South Carolina's grade for its educational policies and performance slipped this year to a C+, according to the Quality Counts 2011 report released today.

For links to the report, including an interactive map.

State report cardsQuality Counts press release

The Palmetto State earned an overall score of B- last year and ranked 11th nationally, but the state fared worse this year, falling to the No. 15 spot, according to the 15th annual report by the national magazine Education Week, which is published by the nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education.

"... these new rankings come at a time of turbulence for America's economy and schools," State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said in a statement. "Educators and school boards have had to devote much of their time and energy toward meeting budget challenges instead of promoting innovation and reform."

The state's ranking is based on scores from six categories, including K-12 achievement; transitions and alignments; school finance analysis; standards, assessment and accountability; and the teaching profession. The 2011 report updated grades in four categories and carried forward two previous years' grades -- the teaching profession and standards, assessment and accountability.

Jon Butzon is chairman of the Charleston Education Network, a nonprofit education advocacy group. His two big take-aways from the report were:

--The state's education funding system is overdue for an overhaul.

--The state needs to get serious about teacher effectiveness.

Although the state has strong policies on teacher quality, students' performance doesn't reflect those, he said.

"We need to get more out of the dollars we have," Butzon said. "We can't afford for there to be a single ineffective teacher in a classroom."

The state's worst score, a D-, was for its K-12 achievement, ranking the state at No. 45. The national average was a D+. This index is based on 18 measures of students' academic performance and improvement over time.

Another weak area was the state's chance for success ranking, which dropped from 36th last year to 39th. This score indicates a child's prospects from birth through adulthood given the educational, economic and social hurdles that he or she likely will face.

"The gains we'd made here since 2007 suffered because of the state's economic downturn," Rex said. "We saw increases in family poverty levels and adult unemployment, along with a drop in annual income. These negatives certainly impacted the lives and education opportunities of our children, while schools had fewer resources to help them cope."

The state's best score, an A and No. 1 ranking, was in the teaching profession category. The state led the country with a score of 95.8, more than 22 points above the nation's average C score of 73.3. The state had a perfect score of 100 for supporting teachers, 96.2 for teacher incentives and 91.2 for teacher quality.

Reach Diette Courrégé at 937-5546.