The South Carolina Department of Education on Thursday released data on federal and state standardized student achievement for last school year.
South Carolina public school students in grades 3-8 have demonstrated academic progress in key subject areas across the board, although math proficiency remains stubbornly elusive.
In unveiling three sets of student achievement data Thursday, the education department also reported an increase in the number of students passing the high school exit exam.
As they did last year, schools and districts received letter grades for attaining federal academic progress goals. But the variance in performance – with some schools and districts going from an “A” to an “F” in one year – brought howls from education experts and calls for the state education department to recalibrate its calculations.
State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said he remained committed to the accountability system developed by the state to meet federal guidelines and denied that letter grades provide a confusing picture for parents hoping to gauge the success of their schools and districts.
The results released Thursday were for the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) and High School Assessment Program (HSAP), as well as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) federal accountability scores.
Two York County school districts were ranked among the top 10 districts in the state for ESEA scores. Fort Mill and Clover schools received “A” grades. Rock Hill and York schools both got “B” grades and ranked 26 and 31 statewide, respectively. Chester schools received a “D” score and ranked 70 out of 80 districts statewide.
Marty McGinn, assistant superintendent for Fort Mill schools, said the district is very satisfied with its “A” but sees the ESEA score as just one piece of information about student achievement.
“On a school level and classroom level, we’ve got to break that apart and see where our students are,” she said.
Sheila Quinn, assistant superintendent for Clover schools, said her district’s high performance is thanks to strong support from the community, stable funding, a great student population and competitive goals and initiatives set by administrators and carried down to teachers.
“We benefit from lots of things,” she said.
On the HSAP, or the high school exit exam, all five area districts had more than 87 percent of students meet or exceed the standard. Fort Mill had the highest rate, with 97 percent of students meeting or exceeding the standard.
More than 60 percent of students in York County schools achieved either “met” or “exemplary” results in all six grade levels on all five test subjects. In Fort Mill, at least 83 percent of students scored “met” or “exemplary.” In Chester County, though, no more than 76.5 percent of students scored “met” or “exemplary” in any grade on any subject.
Chester schools Superintendent Agnes Slayman issued a statement, saying the district did show improvements in every grade level in every school.
“The data was also useful in pointing out exactly where our challenges lie; in other words, we know which student subgroups and which subject areas need more instructional attention,” she said. “Our district is putting several new initiatives in place to increase student academic achievement on standardized tests.”
The Herald’s Rachel Southmayd and The State’s Carolyn Click contributed.