For the second consecutive year, four Midlands districts were among the state’s high flyers for overall academic performance, according to state report cards released Friday.
Kershaw, Lexington 1, Lexington-Richland 5 and Richland 2 earned “excellent” ratings overall on report cards this year and last. However, each district received a “good” rating in terms of how much students improved academically.
This year, only seven school districts statewide – none in the Midlands – received “excellent” overall and improvement ratings.
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Three Richland 1 schools were high performers among the state’s high-poverty schools, earning “good” ratings overall: Carolina Charter for Inquiry, Gadsden Elementary and S. Kilbourne Elementary schools.
The report cards are issued annually as a way of measuring public-school districts’ and schools’ academic performance and improvement from year to year, based on graduation rates and test scores.
The Midlands’ other school districts – Lexington 2, Lexington 4 and Richland 1 – saw their overall ratings remain “average” or, in the case of Lexington 3, improve to “good” from “average.”
Three Midlands’ districts remained steady in terms of how students are improving academically from year to year, while four saw their improvement rating drop.
The largest decline was in Lexington 2’s improvement rating which dropped to “at-risk” from “good.”
That is a dramatic shift in a district that saw its overall performance hold steady, said Dana Yow, with the S.C. Education Oversight Committee, adding the district’s administrators have expressed concerns the grade may not be accurate.
Graduation rates played a big role in 42 of the state’s 82 districts receiving an “excellent” rating overall – up from only one district in 2009, according to an analysis by the Oversight Committee, a state education policy research agency.
Students graduating on time, after four years of high school, improved to 80.1 percent this year from 77.5 percent in 2013. The statewide on-time graduation rate was 73.7 percent five years ago.
Four Midlands districts had on-time graduation rates higher than the state average: Lexington 1 at 88 percent, Lexington-Richland 5 at 87 percent, Richland 2 at 83 percent and Kershaw at 82 percent.
Friday’s ratings marked the second report card the state has issued recently to grade schools’ and districts’ performance. Last month, the state issued letter grades to report the state’s academic progress to the federal government.
Starting next year, the state will issue a single report card for state and federal accountability purposes.
Outgoing state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said he hopes education leaders lean toward the federal measurements and away from the state’s in crafting that new accountability system.
“(T)he federal report card is far more rigorous (and) holds schools to a higher performance standard,” Zais said in a statement. The federal accountability system also “assigns grades that convey a clear message to the public, parents, policymakers and the press.”