McCormick (South Carolina) School District Adds Star Academy Program Classroom

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The McCormick County School District yesterday showcased its new Star Academy Program, a “school within a school” that helps at-risk and disengaged students get back on path to graduation.

Introduced in McCormick at the start of this school year, the Star Academy Program is recognized as one of the most effective dropout prevention programs in the nation. Created in 2005 for the Pickens County South Carolina School District, the program is both an intervention and acceleration solution.

In a specially designed classroom that was installed at McCormick High School, students in grades 7-10 focus on English, math, science, and social studies. Students work intensively through a computer-based curriculum designed to hold their interest and cater to their learning styles, whether auditory, visual or kinesthetic. The classroom features state-of-the art equipment, project-based learning modules and a layout that encourages teamwork and cooperative learning.

McCormick County School District Superintendent Betty Bagley and McCormick High School Principal J. Steven English hosted an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Star Academy Program. 

“The Star Academy Program promises to help students who have fallen behind get back on the path to graduation,” said Bagley. “They’re generally students who really can achieve but who have not been able to find that real-life connection they need. This program captivates students and inspires purpose and self-confidence through immersed sensory experiences that lead to independence, responsibility and success.”


Bagley added that the community, as well as students and parents, will benefit from the workforce development aspects of the program. “In addition to learning science, math, English and social studies, students will develop skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving that make them more employable and better equipped for further skill development on the job or in college,” she said.

By adding the Star Academy Program, Bagley said McCormick Schools are making education more relevant to students. “They are anxious and eager learners once they are taught and convinced that (what they are learning) really does have meaning and means a career, a life and a way to take care of their families,” she added.

The program serves 80 students each year. Classes are scheduled in 80 to 90-minute blocks for courses in Math, Science, English/Language Arts and Science.

The Star Academy Program is a service of NOLA Education.

John Alvendia, chief executive officer of Nola Education, was among the guests at the event.

“Our goal is to create an educational environment in McCormick where at-risk and disengaged students are captivated and inspired to succeed. We are proud to provide this opportunity for students to use hands-on activities in core subject areas while developing critical thinking skills that will prepare students for a successful future,” Alvendia said.

The Star Academy Program has been implemented in more than 40 middle and high schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas. Based on a comprehensive set of data compiled from 2005 until 2016, 83% of participants completed the program and continued into high school. Of those, 74% accelerated two grade levels in one year. The results were achieved while serving a student population that typically sees an 85% dropout rate.

The National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) recognized Star Academy Programs in Pickens County, South Carolina; Richland County, South Carolina and Berkeley County, South Carolina with Crystal Star Awards for their exemplary dropout prevention practices, including high success rates.

The Star Academy Program earned the Berkeley County School District a coveted “Districts of Distinction” award in 2018 from District Administrator magazine.

NDPC also cited Star Academy Program as a national model dropout prevention program.

About Star Academy Program

The Star Academy Program is a school-within-a-school that enhances success for disengaged learners and at-risk students. Focused on helping students make the critical transition from middle school to high school, Star Academy Program utilizes a hands-on, project-based learning approach that re-engages students and prevents them from dropping out of school. This comprehensive program is tailored to meet the specific needs of a school, allowing the district to select up to eight courses from an offering of core courses in science, math, English, and social studies and elective courses in practical arts, life skills, technology, and health-based instruction, and real-world career connections.

Star Academy Program is a service of Nola Education LLC.

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