Letter grades for schools make debut in new federal accountability system
Educators hope the state’s new letter-grade system for schools will be easier for the public to understand, and the state’s top school leader said Thursday he plans to push for more changes to further streamline the state’s accountability systems.
2012 federal accountability results
This year was the first that schools and districts received grades as part of their federal accountability under the No Child Left Behind law. The grades reflect results from PASS tests, exit exams and end-of-course tests, as well as schools’ graduation rates.
S.C. Department of Education
While most local leaders preferred the new evaluation system to what has been used in the past, they also said they have spent hours this week trying to understand the grades and make sense of the way they were calculated.
What it is: The High School Assessment Program test, or exit exam, is given in English/language arts and math. Students typically take the test during their second semester of the second year of high school.
Why it matters: Students must pass the state’s exit exam to earn a diploma. It also is used in the calculation of schools’ ratings on the state report card and in schools’ grades for federal accountability status.
What are these scores: The following shows the percentage of students who passed both exams on their first attempt in 2012 compared with the previous year.
District 2012 2011
Berkeley 81.2 82
Charleston 82.9 81
Dorchester 2 87.5 84.7
Dorchester 4 69.1 58.3
State 80.1 79.4
S.C. Department of Education
“It’s been a challenge to go through all the data and try to put it in simple terms for folks,” said Kevin O’Gorman, chief academic officer for Berkeley County schools. “One of the things the state was striving for was something that’s easy to explain to parents. I don’t know that we’ve hit the mark there.”
2012 federal accountability results
Every school received a grade based on its index score, and those are based on students’ performance and improvement from the previous year. Factors included in the formula are students’ scores on standardized exams, such as the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards, exit exams and end-of-course tests, as well as schools’ graduation rates and the percentage of eligible students who were tested. This is the first time schools have received grades.
A score of 90-100 receives an “A” — substantially exceeds the state’s expectations.
A score of 80-89.9 receives a “B” — exceeds the state’s expectations.
A score of 70-79.9 receives a “C” — meets the state’s expectations.
A score of 60-69.9 receives a “D” — does not meet the state’s expectations.
A score of less than 60 receives an “F” — performance is substantially below the state’s expectations.
BERKELEY HIGH C 75.9
BERKELEY INTERMEDIATE B 87
BERKELEY MIDDLE B 83.3
BOULDER BLUFF ELEMENTARY A 93.8
CAINHOY ELEMENTARY/ MIDDLE B 88.4
CANE BAY ELEMENTARY B 89.3
CANE BAY HIGH B 86.4
COLLEGE PARK ELEMENTARY B 88.2
COLLEGE PARK MIDDLE B 88.6
CROSS ELEMENTARY A 91.8
CROSS HIGH C 78
DANIEL ISLAND SCHOOL B 89.1
DEVON FOREST ELEMENTARY B 86.6
GOOSE CREEK HIGH D 65.3
HANAHAN ELEMENTARY B 87.3
HANAHAN HIGH A 95.3
HANAHAN MIDDLE A 99.6
HENRY E. BONNER ELEMENTARY B 86
HOWE HALL AIMS ELEMENTARY A 98.3
J K GOURDIN ELEMENTARY A 91.1
MACEDONIA MIDDLE B 88.6
MARRINGTON ELEMENTARY A 97.9
MARRINGTON MIDDLE A 100
SANGAREE INTERMEDIATE A 92.8
SANGAREE MIDDLE B 85
SEDGEFIELD INTERMEDIATE B 88.5
SEDGEFIELD MIDDLE C 73.9
ST STEPHEN ELEMENTARY A 92.6
ST STEPHEN MIDDLE B 82.4
STRATFORD HIGH B 88.7
TIMBERLAND HIGH B 85.7
WESTVIEW ELEMENTARY B 87.3
WESTVIEW MIDDLE A 97.1
WHITESVILLE ELEMENTARY B 87.1
A C CORCORAN ELEMENTARY B 87.9
