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 2011Berkeley 81.2 82Charleston 82.9 81Dorchester 2 87.5 84.7Dorchester 4 69.1 58.3State 80.1 79.4S.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 COUNTYBERKELEY HIGH C 75.9BERKELEY INTERMEDIATE B 87BERKELEY MIDDLE B 83.3BOULDER BLUFF ELEMENTARY A 93.8CAINHOY ELEMENTARY/ MIDDLE B 88.4CANE BAY ELEMENTARY B 89.3CANE BAY HIGH B 86.4COLLEGE PARK ELEMENTARY B 88.2COLLEGE PARK MIDDLE B 88.6CROSS ELEMENTARY A 91.8CROSS HIGH C 78DANIEL ISLAND SCHOOL B 89.1DEVON FOREST ELEMENTARY B 86.6GOOSE CREEK HIGH D 65.3HANAHAN ELEMENTARY B 87.3HANAHAN HIGH A 95.3HANAHAN MIDDLE A 99.6HENRY E. BONNER ELEMENTARY B 86HOWE HALL AIMS ELEMENTARY A 98.3J K GOURDIN ELEMENTARY A 91.1MACEDONIA MIDDLE B 88.6MARRINGTON ELEMENTARY A 97.9MARRINGTON MIDDLE A 100SANGAREE INTERMEDIATE A 92.8SANGAREE MIDDLE B 85SEDGEFIELD INTERMEDIATE B 88.5SEDGEFIELD MIDDLE C 73.9ST STEPHEN ELEMENTARY A 92.6ST STEPHEN MIDDLE B 82.4STRATFORD HIGH B 88.7TIMBERLAND HIGH B 85.7WESTVIEW ELEMENTARY B 87.3WESTVIEW MIDDLE A 97.1WHITESVILLE ELEMENTARY B 87.1CHARLESTON COUNTYA C CORCORAN ELEMENTARY B 87.9ACADEMIC MAGNET HIGH A 100ANGEL OAK ELEMENTARY B 84.1APPLE CHARTER SCHOOL F 26.8ASHLEY RIVER CREATIVE ARTS A 100BAPTIST HILL HIGH B 84.8BELLE HALL ELEMENTARY A 99.8BUIST ACADEMY A 100BURKE HIGH F 35C C BLANEY ELEMENTARY D 65.5C E WILLIAMS MIDDLE SCHOOL A 95.1CHARLES PINCKNEY ELEMENTARY A 99.9CHARTER SCHOOL FOR MATH AND SCIENCE A 93.3CHARLESTON DEVELOPMENTAL ACADEMY A 94.6CHARLESTON PROGRESSIVE A 97.8CHARLESTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS A 100CHICORA ELEMENTARY A 95.6DRAYTON HALL ELEMENTARY A 98.4E B ELLINGTON ELEMENTARY C 73.4EAST COOPER MONTESSORI CHARTER A 100EDITH L FRIERSON ELEMENTARY B 83.3EDMUND A BURNS ELEMENTARY D 69.8FORT JOHNSON MIDDLE A 93.6GARRETT ACADEMY OF TECHNOLOGY C 78.2HARBOR VIEW ELEMENTARY A 100HAUT GAP MIDDLE A 99HUNLEY PARK ELEMENTARY A 92.4JAMES B EDWARDS ELEMENTARY A 98.1JAMES ISLAND CHARTER HIGH A 94.2JAMES ISLAND ELEMENTARY A 95.4JAMES ISLAND MIDDLE A 90.1JAMES SIMONS ELEMENTARY A 94.6JANE EDWARDS ELEMENTARY B 86.4JENNIE MOORE ELEMENTARY A 98.7J. ZUCKER MIDDLE SCHOOL OF SCIENCE F 55.4LADSON ELEMENTARY B 87.5LAING MIDDLE B 81.5LAMBS ELEMENTARY F 34LINCOLN HIGH F 24.2MALCOLM C HURSEY ELEMENTARY D 68.6MAMIE WHITESIDES ELEMENTARY A 98.3MARY FORD ELEMENTARY B 89.4MATILDA F DUNSTON ELEMENTARY A 99.5MEMMINGER ELEMENTARY F 30.4MILITARY MAGNET ACADEMY A 92MINNIE HUGHES ELEMENTARY B 88.8MITCHELL ELEMENTARY B 86.1MORNINGSIDE MIDDLE C 76.1MOULTRIE MIDDLE B 88MOUNT PLEASANT ACADEMY A 99MOUNT. ZION ELEMENTARY A 94.5MURRAY-LASAINE ELEMENTARY A 96.9NORTH CHARLESTON ELEMENTARY F 37.6NORTH CHARLESTON HIGH F 53.8NORTHWOODS MIDDLE A 91.5OAKLAND ELEMENTARY A 97.9ORANGE GROVE CHARTER A 91.9PEPPERHILL ELEMENTARY D 63.4PINEHURST ELEMENTARY B 81.4R B STALL HIGH F 34SANDERS-CLYDE ELEMENTARY F 47.1SPRINGFIELD ELEMENTARY A 98.6ST ANDREWS MIDDLE D 67.1ST ANDREWS SCHOOL OF MATH & SCIENCE A 98.3ST JAMES-SANTEE ELEMENTARY D 61.3ST JOHN’S HIGH D 68.1STILES POINT ELEMENTARY A 98.5STONO PARK ELEMENTARY A 96.2SULLIVANS ISLAND ELEMENTARY A 100THOMAS C. CARIO MIDDLE A 98.6W B GOODWIN ELEMENTARY B 85.6WANDO HIGH B 89.4WEST ASHLEY HIGH C 77.9WEST ASHLEY MIDDLE D 68.3DORCHESTER 2ALSTON MIDDLE A 94ASHLEY RIDGE HIGH A 92BEECH HILL ELEMENTARY A 97.7CHARLES B DUBOSE MIDDLE A 90.5EAGLE NEST ELEMENTARY A 95.1FLOWERTOWN ELEMENTARY A 98.3FORT DORCHESTER ELEMENTARY A 99.4FORT DORCHESTER HIGH B 80.4GREGG MIDDLE A 93.9JOSEPH R PYE ELEMENTARY B 85.7KNIGHTSVILLE ELEMENTARY B 86.9NEWINGTON ELEMENTARY B 89.1OAKBROOK ELEMENTARY B 87.5OAKBROOK MIDDLE A 93.9ROLLINGS MIDDLE SCHOOL OF THE ARTS A 100RIVER OAKS MIDDLE A 94.3SPANN ELEMENTARY A 97.6SUMMERVILLE ELEMENTARY A 92.4SUMMERVILLE HIGH C 75.8WILLIAM M REEVES ELEMENTARY B 87.6WINDSOR HILL ARTS INFUSED B 87DORCHESTER 4CLAY HILL MIDDLE A 99.2HARLEYVILLE-RIDGEVILLE ELEMENTARY A 98.7ST GEORGE MIDDLE A 95.9WILLIAMS MEMORIAL ELEMENTARY A 93.8WOODLAND HIGH C 73STATEWIDE CHARTER DISTRICTPALMETTO SCHOLARS ACADEMYA100Source: 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 MiddleCharleston County: Haut Gap Middle, Pepperhill ElementaryDorchester 2: Newington Elementary, Summerville Elementary, Windsor Hill Arts InfusedLocal Priority schools are:Charleston County: Apple Charter, Burke High, Lambs Elementary, Memminger Elementary, Stall HighS.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 4Berkeley 85.2 71.9 76 69.7Charleston 81.5 72.7 74 67.9Dorchester 2 87.2 78.1 84.7 79.6Dorchester 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 mathS.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.