Sixty-one percent of South Carolina's elementary and middle schools met AYP, up from 59 percent last year. Thirteen of 184 high schools made AYP, the same as last year, according to information released by the state Education Department today.
AYP is the federal school report card for No Child Left Behind standards. Each year, schools must achieve 100 percent of education goals, varying from 17 to 21 objectives, to meet federal guidelines.
In Aiken County, 22 schools met 100 percent of objectives, one more than last year. The county met 31 of 33 goals. The two it missed both involved disabled pupils. In 2007, the district missed seven objectives.
Edgefield County had only two elementary schools meet all objectives again this year, and the district met 21 of 25 objectives. In 2007, the district missed 10 objectives.
Next year the bar will be raised again, and the gains area schools have seen from a revamped state standardized exam could be lost.
This year, elementary and middle schools needed at least 57.8 percent of pupils to be proficient, or have a B-plus average, in math, and 58.8 percent of pupils to be proficient in English/language arts. Next year, almost 80 percent of pupils will be expected to be proficient in both subjects, as federal guidelines push for all students to be proficient by 2014.
If Congress continues its path, no school will meet standards, according to state Education Superintendent Jim Rex.
"No one argues with the basic idea that no child should be left behind," Rex said in a statement. "But people are starting to understand how fundamentally dysfunctional the federal rating system is. Unless Congress takes a more commonsense approach, these ratings will become a joke to parents and the public. The law's overall goals are so admirable that I would hate to see it fail."
Aiken County officials, however, say they're pleased with results because they show local programs are working.
Five schools that were on the "needs improvement" list were removed. Three of those five schools were also the first to pilot the district's literacy model.
"A vast majority of the schools are only missing one or two objectives, and that tends to be with the disabled population," said King Laurence, Aiken County's federal programs director. "We feel like we're making a lot of progress, and teachers are better understanding differentiated needs."
This year, for the first time, teachers will receive data from the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards test before school begins, which will foster richer discussions during registration about expectations for the school year, Laurence said.
"They'll be able to hit the ground running and can say, 'This is where your child's starting the year and here's where we expect him to be in nine weeks.' It's a more complete picture," he said.
The report doesn't address graduation rates. This year's data won't be compiled until summer school requirements are completed, Laurence said.
The district's five-year graduation decline drew a lot of attention last year and prompted the district to hire a staff member at each high school to track pupils who have quit attending or moved without requesting a transfer.
"We've really crunched the numbers this year and expect that rate to go up," Laurence said.