ACADEMIC MAGNET HIGH A 100
ANGEL OAK ELEMENTARY B 84.1
APPLE CHARTER SCHOOL F 26.8
ASHLEY RIVER CREATIVE ARTS A 100
BAPTIST HILL HIGH B 84.8
BELLE HALL ELEMENTARY A 99.8
BUIST ACADEMY A 100
BURKE HIGH F 35
C C BLANEY ELEMENTARY D 65.5
C E WILLIAMS MIDDLE SCHOOL A 95.1
CHARLES PINCKNEY ELEMENTARY A 99.9
CHARTER SCHOOL FOR MATH AND SCIENCE A 93.3
CHARLESTON DEVELOPMENTAL ACADEMY A 94.6
CHARLESTON PROGRESSIVE A 97.8
CHARLESTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS A 100
CHICORA ELEMENTARY A 95.6
DRAYTON HALL ELEMENTARY A 98.4
E B ELLINGTON ELEMENTARY C 73.4
EAST COOPER MONTESSORI CHARTER A 100
EDITH L FRIERSON ELEMENTARY B 83.3
EDMUND A BURNS ELEMENTARY D 69.8
FORT JOHNSON MIDDLE A 93.6
GARRETT ACADEMY OF TECHNOLOGY C 78.2
HARBOR VIEW ELEMENTARY A 100
HAUT GAP MIDDLE A 99
HUNLEY PARK ELEMENTARY A 92.4
JAMES B EDWARDS ELEMENTARY A 98.1
JAMES ISLAND CHARTER HIGH A 94.2
JAMES ISLAND ELEMENTARY A 95.4
JAMES ISLAND MIDDLE A 90.1
JAMES SIMONS ELEMENTARY A 94.6
JANE EDWARDS ELEMENTARY B 86.4
JENNIE MOORE ELEMENTARY A 98.7
J. ZUCKER MIDDLE SCHOOL OF SCIENCE F 55.4
LADSON ELEMENTARY B 87.5
LAING MIDDLE B 81.5
LAMBS ELEMENTARY F 34
LINCOLN HIGH F 24.2
MALCOLM C HURSEY ELEMENTARY D 68.6
MAMIE WHITESIDES ELEMENTARY A 98.3
MARY FORD ELEMENTARY B 89.4
MATILDA F DUNSTON ELEMENTARY A 99.5
MEMMINGER ELEMENTARY F 30.4
MILITARY MAGNET ACADEMY A 92
MINNIE HUGHES ELEMENTARY B 88.8
MITCHELL ELEMENTARY B 86.1
MORNINGSIDE MIDDLE C 76.1
MOULTRIE MIDDLE B 88
MOUNT PLEASANT ACADEMY A 99
MOUNT. ZION ELEMENTARY A 94.5
MURRAY-LASAINE ELEMENTARY A 96.9
NORTH CHARLESTON ELEMENTARY F 37.6
NORTH CHARLESTON HIGH F 53.8
NORTHWOODS MIDDLE A 91.5
OAKLAND ELEMENTARY A 97.9
ORANGE GROVE CHARTER A 91.9
PEPPERHILL ELEMENTARY D 63.4
PINEHURST ELEMENTARY B 81.4
R B STALL HIGH F 34
SANDERS-CLYDE ELEMENTARY F 47.1
SPRINGFIELD ELEMENTARY A 98.6
ST ANDREWS MIDDLE D 67.1
ST ANDREWS SCHOOL OF MATH & SCIENCE A 98.3
ST JAMES-SANTEE ELEMENTARY D 61.3
ST JOHN’S HIGH D 68.1
STILES POINT ELEMENTARY A 98.5
STONO PARK ELEMENTARY A 96.2
SULLIVANS ISLAND ELEMENTARY A 100
THOMAS C. CARIO MIDDLE A 98.6
W B GOODWIN ELEMENTARY B 85.6
WANDO HIGH B 89.4
WEST ASHLEY HIGH C 77.9
WEST ASHLEY MIDDLE D 68.3
ALSTON MIDDLE A 94
ASHLEY RIDGE HIGH A 92
BEECH HILL ELEMENTARY A 97.7
CHARLES B DUBOSE MIDDLE A 90.5
EAGLE NEST ELEMENTARY A 95.1
FLOWERTOWN ELEMENTARY A 98.3
FORT DORCHESTER ELEMENTARY A 99.4
FORT DORCHESTER HIGH B 80.4
GREGG MIDDLE A 93.9
JOSEPH R PYE ELEMENTARY B 85.7
KNIGHTSVILLE ELEMENTARY B 86.9
NEWINGTON ELEMENTARY B 89.1
OAKBROOK ELEMENTARY B 87.5
OAKBROOK MIDDLE A 93.9
ROLLINGS MIDDLE SCHOOL OF THE ARTS A 100
RIVER OAKS MIDDLE A 94.3
SPANN ELEMENTARY A 97.6
SUMMERVILLE ELEMENTARY A 92.4
SUMMERVILLE HIGH C 75.8
WILLIAM M REEVES ELEMENTARY B 87.6
WINDSOR HILL ARTS INFUSED B 87
CLAY HILL MIDDLE A 99.2
HARLEYVILLE-RIDGEVILLE ELEMENTARY A 98.7
ST GEORGE MIDDLE A 95.9
WILLIAMS MEMORIAL ELEMENTARY A 93.8
WOODLAND HIGH C 73
STATEWIDE CHARTER DISTRICT
PALMETTO SCHOLARS ACADEMY
Source: S.C. Department of Education
State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said the letter grades give the public a transparent and accurate reflection of students’ achievement and improvement.
Focus and Priority schools
What it is: Focus and Priority schools are high-poverty (or Title 1) schools with student achievement problems. Focus schools have the highest average performance gap between subgroups of students, such as racial minorities, low-income students, those learning English and special-needs students. Ten percent of the state’s high-poverty schools are considered Focus schools. Priority schools are the state’s lowest-performing high-poverty schools. Five percent of the state’s Title 1 schools are considered Priority schools.
