Originally created 12/16/03

Schools get F on progress reports



AIKEN - Almost all of South Carolina's high schools will fail to hit crucial adequate yearly progress goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind law when delayed results are released Wednesday, state Department of Education officials said.

Only one of Aiken County's seven high schools might meet all the requirements, and Edgefield County's only high school, Strom Thurmond, will not make the federal grade, local educators said.

The one Aiken County high school that might show adequate yearly progress is smaller than the rest and has fewer goals to meet, said Frank Roberson, the associate superintendent for instruction for Aiken County, who would not name the school. Dr. Roberson repeated his criticism of the federal accountability law, saying Monday that the legislation does not accurately reflect academic progress.

"We hope parents will pay more attention to the hard data, such as increasing SAT scores and advanced placement scores," he said.

The exit exam used to score the high schools is new, and this year was a trial run. State education officials said pupils weren't motivated to score well because it did not affect their graduation.

"We're confident that scores will improve because the students who take the new exit exam from now on will have considerable incentive to do well," state Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum said in a prepared statement.

More than two-thirds of state schools will not make adequate yearly progress, including top-ranked academic centers that scored high marks on South Carolina's annual report card released last month, a state standard that measures the academic progress for every school. Earlier this month, the state Education Oversight Committee, a bipartisan panel appointed by the Legislature, said South Carolina was not improving fast enough to meet goals.

Scores also could be low because 10th-graders taking the test knew their performance would have no effect on their graduation. Tenth-graders taking the exit exam in the spring will have to pass it in order to get a diploma.

South Carolina had asked the U.S. Department of Education to delay adequate yearly progress ratings on high schools for a year so that they could be based on scores of pupils who knew they would have to pass to graduate, but the federal agency turned down the request.

"The whole idea to use this field test to rate schools is in left field," said Jim Foster, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. "A lot of schools in Aiken that are perceived as great schools will do very poorly on (adequate yearly progress)."

Reach Peter G. Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395.