that has seen its rate continuously fall, dropping over seven percent during that time.
Despite its graduation rate dropping, NMBHS still performs among the highest high schools in the district on standardized assessments that evaluate whether students are considered college or career ready. And 67.1 percent of NMBHS’ 392 graduating students were considered college or career ready last year, placing the school below only Aynor, Green Sea Floyds and Socastee in the county. By comparison, North Myrtle Beach High has more students enrolled than Aynor High and Green Sea Floyds High combined. Loris High performed highly on the assessments, as well, seeing 64.8 percent of its 250 graduates assessed as career or college ready.
NMBHS also performs at the top of the list for students who are learning English as their second language, measured by the percentage of ESL students who met the progress toward their proficiency targets. Two-thirds of ESL students attending North Myrtle Beach High were assessed as meeting their progress towards their proficiency target, which was the highest in the district. Loris High’s ESL students finished with a progress rate of 60 percent, seeing them rank third behind NMBHS and Socastee High.
North Myrtle Beach Middle, however, came in ninth out of the district’s 13 middle schools with a 51 percent progress rate, while Loris Middle came in last with a progress rate of 32 percent.
North Myrtle Beach’s three elementary school ESL students all performed highly on the standardized assessments, Ocean Drive Elementary, in particular.
O.D. Elementary’s ESL students achieved a progress rate of 80 percent, finishing in second just below Ocean Bay Elementary in Carolina Forest. The elementary schools are also the last two schools in the district to receive the prestigious Blue Ribbon School designation, with Ocean Bay last year and Ocean Drive just receiving their distinction last month. North Myrtle Beach City Council named next week, the week of Nov. 16-20, “Ocean Drive Elementary Blue Ribbon School Week” in honor of their many accomplishments.
Waterway Elementary and Riverside Elementary both achieved a progress rate of 67.8 percent for its ESL students, Daisy Elementary and Green Sea Floyds Elementary also performed highly with both at 71.4 percent. Loris Elementary’s ESL students achieved a progress rate of 59.1 percent. The district’s overall average progress rate is 60.2 percent and the state’s rate is 44.4 percent.
Carolina Forest High, St. James High and Socastee High are the only high schools with a higher enrollment than NMBHS with 1,521 students, as the area continues to experience population growth throughout the entire Grand Strand. Green Sea Floyds High, 705 students, and Loris High, 814 students, have the two lowest enrollments in the county.
North Myrtle Beach Middle is now the largest middle school in Horry County, with 1,231 students enrolled during the last school year, just edging out Myrtle Beach Middle by 11 students. Loris Middle had 714 students enrolled.
North Myrtle Beach’s large enrollment of nearly 2,300 elementary school students is split between its three schools, Ocean Drive Elementary, Waterway Elementary and Riverside Elementary. Ocean Drive has the most students at 878, Waterway is second with 770 and Riverside has 631 students. Loris Elementary has 817 students enrolled, while Daisy Elementary has 592 students.
Amid a difficult educational year resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, one positive that occurred for teachers in Horry County is seeing their average salary increase nearly $2,000 from last year, rising to just under $56,000.