Why it matters: Focus schools must offer students the option of transferring to a higher-performing school or tutoring services to students who were part of the subgroups that were under-performing. Priority schools must offer students the option of transferring to a higher-performing school or tutoring services to all students in the school.
Local Focus schools are:
Berkeley County: St. Stephen Middle
Charleston County: Haut Gap Middle, Pepperhill Elementary
Dorchester 2: Newington Elementary, Summerville Elementary, Windsor Hill Arts Infused
Local Priority schools are:
Charleston County: Apple Charter, Burke High, Lambs Elementary, Memminger Elementary, Stall High
S.C. Department of Education
Still, he said he sees duplication and overlap between the federal system, which uses the letter grades, and the state system, which uses report-card ratings, and he plans to propose major changes this year to create a unified accountability system.
What local school leaders had to say
“We got an ‘A.’ Everybody wants to get an ‘A,’ so that was important to us. ... We were one of 25 districts (statewide) to receive an ‘A,’ so that puts us in the top 30 percent.”
— Berkeley Superintendent Rodney Thompson
“At the end of the day, I have to be pleased that the composite score for the district is a ‘B,’ which exceeds state standards. Our job is to understand where we have schools not scoring an ‘A’ or ‘B’ and what is going on there.”
— Charleston Superintendent Nancy McGinley
“We’re an ‘A’ district, and we’re proud of it and proud of what teachers have been able to accomplish. ... We do a lot of looking at the data then customizing instruction to meet the needs of students. We’re going to stretch kids no matter where they are.”
— Dorchester 2 Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Personnel Linda Huffman
“We’re getting better. If you look at five or six years ago and where we are right now, it’s like a totally different district. It’s a testimony to the quality of teachers, district folks and principals, and it’s empowering those people to do their jobs and not micromanaging what they do.”
— Dorchester 4 Superintendent Jerry Montjoy
The General Assembly would have to pass legislation to make that possible.
What it is: Public school students in third through eighth grades take the exam, and tested subjects are writing, English language arts (reading and research), mathematics, science and social studies.
Why it matters: PASS is one of the tests used to calculate schools’ and districts’ ratings on the state’s school report cards, as well as the grades released Thursday under the new federal accountability system.
What are these scores: The following is the percentage of students who met or exceeded the state standard in 2012 for the subjects and grades listed.
District 1 2 3 4
Berkeley 85.2 71.9 76 69.7
Charleston 81.5 72.7 74 67.9
Dorchester 2 87.2 78.1 84.7 79.6
Dorchester 4 82.1 57.1 71.8 54.6
(1) 3rd-grade English/language arts, (2) 8th-grade English/language arts, (3) 3rd-grade math (4) 8th-grade math
S.C. Department of Education
“The testing system needs to mirror the instruction system in the classroom and provide accurate measures of student learning,” he said.
The letter grading system has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education as satisfying mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Those results were released for the first time Thursday, and the new grades replace the former all-or-nothing measure of Adequate Yearly Progress.
Schools generally fared better under the new system. Eighty-one percent of districts earned an “A,” “B” or “C,” which means they met or exceeded the state’s expectations. Last year, only 23.5 percent of schools met Adequate Yearly Progress, with many falling short in only one or two areas.
“One of the biggest changes from the old to new system is that we get all those points for improvement,” said Debi Gilliam, Dorchester 2’s director of assessment and accountability. “That certainly has helped some districts.”
The state also released Thursday scores from the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards and exit exams; both of those test scores are factors used to determine schools’ letter grades.
Results varied by school and district, but the state as a whole saw a greater percentage of its students meet state standards on the PASS exam. And on the exit exam, the percentage of first-time test takers passing increased 0.7 percentage points to 80.1 percent.
Much of the attention, however, was focused on the letter grades. In Charleston, Superintendent Nancy McGinley said she wanted to look at the results and compare those to previous years to see the big picture.
School districts didn’t receive the figures until Monday, and she said officials hadn’t had time to do that yet.
“This was a lot of data on 80 different schools, and we need to go through this on a school-by-school basis,” she said. “I don’t want any one test to get people upset, but what we are going to be doing is looking at how do they intersect.
“If we’re seeing schools not doing well on PASS and state report cards (and other tests), we know that there’s trouble there.”
School leaders were paying particular attention to high-poverty schools that were recognized for their performance or lack thereof. Schools have the potential of receiving additional money for their achievement or progress, while others will have to offer students the option of transferring elsewhere or provide tutoring services.
Dorchester 2 Director of Federal Programs Mike Windham said those in the district would look closely at specific schools where subgroups of students, such as those with special needs and racial minorities, were lagging their peers.
“If the achievement gap is there, we have to concentrate on closing that,” he said.
Gorman in Berkeley said the district’s focus would be to prepare students to learn the Common Core Standards, which are new requirements for what students must learn at every grade in reading and math.
The state’s existing tests aren’t aligned to the new requirements, and those will be implemented in full by 2014-15.
Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.