Originally created 02/24/03

Later test date pleases tourism industry, schools



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The chairman of the state Education Board hopes the push to start schools in early August will end now that students are set to take the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test later in the school year.

Chairman Greg Killian of Myrtle Beach said Saturday that state Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum told him she will hold the test in the week of May 12 next school year.

Schools have been starting earlier to allow time to prepare for the PACT because students' results are used to grade schools.

The later test date is a compromise for the tourism industry, which has pressured school officials and legislators to start school closer to Labor Day to extend the summer season, Killian said.

The Education Department had said it could not give the test later than the first week in May because of obligations to report test scores under new federal legislation, Tenenbaum said.

"All the districts can be pleased with this," she said. The test is already a week later this year than it was last year.

With the test is given later, "schools will stop the race to start earlier," Killian said. "The impetus to start school earlier and earlier is over."

Horry County Schools Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait said she was pleased with the later test date.

Tourism interests say they lose almost a month of vacation income because many schools start the first week of August.

Tom Sponseller, president of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, said the later dates are what his members wanted and will be good for the industry.

"We're moving in the right direction. This work in progress is advancing nicely," said Sen. Luke Rankin, D-Myrtle Beach.

When schools start still is being debated in the Legislature. Some lawmakers disagree with state Education Board's decision to require schools to start between the Monday before Labor Day and the Wednesday after.

Bills excusing 31 districts from the uniform school starting date are pending in the House and Senate. A general bill that specifies all districts have the power to set their own calendars passed the House.