The letter grades given to school districts declined for nearly half of those districts, according to data released from the South Carolina Department of Education.
Education officials say that’s because slightly higher goals were required this year. They also released new data showing student achievement scores improved statewide in 2013.
The 2012-2013 school year was the second under new letter grades created by the state Department of Education when it sought an exemption from the federal No Child Left Behind law. The letter grade system replaced Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which required a school to meet every performance objective.
Among South Carolina’s 85 school districts, 39 fell by at least one letter grade. 8 improved their grade. (See how your district performed here)However, the state Department of Educations says 77 percent of districts received a grade of “C” (satisfactory) or better. That is down from 82 percent last year. Education Superintendent Mick Zais notes that three fewer districts failed to reach the expectations this past year.
“We do have a system that has an increasing goal every year,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Modest and attainable, but the goal does go up every year.”
Meanwhile, the Education Department report notes that 82 percent of high school students passed the High School Assessment Program on their first try. That was an improvement of 1.9 percentage points from last year and is the highest since the state began HSAP testing in 2004.
Every grade level made improvements in at least one subject area of the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards test. However, four of six grades saw declines in math.
“We wanted to release these results so that principals and teachers can start working on what… to do next year to improve our math scores,” he said.
Zais added he was heartened by improving reading scores, but says 17 percent of third-grade graduates are still not reading on grade level. Overall, he said he is not satisfied.
“Obviously, we need to do better,” he said. Zais continued his calls for more public school options (such as Montessori, single-gender, or year-round schools) for students who struggle with “traditional” schools. He also called on lawmakers to create a new “promotion gateway” for students who are not on reading level by the 3rd and 7th grades, rather than those students graduating.
He also said his agency will be keeping an eye on a pilot program this upcoming year that will factor in student performance when evaluating teachers. 47 school districts are participating voluntarily this year. Zais wants to make the program statewide by 2014-2015.