The COVID-19 pandemic spared no state or region as it caused historic learning setbacks for America’s children, erasing decades of academic progress and widening racial disparities, according to results of a national test that provide the sharpest look yet at the scale of the crisis. Across the country, math scores saw their largest decreases ever. Reading scores dropped to 1992 levels. Nearly four in 10 eighth graders failed to grasp basic math concepts. Not a single state saw a notable improvement in their average test scores, with some simply treading water at best.

Five Orangeburg County schools achieved good to excellent overall ratings on their 2022 report cards released by the S.C. Department of Education.

Four years ago, seven schools in the county achieved good to excellent overall ratings on their report cards, according to the SCDE data. That was before the coronavirus pandemic and before the consolidation of the county’s three school districts into one.

The Orangeburg High School for Health Professions received excellent overall ratings both on the 2021-2022 and the 2018-2019 school report cards. It was the only public school to receive an overall excellent rating when looking at pre- and post-COVID report cards.

The charter school was previously sponsored by the Orangeburg County School District. The Columbia-based Limestone Charter Association became HSHP’s new sponsor in July.

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Orangeburg HSHP Executive Director/Principal Derwin Farr said the school took several steps to ensure its students’ success continued under virtual instruction with COVID.

“We made sure that we provided quality professional development to our teachers on how to still deliver quality instruction using a virtual platform,” Farr said. “Just because we were virtual and hybrid, we still held our students, parents and faculty/staff accountable for high academic achievement.”

Farr said the school also used federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund funds to provide additional support to students during virtual learning.

Dr. Shawn Foster, superintendent of schools for Orangeburg County School District, outlines the district’s next steps following the passage of the $190 million bond referendum.

This included:

• Hiring an additional school counselor, English and mathematics teacher to create smaller classes to assist with the learning loss.

• Conducting wellness checks on all of students, especially for attendance.

• Providing after-school academic support for all students when back face-to-face.

Farr said the key to the school’s success is providing support for students, parents and teachers.

“We focus on our Warriors’ 3Es (Employed, Enlisted, or Enroll). During their junior year, we start focusing on these three areas for our students,” Farr said.

The school was among 16 percent of high schools in the state having an excellent rating.

Holly Hill Elementary School saw an improvement in its rating with a good overall rating in 2021-2022 compared to an average rating in 2018-2019.

Branchville High School also saw an improvement post-COVID with an overall excellent rating in 2021-2022 compared to an average rating in 2018-2019.

Vance-Providence Elementary School remained consistent, receiving a good overall rating for the 2021-2022 academic year and the 2018-2019 academic year.

Lockett Elementary School did go down for the 2021-2022 school year, receiving an overall good rating, compared to the excellent overall rating it received in 2018-2019.

The Orangeburg County School District said it would not be providing a comment on the report cards until the matter is presented before the school district Board of Trustees during its Nov. 15 meeting.

Schools that have fallen from the overall good and excellent ratings post COVID are:

• Elloree Elementary had an overall rating of excellent in 2018-2019 and went to unsatisfactory in 2021-2022.

• Hunter-Kinard-Tyler Middle went from a good overall rating in 2018-2019 to an unsatisfactory rating in 2021-2022

• North High School went from a good overall rating in 2018-2019 to an unsatisfactory rating in 2021-2022.

• Bethune-Bowman High School went from a good overall rating in 2018-2019 to average rating in 2021-2022

Thirteen schools in the district saw their report cards worsen post-COVID, six saw their scores improve, and nine remained the same, according to SCDE data.

There were eight schools in Orangeburg County that saw unsatisfactory report card ratings for 2021-2022. These included: Bethune-Bowman Elementary, Dover Elementary, Elloree Elementary, Hunter-Kinard-Tyler Elementary, Marshall Elementary, HKT Middle, Edisto High and North High School.

In Calhoun County Public Schools District, school report card ratings remained relatively the same from pre-COVID to post-COVID.

Sandy Run Middle School saw its report card rating drop from excellent in 2018-2019 to good in 2021-2022

Calhoun County High School saw its report card rating drop from good four years ago to average in 2021-2022.

