Higher test scores, graduation rates boost school ratings

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Improved student achievement and increased on-time high school graduation rates led to higher ratings for Beaufort County schools on 2012 School Report Cards released Tuesday, Nov. 13 by the South Carolina Department of Education.
“We’re continuing to make progress, and that’s encouraging and a tribute to the determination and hard work of our students and educators,” said Acting Superintendent Jackie Rosswurm.  “More of our schools have moved to the top end of the ratings scale, and fewer are at the lower end.  But we can’t be satisfied with where we are.  We have a lot of work to do.”
The total number of Beaufort County schools with Absolute ratings of Good or Excellent increased from 14 in 2011 to 22 in 2012.  Looking at trend data, the number of district schools rated Good or Excellent has increased from seven in 2009 to 22 in 2012 (25 percent to 71 percent). The district uses 2009 as the base year for longer-term comparisons because South Carolina adopted a new statewide testing system (PASS) for all students in grades 3-8.
The number of schools rated Average, Good or Excellent has increased from 21 in 2009 to 29 in 2012 (75 percent to 94 percent), according to the Department of Education.
Each South Carolina school and district receives a rating — Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average or At-Risk — based on student test scores. Rating formulas are based on student achievement levels set by the Education Oversight Committee, created by the General Assembly to guide implementation of South Carolina’s Education Accountability Act of 1998.   Report Card data also include student-teacher ratios, dollars spent per student, absentee rates for students and teachers, amount of instructional time, average teacher salaries and the socio-economic status of students’ families.
Beaufort County’s 2012 ratings were boosted by higher elementary and middle school scores on Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) exams and by improved scores on high school exit and end-of-course exams.  In addition, four-year “on-time” high school graduation rates continued to improve at district high schools.
Overall, the district had eight schools rated Excellent, 14 rated Good, seven rated Average and two rated Below Average.  Last year’s Report Cards were the first since 2004 in which Beaufort County had no schools with the rating of At-Risk.
Schools rated Excellent were Okatie Elementary, Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center, Pritchardville Elementary, Riverview Charter School (elementary and middle grades), Beaufort High, Bluffton High and Hilton Head Island High.  Riverview Charter School is viewed as two “separate” schools for report card rating purposes because it serves both elementary and middle grades.
Schools rated Good were Beaufort Elementary, Bluffton Elementary, Coosa Elementary, Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, Hilton Head Middle, Lady’s Island Elementary, Michael C. Riley Elementary, Mossy Oaks Elementary, Port Royal Elementary, Red Cedar Elementary, Beaufort Middle, Bluffton Middle and H.E. McCracken Middle.
Schools rated Average were Lady’s Island Middle, Broad River Elementary, Shanklin Elementary, Shell Point Elementary, Robert Smalls Middle, Whale Branch Middle and Battery Creek High.
Schools rated Below Average were St. Helena Elementary and Whale Branch Elementary.
The district’s overall 2012 rating was Average, the same as in 2011 but an improvement from its Below Average rating in 2009.  Its Absolute rating index (the numerical indicator on which letter grades are based) improved 2.9 last year to 3.08 this year, slightly less than the 3.18 required for a rating of Good.
The district’s on-time high school graduation rate — the percentage of students who complete high school “on time” and get a diploma in four years  — improved to 75.1, up from 69.6 in 2011 and 69.1 in 2009.