Education Week, a national news publication covering K-12 education, has named Greenville County Schools Superintendent Dr. W. Burke Royster a Leader to Learn From.
Dr. Royster is one of 14 district leaders from across the country to be profiled in the report released Wednesday, which highlights individuals in the education system that seek to affect positive change in public schools.
“I am most humbled and honored, though I realize this recognition is less about me than it is an acknowledgment of the accomplishments of our district in providing students with necessary supports and opportunities to ensure not only that they graduate, but that they are college and career ready when they do,” Dr. Royster said in a statement.
Dr. Royster, who became superintendent for Greenville County Schools (GCS) in April 2012, has been in public education for more than 35 years. His first teaching position was at Starr-Iva Middle School in Anderson.
The Education Week profile, titled “Superintendent Knocks Down Barriers to Learning For Poor Students,” primarily focuses on Dr. Royster’s sustained commitment to two initiatives aimed at increasing positive outcomes for students: OnTrack Greenville and Graduation Plus.
OnTrack Greenville helps ensure that middle-grade students remain on the right path toward graduating high school and achieving academic success. The program uses an early warning and response computer system to indicate “when a student’s attendance, behavior, or core course performance (ABC’s) begins to slip.” This method enables teams of faculty, staff, and community agencies to provide immediate intervention and identify the underlying factors that are inhibiting student progress.
Graduation Plus encourages students to not only graduate with a high school diploma but also with other credentials that will prepare them for future workforce participation, such as college credits through Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs or industry certification.
The Greenville County School District serves nearly 77,000 students, making it the largest in the state and the 44th largest in the nation. Under Dr. Royster, the graduation rate for GCS has increased from 72 percent in 2012 to 87 percent in 2016. Furthermore, during this time period, the graduation rate for African-American students has increased from 62 percent to 82 percent, and the graduation rate for Hispanic students has increased from 67 percent to 88 percent. Overall district SAT scores have also improved, with GCS students’ scores exceeding both the state and national average.