The new Federal Accountability System more accurately represents the performance of local districts and schools, 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 state Department of Education.
The state submitted a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education in February with a plan for an alternate accountability system to AYP. The U.S. Department of Education approved the request July 19.
“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 report cards for decades; schools and school districts should be held to the same level of accountability and transparency.”
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 letter grade of C, B or A indicates that the district or school met, exceeded or substantially exceeded the state’s expectations, respectively.
Schools are also being identified as focus schools – Title I schools with the highest average performance gap between subgroups; priority schools – lowest performing Title I schools; reward schools for performance – the highest performing Title I schools; and reward schools for progress – Title I schools that have shown the most substantial progress in all students group or in identified subgroups.
For the 2010-11 school year, Aiken and Edgefield districts did not meet AYP, despite Aiken County meeting 35 of 37 objectives and Edgefield County meeting 23 of 25 objectives.
In Aiken County, only nine of 38 schools met AYP, including Hammond Hill Elementary and North Augusta Middle. In Edgefield County, Fox Creek High School was the only school in the district to meet 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’s district, 31 schools received C or better. In Edgefield’s district, six schools received a C or better. All of the schools in the North Augusta area received a C or better this year.
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, but the writing portion is given only 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 to 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 in English/Language Arts and math.
At North Augusta High, 91.9 percent of students passed the English/Language Arts portion and 86.5 percent passed the math portion. At Fox Creek High, 97.7 percent passed the English/Language Arts portion and 92 percent passed the math portion.
For more information about the federal accountability system or to view individual school grades or PASS and HSAP results, visit ed.sc.gov.