South Carolina’s Education Oversight Committee, the zealous watchdog of K-12 standards and assessment for the state, has just released a new report on the “Achievement Gap.”
Based on this fancy webpage we assumed the Gap was being closed…but we were wrong.
The “achievement gap” (formerly called the “performance gap” and before that just “inequality”) describes the difference in test scores between public schools serving various communities throughout the state. While low-income schools receive far more money per student (thanks in part to the federal government and NCLB) these schools also tend to perform worse on standardized testing.
Looking at the EOC’s website, and the catchy titles, it is easy to assume that South Carolina is making huge progress in reducing the gaps, which sadly tend to mirror -even exacerbate- existing social and economic disparities between students. In fact, the report begins with a cover page titled “Recognized For Closing the Gap.”
But once you start clicking the links, and read the report yourself, it all falls apart. In the Executive Summary (page i of the first document) it explains:
“The sizes of the achievement gaps in ELA and math in 2007 generally increased compared to 2006 (Table 2), reflecting the general lack of progress overall in performance on the ELA and math tests”
And it gets worse. Only 16 percent of the 882 elementary and middle schools studied were recognized for closing achievement gaps in PACT ELA or math in 2007! Less than two-thirds of the schools that reduced gaps in 2006 were able to sustain the reductions.
So how can the EOC possibly frame this as success?! The reason is simple. The EOC has failed its mandate. Rather than serving as the guardian of the Education Accountability Act (EAA), the politically connected staff of the EOC has shifted focus, and is now working as chief apologist for the failures of South Carolina’s public schools.
This is not surprising. With enormous taxpayer financed salaries, these fat cats are in no hurry to rock the boat. The EOC boss, Jo Anne Anderson, took home $124,500 last year. Thats nearly three times the state’s median family income, and could pay total cost of “educating” eleven students.
The EOC was created through the EAA with the hope that giving parents information about their children’s school would lead to greater accountability. It clearly has not worked. Only when parents are given both accurate information, and the ability to make school choices based on it, will the promises of educational accountability be recognized in South Carolina.