Twenty Aiken County schools received Palmetto Gold and Silver awards for general performance and for closing the achievement gap – announced by the State Department of Education.

“It's always exciting when you see the hard work of students, teachers and administrators validated,” said Peggy Trivelas, an Aiken County School District academic officer. “We've really been focused on making sure every child is learning and is on track.”

A State Department spokesman said the program began with the Education Accountability Act of 1998. Each year schools are recognized for high performance and for student improvement state standardized tests.

The performance criteria was approved through the S.C. Education Oversight Committee. The achievement gap recognition was added to the awards program five years ago.

Belvedere Elementary School was among the Gold Award winners for general performance.

“We've been Silver winners recently, and I want to give kudos to our teachers,” said Principal Allison Churm. “We have a lot of veterans and a few newbies, and they put their hearts into everything. I think we're the best-kept secret in North Augusta.”

Keisha Lloyd-Kennedy, director the charter Aiken Performing Arts Academy, was thrilled to learn that the school also received a Gold performance award.

“When I told the teachers Friday, they just cheered,” she said.

Other schools that received Gold awards for overall performance were the Aiken County Career and Technology Center, Aiken Elementary School, Chukker Creek Elementary School, Hammond Hill Elementary School, Millbrook Elementary School, North Augusta High School, North Augusta Middle School and South Aiken High School.

Silver performance honors went to Byrd Elementary School, Jackson Middle School, Jefferson Elementary School, Kennedy Middle School, North Augusta Elementary School and Schofield Middle School.

Schools that received Gold awards for closing the achievement gap were Chukker Creek, Kennedy and Schofield.

Silver awards in achievement gap performance went to Aiken Elementary School, East Aiken School of the Arts, New Ellenton Middle School, Redcliffe Elementary School and Warrenville Elementary School.