PICKENS — A report of statewide public school rankings, based on student performance on the 2013-2014 South Carolina Palmetto Assessment of State Standards Test (PASS), shows the S.C. Youth Leadership Academy ranks sixth among the state’s 257 middle schools.

Test score results put the Youth Leadership Academy in first place among seventh-graders in PASS Math, PASS Writing and PASS Social Studies.

The Youth Leadership Academy is the first and only charter middle school in Pickens County, chartered by the S.C. Public Charter School District  in 2011.

Additional PASS Test score results reveal the academy ranks seventh in PASS Math (sixth-eighth grades combined). It ranks fourth in PASS ELA (sixth-eighth grades combined), fifth in PASS Writing (sixth-eighth grades combined), fourth in Social Studies (sixth-eighth grades combined) and seventh in Science (seventh grade).

PASS Test scores are posted online by SchoolDigger.com, a national, online reference for school rankings and test scores for more than 120,000 elementary, middle and high schools in the United States.

The Youth Leadership Academy is operated through a partnership between the academy’s nonprofit board, Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute (YLI), headquartered in Pickens, and Kansas-based PITSCO Education.

The school opened in 2012 with a total of 48 sixth- and seventh-grade students. Enrollment doubled during the 2013-2014 school year, with the addition of and eighth grade and a second sixth-grade class. This year, a second seventh-grade class pushes enrollment to 120 students.

In its first year, the academy was one of 33 schools to receive a perfect letter grade of 100 from the South Carolina Department of Education based on student achievement and improvement measures. Letter grades for the last academic year are expected to be released in October.

Youth Leadership Academy Director Patsy Smith attributes the school’s success to the hands-on style of learning in every classroom, as well as students meeting the expectation that they work to their full potential.

“We are extremely proud of our students,” said Smith. “We set the bar for learning high and work hard to create an environment where students are empowered to reach their potential.”

Smith said the school uses a “teacher-as-facilitator” model that shifts the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student, challenging students to take charge of their learning.

The Youth Leadership Academy’s academic emphasis is STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — a widely promoted learning focus in classrooms nationwide. Smith said the English/Language Arts, social sciences, arts, music and physical education courses include hands-on, team-based approaches that integrate STEM concepts and keep students engaged.

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