District, schools improve grades on federal report cards

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Twenty-eight of 30 Beaufort County schools met 2014 federal accountability standards, according to data released last week by the South Carolina Department of Education.

The 93 percent mark was a significant improvement over last year’s 79 percent of schools that met the federal accountability standard by earning a grade of A, B or C.  The district as a whole earned a B, with its numerical score improving from 82.1 in 2013 to 82.9 in 2014.

Seventy-three percent of the district’s schools rated an A or B, up from last year’s 65 percent.

“It’s encouraging to see improvement occurring year after year,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.  “This kind of progress is proof that everyone is working hard and that we’re on the right track.  But we still have a long way to go before our graduates can compete with the world’s best graduates.  That’s our goal, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Federal accountability report highlights

A revised A-F rating system was unveiled in 2012 after the U.S. Department of Education approved a waiver application from South Carolina that allowed the South Carolina Department of Education to revise how state schools and districts were rated under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  The new system replaced the 2001 federal law’s original accountability system with one that awards letter grades from A to F for improvement and performance.

NCLB requires schools and districts to break out their performance data into a number of student “subcategories” that include ethnicity, special education, poverty and limited ability with English.  The revised rating system incorporated performance in those individual categories into a single number that is used to rate schools on a 0-100 scale, with 90-100 being an A, 80-89 being a B, 70-79 being a C, 60-69 being a D and anything 59 or below being an F.

The NCLB calculation relies on PASS scores to determine grades for South Carolina elementary and middle schools.  High school data come from on-time graduation rates and student performance on the HSAP high school exit exam and end-of-course exams.

The Beaufort County School District’s overall 2014 score of 82.9 rated a B.  The district’s elementary schools scored 87.5 for a B, up from last year’s 85 for a B.  Middle schools scored 78.1 for a C, down from last year’s 81.2.  High schools scored 83.7 for a B, up from last year’s C rating of 74.9.

Twenty-two Beaufort County’s public schools — an improvement over last year’s 19 — rated an A or B in the second official report under the new rating system.

Ten schools were rated an A.  Twelve received a B, six received a C, one received a D and one received an F (last year there were four D’s and two F’s). Schools graded A-C met federal accountability standards, while schools rated D-F did not.

Moss said that the federal rating system requires schools to improve each year in order to earn the same grade.  “The bar is raised each year,” he said, “so a school that doesn’t improve from one year to the next can get a lower grade.”

The district’s five highest-rated schools in the federal report were Okatie Elementary (100), Pritchardville Elementary (98.3), Red Cedar Elementary (97.9), Riverview Charter (97.3) and Bluffton Elementary (94.4).

Five Title I schools — schools with high percentages of students from low-income families — were recognized as “Reward Schools for Performance” for earning A or B grades for the past two years and having no significant achievement gaps.  Those five were Broad River Elementary, Lady’s Island Elementary, Port Royal Elementary, Red Cedar Elementary and Lady’s Island Middle schools.

Red Cedar Elementary also was named a “Reward School for Progress” by ranking in the Top 10 percent of Title I schools that made “the most substantial progress” in improving the academic achievement of all students and students from various demographic groups.

School grades

District schools receiving an A for 2014 were:  Bluffton Elementary, Bluffton High, Coosa Elementary, Hilton Head Island High, Mossy Oaks Elementary, Okatie Elementary, Port Royal Elementary, Pritchardville Elementary, Red Cedar Elementary and Riverview Charter School.

Schools receiving a B were:  Battery Creek High, Beaufort Elementary, Beaufort Middle, Beaufort High, Bluffton Middle, Broad River Elementary, Hilton Head Island Early Childhood, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary, Lady’s Island Elementary, Lady’s Island Middle and Michael C. Riley Elementary.

Schools receiving a C were:  H.E. McCracken Middle, Joseph E. Shanklin Elementary, Robert Smalls International Academy, St. Helena Elementary, Whale Branch Elementary and Whale Branch Early College High.

Hilton Head Island Middle received a D, and Whale Branch Middle received an F. Dereck Rhoads, the district’s Chief Instructional Services Officer, said the district would continue its focused intervention efforts at those two schools.