COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The release of the 2021 South Carolina School Report Cards comes with some words of advice from education leaders as districts continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic for the second straight school year.
The results of the annual assessments given to students at the end of the 2020 school year aren’t where education leaders wanted them to be, but they need to be taken with a grain of salt because there were so many variables, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said, adding that it would be next to impossible to compare results to previous years.
All standardized assessments have to be controlled, Spearman said. That means tests have to be given at the exact same time, the exact same way, with instructions read the same way. Students also need to be in attendance the correct number of days in order for the assessments to be done properly.
“COVID threw a lot of that out the window,” she said. “And therefore, the results, you have to take that into consideration as you look at these results. I’m not a statistician, not an expert in this, but just good old common sense tells you that this was not a good testing situation.”
This year’s report cards include show data that includes academic achievement levels for English and math, graduation rates, average teacher pay, whether students are college or career ready and per-student spending.
Individual districts did not receive a letter grade based on the test results. However, individual schools receive one of five ratings: excellent, good, average, below average and unsatisfactory.
Spearman said education leaders anticipated that this year’s result would be different because of the pandemic She said she is not shocked by the results, but is “deeply concerned.”
State education leaders asked the U.S. Department of Education to waive accountability ratings and some reporting requirements but that request was denied, according to Spearman.
“It’s very difficult to validate the information with all the many variables that were so different for our students as they dealt with COVID in their communities, with some schools being able to open before others,” she said. “We knew that this assessment data would need to be looked at very, very carefully, keeping in mind the context of how the assessment was done.”
Spearman said one major concern is the results among younger students. For third-graders, it was their first time taking the tests and overall they did not show as much growth as education leaders had hoped they would. However, older students showed some growth over previous assessments.
“I think the question here is not so focused on these results but what are we going to do about them,” she said, adding that state leaders have been working with districts to prioritize the things that need to be taught at each grade level to “accelerate” students’ learning.
“It’s not so much learning loss, because so many of them never got the instruction to lose it.” she said. “It’s more about us being very focused, prioritizing the standards that need to be taught at these levels.”
In a statement, the Palmetto State Teachers Association said the data in the report card only tells part of the story.
“Our students have lost a great deal during the pandemic, loses that can be measured in minutes of instruction, moments and memories, and, most importantly, lives disrupted and lost to a terrible illness,” the PSTA said. “Simply using the data in the state report cards to claim students lost learning in the past year is an incomplete story because, as every educator can tell you, our students learned a great during in the past year that is not easily captured in the data produced by a set of standardized assessments.”
The association said students learned new life skills, including technology use, self-direction and perseverance.
“While no one would ever wish for the circumstances that led to those areas of learning, we are discounting the resilience and achievement of our students if we fail to note those areas of growth,” the association said.
Dillon District 3 – 84.9
Dillon District 4 – 84.3%
Florence One: 91.2%
Florence Two: 76.8%
Florence Three: 69.3%
Florence Four: 63.3%
Florence Five: 83.5%
TEACHERS RETURNING FROM PREVIOUS YEAR
Dillon District 3 – 91%
Dillon District 4 – 91.6%
Florence One: 88.7%
Florence Two: 94.7%
Florence Three: 82.9%
Florence Four: 82.2%
Florence Five: 96.3%
STUDENTS IN GRADUATION COHORT WHO ARE CAREER READY
Dillon District 3: 61.3%
Dillon District 4: 38.7%
Florence One: 50.7%
Florence Two: $54.7%
Florence Three: 32.1%
Florence Four: 6.1%
Florence Five: 54.1%
TOTAL PER PUPIL EXPENDITURE
Dillon District 3 – $8,735
Dillon District 4 – $10,278
Florence One: $11,737
Florence Two: $9,448
Florence Three: $11,579
Florence Four: $14,915
Florence Five: $10,676
AVERAGE TEACHER’S SALARY
Dillon District 3 – 48,346
Dillon District 4 – $47,784
Florence One: $50,702
Florence Two: $51,401
Florence Three: $50,273
Florence Four: $46,167
Florence Five: $51,038
INCIDENTS OF BULLYING
Incidents not included in 2021 report
Incidents not included in 2021 report