School districts across the state are raising concerns about the newly-released state report cards.
Some local school districts’ concerns stem from new data elements, as well as overall concerns with standardized testing.
The Department of Education released the state report cards Nov. 29. Shortly afterward, Berkeley County School District posted a press release to its website stating the district does not believe the state report card “fairly measures BCSD students, teachers and administrators.”
Dorchester District Two issued a press release Nov. 30 stating “significant problems” with the data in several report card calculations caused the state to delay the release of the school report cards from Nov. 15 to Nov. 29.
“There are questions regarding the methods of calculation that have resulted in many districts questioning the accuracy of ratings,” the release states. “The new Student Progress indicator data was only recently made available to districts. District leadership looks forward to thoroughly examining this data before commenting on this indicator further.”
The new report cards are web-based and include new data elements required by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), federal legislation governing accountability signed into law in 2015. South Carolina’s state ESSA plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in May. Within the new system, all elementary, middle and high schools receive overall ratings based on a 100-point scale.
The ratings follow terms South Carolina public schools are familiar with from previous school rating systems: Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average and Unsatisfactory. Schools also receive ratings on seven out of the ten key report card indicators which contain vital information about schools and districts on how well students performed on state and national assessments, student growth, graduation rates, English language proficiency, student engagement, safety classroom learning environment and more.
Dorchester District Two spokesperson Pat Raynor said there appeared to be issues with the “School Quality” indicator that concerned the district. The district has voiced these concerns to the State Department of Education, according to the press release.
Another questionable item was in the “Classroom Environment” indicator, which reported 13.3 percent of Dorchester District Two’s teachers were teaching “out of field” last school year. Raynor said the district did not have any teachers teaching “out of field” last year.
“Superintendent Joe Pye remains concerned that the report card was hurriedly released with last minute revisions and unresolved issues,” the release from the district states.
In his press release from Berkeley County School District, digital communications specialist Brian Troutman said prior to the report cards were even prepared, the Education Oversight Committee predetermined many schools would receive failing grades. In addition, school scores are determined in part by surveys provided to all students in third through 12th grades, standardized test scores, improvement on standardized test scores year-over-year and the progress of English learners measured by a standardized test.
“They predetermined that 10 percent of the schools in this state would be failing or substandard. We wouldn’t want our teachers to measure the success of our students that way,” Superintendent Eddie Ingram said in the press release. “We know the quality of our students, teachers, administrators and schools. We know the quality of instruction, support and intervention our teams provide. We stand by our schools.”
The release went on to state district officials and education professionals from around the world “have long argued standardized testing isn’t always a fair measurement of student success.”
““I think insufficient is a fair word,” Ingram said in the release. “I appreciate the work being done in our schools and am happy to see high scores in many categories at several of our schools. However, this is not the best way to measure what our schools are accomplishing.”
Some of the discrepancies Berkeley County School District identified included Daniel Island School, which received an overall score of excellent, scored as unsatisfactory in the “school quality” area of the report, and Marrington Middle School of the Arts, a magnet school that received an overall score of good but had a school quality rating of below average.
Media outlets across the state are reporting similar reactions from other districts across the state about the new calculation system, including Lexington 1 and Greenville County School District.
Additional data from the report cards show Dorchester District Two’s on-time graduation rate increased by 2.7 percent to 88.7 percent. Berkeley County School District’s graduation rate went from 83.5 percent to 83.8 percent and Charleston County School District experienced a slight decrease 84.2 percent to 83.5 percent.
However, the percentage of students from prior year graduating class class enrolled in a two- or four-year college or technical college pursuing an associates degree, certificate, or diploma in fall following graduation went down for Dorchester District Two: the new data shows the district went from 81.5 percent to 69 percent. Charleston County went from 76.2 percent to 74.9 percent and Berkeley County went from 70 to 71.3 percent.
The new report card ratings show that 53 percent of Dorchester District Two students met and exceeded expectations in SC Ready language arts and math; 45 percent for Berkeley County and nearly 47 percent for Charleston County.
Residents can view report cards at https://www.screportcards.com/.