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Darlington County school board gets overview of new accountability system

July 24, 2018

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Darlington County Board of Education members got an overview Monday of a new accountability program for South Carolina public schools.

The new system merges federal and state accountability systems to create one new system for the entire state, said former Darlington County Superintendent of Education Dr. Rainey Knight, who presented the overview of the program during a work session.

The South Carolina Department of Education and the Education Oversight Committee (EOC), with which Knight works, have spent the past three years merging Act 94 (the state accountability system) and Every Child Succeeds, the federal accountability system, to create a single accountability system for South Carolina schools.

By state law, the EOC approved the accountability plan in December 2017. Every Child Succeeds, approved in May by the U.S. Department of Education, sets long-term goals for schools through 2035.

The new system provides report cards with ratings for individual schools. South Carolina school districts will receive a report card as well, but no ratings, Knight said.

Report cards will be composed of indicators. Each indicator will have a separate rating as well as an overall summative rating for a school.

The new report card system includes a more rigorous SC Ready Assessment for English language arts and mathematics, a student engagement survey, a measure of college and career readiness, new rules for graduation rates and a weighted priority on English language learners – students whose native language is not English, Knight said.

The new accountability system went into effect for the 2017-2018 school year, with report cards to be published in November of this year. Knight pointed out that the last set of report cards with ratings was in 2014.

“You’ve not had any ratings in four years,” she said.

Indicators on which schools will be measured include academic achievement, preparing for success, student progress, growth, school quality, graduation rates, college and career readiness and English language learners.

The new system establishes goals for college and career readiness, graduation rates, achievement and English language proficiency. Currently, few schools in the state meet any of those goals. For example, the goals call for 90 percent of students to graduate college, career and citizenship ready by 2035. Currently only 3 percent of South Carolina schools meet that goal, according to figures Knight provided.

The goals further call for 90 percent of students to graduate from high school in four years. Only 25 percent of schools currently meet that standard.

Only 2 percent of the state’s schools currently meet the 2035 goals for achievement and 5 percent meet the goal for English learners to be proficient in English within five years.

Non-rated indicators include classroom environment, student safety and financial information,

Schools have their work cut out for them, Knight said, but she added, “It’s not going to be as bad as we think.”

Summary ratings for school report cards rate the extent to which students meet the Profile for the South Carolina Graduate. There are five summary ratings:

>> Excellent – School performance substantially exceeds the criteria to ensure students meet the standard.

>> Good – School performance exceeds the criteria to ensure all students meet the standard.

>> Average – School performance meets the criteria to ensure all students meet the standard.

>> Below average – School performance is in jeopardy of not meeting the criteria of ensuring all students meet the standard.

>> Unsatisfactory – School performance fails to meet the criteria to ensure all students meet the standard.

The overarching expectation for all schools is that 15 percent will have an excellent rating, 20 percent a good rating, 35 percent an average rating, 20 percent below average and 10 percent unsatisfactory.

“I think it’s probably a good first start. … You do need some measure to see how schools are doing, and it does help hold people accountable,” Knight said.

“How much more pressure is this putting on the teachers?” board member Connell Delaine asked.

“It’s about the same,” Knight said.

“We’re still teaching to a test,” board member Charles Govan said.

“It’s going to be a challenge, and it’s going to be a journey, so just know that,” Knight said.

Superintendent Tim Newman said the key is to “understand our students and know where they are.”

“It’s incredibly important that we track student progress weekly and not just at the end of the year,” Newman said. “It’s all about communication – teachers talking with each other at the same grade level and at different grade levels.”

Newman said it also is important during a time of teacher shortages to spend more time and resources helping teachers get better.

Board Chairman Jamie Morphis said the real issues are still not being addressed: teacher shortages and funding. The most important thing, he said, is the teacher in the classroom. “You’ve got to have teachers,” he said. “How do you get teachers? You’ve got to pay them.”

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