State sees problems at county’s elementary schools

By Bobby Bryant, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

Most of Darlington County’s public elementary schools fared badly in the S.C. Department of Education’s newest round of “school report cards.”

Dr. Tim Newman

But some school-district officials around the state are attacking the report cards as biased, inaccurate, unfair and nearly worthless as a measure of how well students and schools are doing.

While Darlington County’s four public high schools and four public middle schools all got what amounted to passing grades or higher on the state’s school-by-school assessment, six of the county’s nine public elementary schools were judged to be in danger of not meeting state standards for students, and one was rated as no longer meeting standards for students.

Only two elementary schools – Hartsville’s Carolina Elementary and Lamar’s Spaulding Elementary – got what amounted to passing grades from the state.

Darlington County Education Superintendent Tim Newman noted that the report cards had been revised and changed to such an extent that “this is an entirely new process for everyone involved, and we know there are flaws in the system.”

“However, we know what our students are doing and we know what we want them to be able to do,” Newman said in a statement. “We also know our data as it relates to academic performance. In fact, we have been using this data to shape our practices and programs since the beginning of the school year.

“The bottom line … is that our in-house data tells us we have areas that are performing well and areas that need improvement. We are committed to improving our schools to ensure all students graduate career- and college-ready.”

Here’s a breakdown of how Darlington County schools fared in the state’s assessment. Complete data for all schools in the county and state can be found on the state Department of Education’s website.

THE HIGH SCHOOLS: Darlington High and Hartsville High both were rated “average,” essentially a passing grade. Darlington High got a numerical “overall rating” of 51 out of 100; Hartsville High, 58. Lamar High got a 66 rating (“good”). Mayo High School for Math, Science and Technology got an 86 rating (“excellent”). Mayo’s 86 was by far the highest rating of any public school in the county.

THE MIDDLE SCHOOLS: Darlington Middle was rated 47 (“average”). Hartsville Middle, with a 54 rating, was judged “good.” Rosenwald Elementary/Middle in Society Hill, with a 42 rating, was judged “average.” Spaulding Middle in Lamar, with a 67, was deemed “excellent.”

THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS: There are nine public elementary schools in Darlington County. Only two – Carolina Elementary in Hartsville, with a 50 rating, and Spaulding Elementary in Lamar, with 51, were judged “average,” basically a passing grade. The other seven got scores indicating trouble – “below average,” indicating that they were in danger of failing to meet the state’s standards and goals for students, or “unsatisfactory,” indicating that they were not meeting state standards and expectations.
Thornwell School for the Arts in Hartsville fared worst on the state’s evaluation. Thornwell received a rating of 23 out of 100, or “unsatisfactory.”

The other elementary schools all got judged as “below average” – Brockington Elementary Magnet School for Science and Technology in Darlington (37), Brunson-Dargan Elementary in Darlington (41), North Hartsville Elementary (40), Rosenwald Elementary/Middle (35), St. John’s Elementary in Darlington (38) and West Hartsville Elementary (34).

“The report cards … are the culmination of many years of South Carolina’s hard work to design a rigorous accountability system that uses multiple measures to show the public the overall performance of our schools and districts,” S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said. “I encourage students, parents and school communities to take an in-depth look and celebrate their successes and collaborate on areas where we need to improve.”

But some S.C. school districts are openly challenging the methods the state used to compile the report cards and saying the evaluations are going to have little or no impact on district operations.

The Berkeley County School District has issued a news release saying their district doesn’t feel that the report cards “fairly measure BCSD students, teachers and administrators.”

One Berkeley education official says the state “predetermined” that 10 percent of S.C. schools would get failing grades on the assessments. Dorchester District 2 is also questioning the report cards.

On the other hand, at least one member of the State Board of Education says the school report cards are only guilty of being too positive. “There are schools that got 62 points out of 100 and got rated ‘Excellent,’” Jon Butzon told the (Charleston) Post & Courier.

“The average person looks at that and says, ‘Well, that doesn’t make any sense.’ And it doesn’t make any sense, because we’ve jimmied the system to make it look better for the system than to give us an honest appraisal of how our schools are doing.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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