Bamberg County schools generally saw report card ratings improve post-COVID.

Bamberg-Ehrhardt Middle saw its school report card rating rise to excellent, up from a good rating four years ago.

Denmark-Olar Elementary improved from below average four years ago to average in 2021-2022.

Denmark-Olar Middle also improved from unsatisfactory four years ago to below average in 2021-2022.

Denmark-Olar High School also went from unsatisfactory four years ago to below average in 2021-2022.

Only Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School saw its report card rating fall from excellent pre-COVID to average post-COVID in Bamberg County.

There were no schools in Calhoun or Bamberg County that had unsatisfactory ratings.

“All schools in Bamberg County are constantly monitoring student achievement, conducting program evaluations, and making improvements where needed,” Bamberg County School District Superintendent Dottie Brown said. “We are focused on providing sound, evidenced-based instructional programs and supports before, during and after school to address students’ needs and close gaps.”

“In addition to academics, we are also providing support in students’ social, emotional and adaptive areas,” Brown continued. “We are seeing growth, and we are proud of the progress made, but we know there’s still much to be done. Bamberg County School District remains committed to our purpose of propelling students forward, closing achievement gaps and improving outcomes for all students.”

Calhoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ferlondo J. Tullock said, “Certainly, COVID-19 interruptions have played a part in student performance.

“We are blessed to have experienced minimal regression. I attribute that to the hard work and resilience of our teachers, students and parents, now that we are back face-to-face.”

“While we celebrate the areas of proficiency, we also recognize that there are a number of challenge areas that we must address,” Tullock said. “I expect that we will see continued growth in regard to student performance and improved school ratings.”

Tullock said the district has worked to address the COVID slide.

“Each of the schools offers before and after-school tutorial opportunities as well as remediation periods throughout the day for students,” he said. “We have made adjustments to the scheduling of the academic day to maximize student learning opportunities.”

“The social-emotional component is a key part of student development and to address this area, we employed a full-time counselor to meet the mental health needs of our students,” Tullock said. “Each elementary school also has a reading and math interventionist and a reading coach to address instruction relative to our formative assessment data and multi-tiered systems of support.”

The S.C. Department of Education and the S.C. Education Oversight Committee released the 2022 School Report Cards in October. They are the first cards to contain ratings since 2019.

Statewide, 20.6 percent of schools received an overall rating of excellent, consistent with the percent of schools receiving the highest rating in the state’s education accountability system in 2019.

The ratings do not include career centers or special schools. Twenty-five schools did not receive overall ratings.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman noted the quick rebound of schools amid the challenges brought about by the pandemic but stressed the “real challenges” to overcome.

“Though many of the results we see are perhaps expected following the pandemic, we are no less concerned about drops in assessment results and the widening gaps for many of our students,” Spearman said. “We are encouraged by the growth we see, as we seek to continue the work of ensuring our educational system in South Carolina is preparing all students to be ready for college, careers and citizenship.”

The report cards and ratings are designed to increase accessibility and accountability in the state’s public schools by providing easy-to-understand/use information for families and the general public.

The School Report Cards, which are based on South Carolina’s education accountability system, are required for all elementary, middle and high schools which receive overall ratings based on a 100-point scale.

The ratings follow terms outlined in state law:

• Excellent – School performance substantially exceeds the criteria to ensure all students meet the profile of the S.C. graduate.

• Good – School performance exceeds the criteria to ensure all students meet the profile of the S.C. graduate.

• Average – School performance is in jeopardy of not meeting the criteria to ensure all students meet the profile of the S.C. graduate.

• Below Average – School performance is in jeopardy of not meeting the criteria to ensure all students meet the profile of the S.C. graduate.

• Unsatisfactory – School performance fails to meet the criteria to ensure all students meet the profile of the S.C. graduate.

Schools also receive ratings on various indicators, such as graduation rate, academic achievement, and college and career-readiness.

Overall ratings for schools were determined based on S.C.’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2015.

The Report Cards, available at, reflect information from the 2021-22 school year.

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