State releases school report cards amid criticism, skepticism

Hillcrest Middle earns excellent overall rating to lead district

BY BRUCE MILLS bruce@theitem.com
Posted 12/2/18

Well, they are finally out, at least.

Amid varying levels of criticism and skepticism, which can be common with a new state-wide school rating system, the state Department of Education released Thursday school report cards including scores for …

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State releases school report cards amid criticism, skepticism

Hillcrest Middle earns excellent overall rating to lead district

Posted

Well, they are finally out, at least.

Amid varying levels of criticism and skepticism, which can be common with a new state-wide school rating system, the state Department of Education released Thursday school report cards including scores for individual schools.

The new report cards represent an overhaul of the state's education accountability system, and for the first time in four years schools have ratings - ranging from unsatisfactory to excellent. The ratings are based on a 100-point scale that factored in academic success, student progress, graduation rates and college and career readiness, among other measurements.

Overall, Sumter School District's middle schools scored higher than its elementary schools and high schools, according to the 2018 report cards, which reflect school performance during the 2017-18 school year.

Hillcrest Middle School achieved an excellent overall rating, led by its excellent rating in "student progress." That indicator measures if a school on average grew more or less than the state average, based on the state's grade-level tests.

Several administrators across the state said some of their districts' best-performing schools were hurt on that indicator - which was weighted heavily overall - because their average performance, as measured by state tests, improved by a smaller amount than the state average.

Nevertheless, Hillcrest also received an average rating in the "academic achievement" indicator.

Only 51 of the state's middle schools earned an excellent overall rating.

Alice Drive Middle was the only other middle school in the district to earn an average in "academic achievement." It received an overall rating of average, largely because its "student progress" ranking was below average.

Chestnut Oaks Middle also earned an average overall rating, even though it scored unsatisfactory in "academic achievement." On "student progress" though, Chestnut Oaks received an average rating.

Ebenezer Middle and the former Mayewood Middle received good overall ratings, fueled by the "student progress" measurement and not necessarily overall achievement.

Among the district's 14 elementary schools, six earned average overall ratings, led by Alice Drive Elementary and Millwood Elementary on the achievement indicator. Four elementary schools scored below average overall, and four were unsatisfactory.

State schools Superintendent Molly Spearman told The State newspaper that the 2018 report cards are not the "finished product."

"It's a good product, but there's room for improvement," Spearman said.

"They (schools) need to take an honest look at it (report cards). I hope that we won't become defensive but that we'll use it as a road map for the areas that we really need to work on and admit that we can't do it by ourselves."

The Department of Education had planned to release the report cards in mid-November. However, it was forced to delay the release after vendor "errors in critical data files" left the state agency unable to complete school rankings at that time, it said.

ON THE WEB:

School report cards can be found at screportcards.com.