Everyone is willing to admit there is a serious problem. South Carolina parents have heard over and over the about long-term trends of low college entrance test scores, growing racial achievement gaps and sinking graduation rates in local public schools.
Despite the steady stream of bleak reports on public schools, state education officials still insist that South Carolina’s high academic standards provide real accountability to parents.
The Education Oversight Committee (EOC) is an organization charged with acting as South Carolina’s default education “watchdog.” However, late and vaguely-worded school report cards and increasingly watered-down standards have many South Carolinians wondering whether the public education establishment is more focused on eradicating failures, or covering them up. Now, with many jobs in the state’s education bureaucracy being threatened by budget cuts, there is talk of further erosion of the already limited oversight. Continue reading
Taxpayer-funded “publicists” at the SC Department of Education like to use “awards” as a measure of public school “success.”
In the first four months of 2009, there were 20 press releases issued by the department that included the term “award” in the title or first sentence.
The problem is that many awards and accolades are not actually tied to student achievement, and some seem designed to distract from a school’s performance failures by improving parents’ perceptions of the school.
Here are two recent examples:
Allendale Elementary School
In March, Allendale Elementary School was awarded “a gold certificate and banner by USDA Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Administrator Donald E. Arnette for meeting USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge“
“The HealthierUS School Gold award is one of the highest honors a school nutrition program can achieve and reflects a strong commitment to provide students with additional healthy food options throughout the school campus, and to emphasize nutrition education and physical activity in the school curriculum.”
Allendale Elementary is classified by the State and Federal governments as a “persistently failing school” and has again been identified this school year as “at-risk.” There are 569 students forced to attend this failing public school. Continue reading
“End of course” test results show an urgent need for school choice reform. When will lawmakers act?
The results from this year’s “End of Course Examination” come as a hard blow to parents across South Carolina.
Instead of bolstering confidence after a year of low SAT scores, widening achievement gap, and increasing dropout rate; results from this latest round of testing only confirm to parents the desperate need for real education reform.
Even with improvements reported in English and Physical Science testing, overall scores indicate that huge numbers of students are not learning even the most basic skills in key subjects.
In English, nearly 49% of all students taking the test scored either a D or an F. Physical science scores are even more disheartening, with 63% of students scoring a D or an F.
Mathematics results are equally dismal. Over 45% of all students who tested received either a D or an F.
In fact, Algebra scores for black and white students have dropped since Rex took office in 2006. Continue reading
Parents in South Carolina want to have a say in where their children attend school, and some state employees who oppose the idea are scrambling to convince parents not to push for more options.
Spartanburg County has many public schools that outperform their counterparts in the state, but SAT scores show that achievement is still far behind similar districts in North Carolina. While many Spartanburg families are pleased with what local public schools have to offer, others prefer a private or Christian education for their children.
In a recent article in the Spartanburg Herald Journal, Spartanburg parent Brantlee Fulmer voiced her own concerns about where her three year old will attend school:
“ As a parent, I may or may not agree with the direction that a particular public school would go in…from a personal perspective, I prefer more of a Christian education. So, when the time comes I may choose to send my child to a Christian school.” Continue reading
Posted in POLICY
Tagged Cost Efficiency, David White, Educational Effectiveness, Funding, open enrollment, School Choice, school funding, South Carolina, South Carolina public schools, Spartanburg, Spartanburg District 7, testing
The Anderson Independent-Mail posted an article detailing a speech by Jim Rex to the Oconee Alliance. In his speech, Rex bemoaned the possibility of more state budget cuts, and urged public schools to adopt a “culture of innovation” to help deal with decreasing resources.
“We’re all going to have to be more innovative; a lot of the solutions of the past just won’t work anymore,” Rex said. “We need a culture of innovation.”
In addition to calling for fiscal responsibility, Rex called the current zip code based system for school attendance an “antiquated notion,” a statement with which most families would eagerly agree. Continue reading
Posted in POLICY
Tagged Educational Effectiveness, Inez Tenenbaum, Jim Rex, open enrollment, PACT, School Choice, South Carolina, South Carolina Department of Education, South Carolina public schools, Spending, testing, wasteful spending
Failure? Nothing! I see NOTHING!!!
Today the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee is scheduled to discuss where South Carolina public schools stand ten years after the institution of the Education Accountability Act.
Unfortunately many South Carolina families already have to see first hand how poorly their local public schools perform when it comes to meeting educational goals. This year, four out of five public schools failed to meet the mark for Adequate Yearly Progress. Equally disheartening were South Carolina SAT results, which showed only 7 of 85 districts with average scores above the national average. Even the SAT scores of the state’s highest performing school district were hundreds of points behind similar districts in North Carolina.
Inadequate achievement test scores are just one aspect of the failed education establishment in the Palmetto State. The number of children dropping out of public school every year is in the tens of thousands, and the problem is not diminishing. Continue reading
Tagged Achievement, Achievement Gap, Cost Efficiency, drop-out rate, Education Oversight Committee, EOC, Jim Rex, SAT, South Carolina Department of Education, testing, transparency and accountability
Friday the State Department of Education released results of the 2008 High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test.
According to Department’s press release, 4-in-5 students passed the test on their first attempt.
The so-called “high school exit exam” is actually given to students in the sophomore year, two full school years before they complete high school. “The term ‘exit exam’ is a major source of confusion to parents and lawmakers,” explained Randy Page, President of South Carolinians for Responsible Government.
Even more confusing, analysis by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), an educational nonprofit, has singled out the HSAP as a very weak test. NWEA researchers have noted that the pass/fail point on the math portion of the HSAP is the lowest they ever studied. The same NWEA team compared the South Carolina HSAP “exit exam” to the 8th grade PACT test and found the HSAP to be no more difficult. The researchers explained: Continue reading
“Four years of high school down the drain…”
Jim Rex likes to talk about South Carolina’s “high standards” for public education, but test scores are giving parents reason to wonder whether their children are learning the skills they need to go to college and access high-paying jobs.
In addition to having the highest school drop-out rate in the nation, South Carolina public schools rank among the country’s worst performers on the SAT and ACT.
When SAT scores for South Carolina were released earlier this year, The Voice pointed out that only seven of the 85 school districts across the state had average scores exceeding the national average of 1017. The Voice also pointed out that even the highest achieving districts in South Carolina are still hundreds of points behind similar districts in North Carolina. Continue reading
Controversy over potentially fraudulent PACT scores at Sanders-Clyde Elementary School is still growing.
After SLED began investigating whether the school’s massive and inexplicable jump in academic achievement was the result of increased student performance or simple fraud, teachers and and administrators jumped to defend the legitimacy of the scores.
First, Mishawnda Moore- the principal responsible for the schools celebrated success- indicated that she was emotionally distraught about the accusations, and therefore could not be guilty. Now, teachers from the school have proposed that this year’s unbelievably low PACT scores are merely the result of test monitors creating a “hostile testing atmosphere” by watching the testing process and denying the students snacks.
Obviously Sanders-Clyde staff would be defensive whether they cheated or not. For these individuals to protest testing fraud accusations with totally non-empirical (or even probable) explanations does nothing to prove the allegations wrong. The Charleston Post and Courier offered a logical solution to the problem: let SLED conduct student achievement testing. Continue reading