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BCSD finds state school report cards 'insufficient'

Published Thursday, November 29, 2018

South Carolina school report cards were released Thursday afternoon, and while Berkeley County School District places high value on tracking student success while maintaining and improving upon student performance, it's not believed the state report card fairly measures BCSD students, teachers and administrators.

While more than 30 BCSD schools achieved a score of average or higher, BCSD administrators argue there are discrepancies in nearly every way the schools were measured -- even at those schools the report card awarded its highest score of "excellent."

Months ago, long before data for the report cards was ever prepared, the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee announced it would be changing the way school performance would be measured. As a part of the change, a curved grading system was created using 2015 NAEP results (National Assessment of Education Progress). It was predetermined many schools would receive failing grades. In addition, school scores are determined in part by surveys provided to all students grades 3-12, standardized test scores, improvement on standardized test scores year-over-year and the progress of English learners measured by a standardized test.

"They predetermined that 10 percent of the schools in this state would be failing or substandard. We wouldn't want our teachers to measure the success of our students that way," BCSD Superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram said. "We know the quality of our students, teachers, administrators and schools. We know the quality of instruction, support and intervention our teams provide. We stand by our schools."

BCSD officials and education professionals from around the world have long argued standardized testing isn't always a fair measurement of student success. While standardized testing has a role in the system, BCSD educators and administrators believe evaluations weighted so heavily on standardized testing create environments in which students learn how to take the tests, as opposed to the skills they need to be successful in the 21st Century.

"I think insufficient is a fair word," Ingram said as he discussed the state school report cards Thursday morning. "I appreciate the work being done in our schools and am happy to see high scores in many categories at several of our schools. However, this is not the best way to measure what our schools are accomplishing."

Here's a snapshot of some of the discrepancies BCSD identified -

- Goose Creek High, home of Berkeley Center of the Arts, was given an overall score of below average, though it scored average in nearly every other category.

- Cane Bay Middle, which scored average on academic achievement, good on preparing students for success, average on the progress of English learners -- somehow received unsatisfactory scores for student progress and school quality.

- College Park Middle, a school where robotics is thriving and produced a team that qualified for a national competition last year, is scored as below average.

- Daniel Island School, which received an overall score of excellent, was also scored as unsatisfactory in the school quality area of the report.

- Marrington Middle School of the Arts, a magnet school (where most students attend by choice), received an overall score of good but had a school quality rating of below average.

- Sedgefield Intermediate, now Mt. Holly Elementary was named a National Lighthouse School last year. According to the state report card, the school is below average.

- Westview Middle, a school that received an overall rating of average on its report card, was given a score of "unsatisfactory" as it relates to school quality.

"This is screaming for another accountability model," Dr. Ingram said. "We appreciate the effort, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

In addition to the many discrepancies BCSD administrators find with the report cards, they also make note Thursday's release came after a postponement due to what State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman described as "errors in critical data files claimed to be accurate by a vendor."

BCSD is currently leading an effort with other Lowcountry school districts to develop a regional accountability model. Spearheaded by BCSD Chief Academic Officer Kevin O'Gorman, the regional report card will utilize many measurable forms of student achievement and provide what educators believe to be a fair grading system.

Additional information on the regional report card will be provided at a later date.

Brian Troutman
troutmanb@bcsdschools.net