AIKEN — Schools in Aiken and Edgefield counties are faring better under the new Federal Accountability System, according to an analysis of data released Thursday by the South Carolina Department of Education.
Previously, districts and schools were assessed based on Adequate Yearly Progress goals and districts and schools either met AYP or they did not. As the AYP goals have increased over the years, so has the number of schools that did not meet AYP, despite being identified by the state as average or above average, according the S.C. Department of Education.
The S.C. Department of Education submitted a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education in February with a state plan for an alternate accountability system to AYP. The U.S. Department of Education approved the request July 19.
Unlike the AYP system, the Federal Accountability System assigns letter grades – A, B, C, D or F – to districts and schools. They indicate whether state expectations were met and to what degree. For example, a grade of C, B or A indicates that the district or school met, exceeded or substantially exceeded the state’s expectations, respectively.
“The new federal report card tells students, parents, schools and the public how schools are performing in a clear and easily understood system of letter grades,” State Superintendent Mick Zais said in a news release. “Students have received letter grades on their report cards for decades; schools and school districts should be held to the same level of accountability and transparency.”
For the 2010-11 school year under the AYP system, Aiken and Edgefield districts did not meet AYP, despite Aiken County meeting 35 of 37 objectives and Edgefield County meeting 23 of 25 objectives.
Within the Aiken County school district, only nine of its 38 schools met AYP. In Edgefield County, only one of eight schools met AYP.
Under the new system, the picture is different for the 2011-12 school year.
Both Aiken and Edgefield districts received a letter grade of B. In Aiken, 31 schools received C or better. In Edgefield, six schools received a C or better.
The new system is a better way of determining how well the district and schools are doing, said King Laurence, the associate superintendent for instruction and accountability with Aiken County Public Schools.
“Although this is not a perfect system it is far superior to the all or nothing approach to accountability that has been imposed in recent years,” he said in a news release.
Edgefield County School Superintendent Greg Anderson said he is pleased with the district’s grading under the new system and credited the principals and teachers for the district’s success.
“I’m very proud of the way they are working,” he said.
The next step is determining how the district can improve upon this year’s results, he said.
“We’re trying to analyze the data we’ve been given and we are meeting today with each principal to go over that data to see how we can improve,” he said Thursday.
For elementary and middle schools, the letter grades are awarded based on a composite index score comprised of the school mean scores from the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards test in English/language arts, math, science and social studies and takes into account the percent of eligible students tested in English/language arts and math. Unlike the AYP system, attendance rate is not used in the calculations for elementary and middle schools.
For high schools, the composite index score is comprised of the school mean scores from the High School Assessment Program test in English/language arts and math, the 2010-11 school year school mean scores from end-of-course tests for Biology I and U.S. History and Constitution, the 2011 graduation rate and the percents of eligible students tested in English/language arts and math.
The composite index scores were calculated using the results from the spring PASS and HSAP tests, which were also released Thursday.
PASS tests pupils in third through eighth grades, however the writing portion is only given to pupils in fifth and eighth grades.
In Aiken County, the biggest improvement came from third grade in math and fourth grade in social studies: 69.3 percent of third grade pupils scored “met” or “exemplary” in math, compared with 63.6 percent last year.
In Edgefield County, eighth grade improved in all tested areas with the largest increase being in writing with 78 percent of students scoring “met” or “exemplary,” up 9.9 percentage points from last year.
HSAP, also known as the high school exit exam, is administered to students in their second year of high school and tests students in English/language arts and math.
In Aiken County, 89.1 percent of students passed the English/language arts portion and 84.5 percent passed the math portion. In Edgefield County, 88.9 percent passed the English/language arts portion and 83.9 percent passed the math portion.
For more information about the federal accountability system or to view individual school grades or district and school PASS and HSAP results, visit ed.sc.gov.