Diocesan schools’ test scores in top 10 percent

CHARLESTON — The Diocese of Charleston’s Catholic Schools Office announced that nine of its schools ranked in the top 10 percent in the country in both reading and math, according to the results of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

Another five schools were in the top 10 percent for reading, and two others made it for math.

Sister Julia Hutchison, superintendent, sent letters of congratulations to the school principals and their pastors for their noteworthy accomplishment.

She said she is proud of the schools’ success, but anxious as well lest too much importance be placed on test scores.

“The figures are really just one snapshot in an entire album, and it’s the album that’s important,” said Sister Julia of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

She noted that the only thing that separates an authentically Catholic school from public schools is adherence to the Gospel message, and stressed that the mission of the church should never take second place to testing.

The diocese does not regularly compile test scores of all the schools, and Sister Julia said she only did so this year to see how many qualified for the U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon award.

A school must rank in the top 10 percent in reading and math in order to apply for Blue Ribbon status, and Sister Julia said she has encouraged the schools that don’t already have the recognition to apply.

St. John Neumann in Columbia applied this year and will receive notification in September.

Molly Halasz, principal of St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach, said her school received its designation in 2005 and will retain it for five years, at which point they may reapply.

She praised all the schools for their success. “Any school that manages to get in the top 10 percent has a lot of good things going on,” Halasz said.

Jean Moschella, who has only been principal at Christ Our King/Stella Maris for two years, said she was thrilled when she heard the results.

“I think our students work very hard and I know we have great teachers,” she said.

Moschella and Phyllis Brandis, principal of St. Anthony in Florence, both said they plan to apply this year for recognition as a Blue Ribbon School.

All the principals agreed that it takes many things to obtain such high test scores, including strong academic programs, hard-working students, involved parents, dedicated teachers and a supportive community.

“It’s just so phenomenal,” Brandis said. “Everybody working together produces these wonderful results.”

Halasz noted that their math program in particular is very strict and the students never miss a day of math. “It’s not quite as important as religion, but almost,” she said.

St. Andrew also instituted the Advanced Reader program 10 years ago and has seen a steady improvement in reading scores. “We all know when they do a lot of reading they score better on tests,” Halasz said.

Sister Julia said the schools that did not make the highest test scores should not be discouraged, but rather proud of their other accomplishments. A number of schools missed the top 10 percent by five points or less.

The following schools scored in the top 10 percent of the nation:
Reading and math:
Prince of Peace, Taylors
St. John Neumann, Columbia
Christ Our King/Stella Maris, Mt. Pleasant
St. Andrew, Myrtle Beach
St. Anne, Sumter
St. Anthony, Florence
St. Mary Help of Christians, Aiken
St. Mary, Greenville
St. Paul the Apostle, Spartanburg

St. Gregory the Great, Bluffton
St. Joseph, Anderson
St. Joseph, Columbia
St. Peter, Columbia
Cardinal Newman, Columbia

Charleston Catholic, Charleston
Summerville Catholic, Summerville