‘Far from perfect’: Midlands districts react to report card, school ratings

The delayed report cards for schools in South Carolina were released Thursday and Lexington 1 school district has questions about the system, according to a news release.

“We still have concerns about this system and some of the methods of calculation,” the release says. “We expect the South Carolina Department of Education, the Education Oversight Committee and others to continue to adjust the new system in order to make it work for South Carolina because the system is far from perfect.”

Lexington 1 includes the town of Lexington, Gilbert and Pelion and the River Bluff and White Knoll areas.

In overall performance ratings, the largest share of the district — 10 schools — received “average” ratings. Eight schools received “good” ratings, seven received “excellent,” two schools were marked as “below average” and one was rated “unsatisfactory.” The Lexington Technology Center and the district’s primary school were not included in these overall ratings, the release says, but they received report cards as well.

Four of seven districts in Richland and Lexington counties surpassed the state’s 81 percent high school graduation rate in 2018.

Lexington 1 had one of the highest high school graduation rates — 89.5 percent — in the county, second only to Lexington-Richland 5.

But not every one of those schools received a “good” or “excellent” rating as part of the state’s new school report cards.

The S.C. Department of Education had planned to release the report cards earlier this month. However, it was forced to reschedule after vendor “errors in critical data files” that left the Education Department unable to complete school rankings.

Elementary, middle and high schools were rated based on student performance on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress assessment, or NAEP. NAEP, sometimes called “the nation’s report card,” tracks students’ mastery of different subjects and is measured across the country.

Elementary schools and middle schools were rated for: academic achievement, student progress, preparing for success, English learners’ proficiency and school quality.

High schools were rated for: academic achievement, preparing for success, English learners’ proficiency, graduation rate, college readiness, career readiness and school quality.

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In the news release, sent out Thursday, the district explains how some schools may have received lower ratings because students didn’t participate in online surveys related to school quality. Schools that did not complete student online surveys “were not factored into the percentile rankings for this indicator,” according to the release.

Richland District 2 in northeast Richland County also raised concern about how the online surveys were scored.

“The School Quality score is only based on students’ responses to an engagement survey and is not a measure of overall school quality,” Richland District 2 said in a news release.

“Additionally, the ranking system used to calculate this score does not accurately reflect some schools’ levels of engagement. For example, a school in Richland Two with 58.1 percent of students at the committed level of engagement and a participation rate of 96.1 percent earns the same number of points as a school elsewhere in the state that did not participate in the survey at all.”

The state also measures classroom environment, student safety and school financial information, though they are not included in ratings.

The new report card system also measured scores based on federal requirements, which led Lexington 1 to receive different ratings than in previous reports. The district expected this, the release says.

View report cards here.

Maayan Schechter contributed to reporting.
Isabella Cueto is a bilingual multimedia journalist covering Lexington County, one of the fastest-growing areas of South Carolina. She previously worked as a reporter for the Medill Justice Project and WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. She is a graduate of the University of Miami, where she studied journalism and theatre arts.