In their first year, the Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success (PALS), a charter school located in Horry County, South Carolina, demonstrated that their model for improving education was working. In their second, the bar has been raised again. The overall report card grade of 97.9 placed PALS well above the Horry County School District who had an equally impressive 90.5. Both receiving an A in the new state-wide rating system, PALS scored above the district in 19 of 26 categories.
According to Courtney Fancher, Executive Director at PALS, the students who will benefit the most from their new way of doing things will be those that started the program from the beginning. While positive results can be seen in all grades the most impressive are coming to light in the school’s third grade class, where 100% of students met or exceeded proficiency in all subjects. These results are almost unheard of, leading to more than a few parents suggesting “teacher of the year”.
Courtney Fancher allowed herself a few moments to bask in the glow of success before she suddenly shifted gears and started talking about plans for the new school year. While pleased with the overall results, she felt there were still some areas for improvement. Those efforts have been underway for several months. For the 2012-2013 school year, parents can expect to see some staffing changes that should positively impact the areas that were identified as potentially weak. PALS will welcome a new middle school math teacher who brings years of experience and expertise to the subject, and the fourth grade teacher that was a long term sub during the last school year will be joining the staff full time. They will also begin the planning and phasing in of Common Core Standards this year, in preparation for full implementation beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. While this will be a big change, the staff is eager to take on the challenge, believing that these new standards will be instrumental in making sure students are more prepared when they enter college.
COMMENTARY: Last year I wrote an article proclaiming how impressed I was with the method and results after PALS’ first year. As I watch other schools try what I would classify as “fad programs” such as giving all children iPads or moving to a year round school year, what I am impressed with is the fact that none of these approaches are matching the results that PALS has achieved. They don’t have a fancy building, and while they make use of technology, it is used selectively without becoming invasive. What they do have is teachers that are passionate about their students’ success and results that reflect this passion. Ultimately, that is what matters most.