School report cards: An unflattering picture

by | December 6, 2018 5:00 am

Last Updated: December 5, 2018 at 8:47 am

District superintendent says portrait of Colleton’s schools is “flawed rendering.”

The school report cards released by the South Carolina Department of Education Nov. 29 painted an unflattering portrait of the quality of education in Colleton County.
But Colleton County School Superintendent Dr. Franklin Foster said that portrait was a flawed rendering of the school system.
The report card used a variety information concerning the state’s high schools, middle schools and elementary schools including standardized test scores, improvement of standardized test scores from prior years, the progress of English learners measured by a standardized test, and student responses on a survey.
“As a district, we believe in the value of tracking student success to guide us in our continuous improvement journey,” Foster said in a prepared release concerning the report cards.
However, he added, “I do not believe the state report cards accurately measure the performance of our students, teachers and administrators.”
This statement, he said, is supported by the fact that prior to the unofficial release of report cards to districts, seven of the nine schools received ratings that were more reflective of their performance.
With the official release, the ratings of the schools showed a less favorable rating for some of Colleton’s schools.
The major discrepancy was due to errors found in the data file measuring the School Quality metric.
This data file was provided by AdvancED, a national accrediting organization. The points for this metric are based on the survey administered to students in grades 3-12.
For example, three Colleton schools previously earned between 5-7 points on this metric, which resulted in a higher overall rating. However, due to the errors discovered in the file, these same schools earned 0-1 point, resulting in a lower overall rating.
Those schools were Bells Elementary, Cottageville Elementary and Forest Hills Elementary.
Bells received an overall rating of 32, unsatisfactory — two points short of being in the below average category. Under the School Quality section, Bells was given one point out of a possible 10.
Cottageville received an overall rating of 37, below average. Five more points would have given the school an average rating. Cottageville received zero points in the School Quality category.
Forest Hills received an overall rating of 29, unsatisfactory. Five additional points would have raised it to below average. Forest Hills received zero points in the School Quality category.
The policy decision to unfairly account for schools that chose not to participate in the survey affected all schools throughout the state and particularly those in our district, Foster said.
With the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed into law in 2015, the new accountability system measures schools using up to seven metrics and does not align with the previous accountability system, which only focused on student achievement measures.
Foster feels the system sets higher expectations for student success by focusing on their preparedness for college and careers, but expressed concerns about discrepancies in the data, decisions made in predetermining the ways schools are rated in each category, and the unresolved issues with the report cards.
With the new accountability system, ratings use the terms Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average and Unsatisfactory to describe each metric and to determine the overall school rating.
Dr. Foster cautions not to look only at the overall rating, but to look at the ratings for individual metrics. The district had bright spots in its performance in separate metrics, such as the progress of English learners in the elementary schools, the student progress at Cottageville Elementary School, and the academic achievement in Preparing for Success at Northside Elementary School.
Additionally, the bright spots at Colleton County High School include the overall rating (52 average,) the on-time graduation rate of 85 percent, and the percentage of students found college or career ready.
In addition to the metrics that received a rating, the report card contains other vital information that is not rated, such as school safety, classroom environment and financial data.
Foster said, “While we acknowledge these bright spots, the district recognizes that there is still work to be done to ensure the continued success of our students, teachers and administrators. As part of our continuous improvement journey, we will develop a plan to provide differentiated support for schools, enhance our focus on data analysis, continue to focus on those best practices to support student learning, and collaborate with stakeholders on areas that need improvement.”
Additionally, Foster said welcomes all to visit the schools to see the great things happening in the district. He encourages all to join him in sharing their concerns about the new accountability system with the State Department of Education, the Education Oversight Committee and state legislators to assist in addressing the challenges.

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