Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The South Carolina Department of Education's annual rankings of school and student performance for the 2012-2013 school year was released today.
Two Midlands school districts, Lexington District 4, and Orangeburg District 3, both received an F performance ratings, based upon student achievement in English-Language Arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and high school graduation rates.
View the 2013 ESEA Ratings District By District Here
State-wide, 77% of school districts met the SC Department of Education's expectations of a 'C' grade, and 76% of schools met this level.
Midlands districts scoring C or better include Lexington-Richland 5 (A,) Richland 2, Lexington 1, Lexington 2, Saluda, and Kershaw (B,) Richland 1, Lexington 3, Sumter, Calhoun, Clarendon 2, Orangeburg 5, and Newberry (C.)
Fairfield and Orangeburg district 4 both scored D ratings, while Lexington District 4, Lee, and Orangeburg District 3 received failing scores of F.
State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, in his Thursday morning press conference regarding the scores, attributes some of the lowest test scores across the state to poverty levels.
"Letter grades inform students, parents, schools, policy makers, the media, and the public how schools are performing in a clear and easily understood system," said Zais. "Students have received letter grades on their report cards for decades; schools and school districts should be held to the same level of accountability and transparency."
View the Department of Education Report on ESEA Grades
The letter grade system replaced Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which required a school to meet every performance objective. Schools were designated either "Met" AYP or "Not Met" AYP. A school missing just one of many objectives was given the designation of "Not Met" by federal law, the same designation as a school missing multiple objectives. In 2011, only 23.5 percent of schools met AYP. Many failed to meet AYP because they missed only one or two objectives.
The accountability system is a continuous improvement model. Performance standards for schools and school districts increase every year through ambitious but reasonable goals. The ESEA Flexibility Request was initially approved for two years, and the U.S. Department of Education has said that states may pursue a renewal of the request for additional years.
In a comparison of Results year-over-year from 2012 to 2013, the ESEA grades show state-wide school performance has declined by as much as 12% among middle-school children.
Some key components of the accountability system include:
1. Awarding letter grades to schools and school districts based upon student achievement in English-Language Arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and high school graduation rates.
2. Increased transparency of student achievement by reporting subgroup performance.
3. The elimination of the all-or-nothing approach of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and awarding schools and school districts partial credit for improvement in student achievement.
4. Publicly identifying and rewarding schools that demonstrate significant achievement and improvement.
5. Publicly identifying schools with the lowest performance and largest achievement gaps, and providing targeted interventions for the students in those schools.
Lexington District One Superintendent Dr. Karen Woodward expressed concerns about 'the mixed messages sent to students, schools, and the general public', a sentiment she shares with Neil Robinson, chairman of the Education Oversight Committee.
"As the EOC reminds us," Woodward went on, "39 districts, or nearly half of the state's school districts, received a lower letter grade than last year, and the state's grade dropped from an 'A' to a 'B' - despite student increases in PASS and HSAP scores statewide."
Kershaw County School District's Superintendent Frank Morgan echoed their concerns, "KCSD's positive results (this year) were especially significant since the federal district and school ratings show a decline in grades for nearly half of all SC school districts, as well as 389 schools."