AIKEN - While scores declined across South Carolina in this year's state School Report Card ratings for districts and individual schools, results for Aiken County remained unchanged from last year.
The district maintained its overall rating of good and its improvement score rating of average, which are two of the three main portions of the state School Report Card ratings.
For the first time, social studies and science Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test scores, which are included in the state School Report Card ratings, were included in the ratings for elementary and middle schools, making it more of a challenge to make the grade.
Dr. Frank G. Roberson, the associate superintendent for instruction in Aiken County, said 92 percent of the county's schools in 2005 received a grade of average to excellent, which has stayed consistent since the first year the reports were issued in 2002.
"It's reassuring to see that schools are able to maintain that level of performance," Dr. Roberson said. And "over the past two or three years the standards have been much more difficult to reach."
The third major area of the state School Report Card ratings, adequate yearly progress, is measured using test results from different groupings of pupils under the No Child Left Behind law, along with other indicators, including attendance and graduation rates.
Unlike last year, the Aiken County system was unable to meet its adequate yearly progress in 2005, meeting 31 of 33 objectives, compared with 32 of 33 objectives in 2004.
Twenty-one individual schools - a little more than half of the schools in the district - did meet the adequate yearly progress standard in 2005, a slight increase from 18 schools last year.
If a school does not make adequate yearly progress for several consecutive years, it must offer academic enrichment programs and options for parents to transfer their children to other schools. If it is on the list for more than five years, the state can intervene in the school's operation.
More than 1.6 million school and district report cards in South Carolina will be sent home with students this week.
Reach Nathan Dickinson at (803) 648-1395, ext. 109, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHERE THEY STAND
South Carolina's report cards for 2003-04 can be viewed at the state Department of Education's Web site, www.myscschools.com. Report cards also are issued for individual schools in each district.
Absolute rating: Good
Improvement rating: Average
Individual School Ratings
Excellent (2005): Seven schools - Aiken Elementary; Chukker Creek Elementary; Millbrook Elementary; Aiken High; North Augusta High; Silver Bluff High; Aiken County Career Center (2004: Nine schools)
Good (2005): Nine schools - Oakwood-Windsor Elementary; Kennedy Middle; Schofield Middle; South Aiken High; Hammond Hill Elementary; North Augusta Elementary; North Augusta Middle; Byrd Elementary; Midland Valley High (2004: 18 schools)
Average (2005): 18 schools - East Aiken Elementary, J.D. Lever Elementary, North Aiken Elementary, Aiken Middle, Belvedere Elementary, Paul Knox Middle, Clearwater Elementary, Gloverville Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, Warrenville Elementary, LBC Middle, Busbee Elementary, Ridge Spring-Monetta High, Wagener-Salley High, Greendale Elementary, Redcliffe Elementary, Jackson Middle, New Ellenton Middle (2004: 8 schools)
Below Average (2005): Four schools - Leavelle-McCampbell Middle, Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary/Middle (K-8), A.L. Corbett Middle, Midland Valley Prep (2004: Three schools)
Unsatisfactory (2005): One school - Lloyd-Kennedy (2004: One school)
A PRIMER ON SCHOOL REPORT CARDS
Q: How are schools' ratings determined?
A: Each school and school district receives two ratings: an absolute rating and an improvement rating. The absolute rating is based on how well students perform on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test in elementary and middle school and on the High School Assessment Program exit exam. The improvement rating measures how individual students improve their performance year to year. In each case, schools and districts receive ratings of excellent, good, average, below average or unsatisfactory.
Q: What is Adequate Yearly Progress?
A: The reports also indicate whether each school and district met a federal Adequate Yearly Progress standard. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires that all students reach "proficiency," roughly B+ level work, by 2014. To comply with the law, the state set benchmarks that schools and districts would need to meet each year to show they are on track toward this goal. For a school to meet adequate yearly progress, each of numerous categories of students - including groups based on racial status, income level and English proficiency - must meet adequate yearly progress. Schools have 17 to 29 categories of students, depending on demographics.
Q: What is different about the ratings this year?
A: For the first time this year, schools and districts with an absolute rating of "excellent" or "good" were ranked one level lower if they did not meet adequate yearly progress. Also, based on the progress formula, the percentage of students who had to score at the proficient level on state tests more than doubled compared with last year.
The U.S. Education Department approved a change in the rules for South Carolina this year. The change gave some schools credit for improvements in student performance, even if they failed to meet the established benchmark.
Education officials also say performance among middle school and elementary school pupils on the science and social studies portions of PACT were included in the ratings for the first time.
Source: Adam R. Smith