COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Letter grades for nearly half of South Carolina’s school districts dropped during the past school year, but education officials blame more ambitious performance goals rather than poorer student achievement.
The state Education Department released the report card data Thursday. They show that 39 of the state’s 85 districts went down at least a letter grade this school year. Just eight districts improved by at least a letter grade.
Education officials said they set higher and more ambitious goals for the 2012-13 school year compared with the year before, and other data released Thursday shows the performance of South Carolina students improving.
Officials said 82 percent of South Carolina high school students passed the graduation exam on the first try. It is the fourth straight year of improvement and the highest rate in a decade. The percentage of students who scored the highest level on the exam also improved this past school year from 25 percent to 32 percent.
The Education Department also released test scores for other standardized tests given to third- through eighth-graders. Nearly all grades continued to show improvement in English and language arts scores, while math results were more mixed.
State schools Superintendent Mick Zais planned to talk about the results later Thursday.
Six school districts saw their performance fall by two letter grades. They were Calhoun, Dorchester 4, Lexington 4, Florence 3, Greenwood 50 and Fairfield.
Lexington 4 and Florence 3 fell from C grades to F’s. They joined Florence 4, Jasper, Lee, Marlboro, Orangeburg 3 and Williamsburg with failing grades. Eleven districts were given A’s, and more than three-quarters earned a C or better.
Twenty-one of the state’s nearly 1,100 schools went from an A to an F in one year.
This past school year, 76 percent of the state’s nearly 1,100 schools received passing grades of C or better, compared with 84 percent in the 2011-12 school year.
Last year was the first year for the new letter-grade assessments. Before, schools were judged under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which failed a school if it didn’t meet all of up to 27 different standards. A vast majority of South Carolina schools failed to meet all of the standards.
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