Education

Horry, Georgetown school districts score well on federal report, with some surprises

Students listen to principal Donna Hooks for directions to their classrooms as they arrive Monday for the first day of school at Burgess Elementary School. Horry County Schools began their new year Monday. The district serves over 38,000 students and is the third largest among the South Carolina's 85 school districts and has a total of 51 schools. Photo by Steve Jessmore sjessmore@thesunnews.com
Students listen to principal Donna Hooks for directions to their classrooms as they arrive Monday for the first day of school at Burgess Elementary School. Horry County Schools began their new year Monday. The district serves over 38,000 students and is the third largest among the South Carolina's 85 school districts and has a total of 51 schools. Photo by Steve Jessmore sjessmore@thesunnews.com sjessmore@thesunnews.com

The Horry and Georgetown school districts were on the high end of new state accountability scores that were released Thursday, although scores for individual schools held some surprises.

The state’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Federal Accountability System gave an A to Horry County Schools, while the Georgetown County School District received a B.

The federal report card is new, a result of the state’s waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements, which included Adequate Yearly Progress reports. The report card gives letter grades to schools and districts according to weighted point totals. An A falls between 90 and 100 points; B, 80 to 89.9; C, 70 to 79.9; D, 60 to 69.9; and F is less than 60 points.

The new system replaces the all-or-nothing, met/not met system for AYP. While the previous measure was the percentage of students who met AYP, the new system measures the progress of all students.

Horry County had 24 schools with an A rating, 11 with a B, eight with a C and two with a D. Bridgewater Academy charter school was given a D, although that letter grade represents scores for its middle school grades – which rated 67.1 points, or a D – as well as its elementary school grades, which at 58.6 points is an F. Similarly, Green Sea Floyds High School’s C rating includes its middle school grades – a C at 78.3 points – and the high school grades, which scored 53.1 points, or an F.

Of Horry County’s nine high schools, the majority fell into the C category except for Aynor High School, which received an A, and Conway and North Myrtle Beach high schools, which each had a B.

Teal Britton, HCS spokeswoman, said high school grades include end-of-course test scores and High School Assessment Program (HSAP) scores, with the heaviest emphasis placed on on-time graduation rates. On-time graduation is measured by those who graduate in eight sequential semesters. Britton said there are students who do graduate and earn high school diplomas in more than eight semesters, and those numbers are not reflected.

“Regardless of wholesale data, what parents should always do is look at that information in the context of how they feel their individual child is performing,” Britton said. “At some point, volumes of numbers and calculations and formulas can make the average person dizzy. Overall, an A rating for the system is very validating, but there are a few anomalies which we’ll further study.”

In Georgetown County, seven of its schools were given an A, six a B, four a C and one a D. Of the high schools, Carvers Bay received an A, while Andrews and Waccamaw received Bs and Georgetown a C.

The state released test scores for the HSAP, the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) and the new federal report card at the same time, which school officials from both districts say will take more time to sort. Both counties are reporting anomalies, however, and officials say they are still assessing those numbers and how they affect the new graded system.

Patti Hammel, the district’s director of professional development, said the letter grades do not equal the progress being made in all instances. The district was surprised by several of their marks, including the B given to high performing Waccamaw High School and the D that was given to Rosemary Middle School.

Hammel said Rosemary is among schools that have many subgroups and gaps. She said from one year to the next, one difference in a subgroup for those schools presents another chance for them not to meet expectations.

“You’re going to see some very big differences” in the school report cards, which come out in November, Hammel said.

The state also broke out four lists based on federal accountability requirements that are part of the ESEA waiver: Focus Schools, Priority Schools, Reward Schools for Performance and Reward Schools for Progress. Horry and Georgetown schools were found on two of the four lists.

Horry County had five elementary schools on the 2012-13 Reward Schools for Performance list, which named the state’s highest performing Title I schools in a given year. They were Myrtle Beach, Palmetto Bays, Pee Dee, Socastee and South Conway elementary schools. Georgetown County had two elementary schools on the list, Plantersville and Sampit.

To make the list, those schools have attained an “A” or “B” in the two most recent school years, have a free/reduced lunch count that is greater than 50 percent, do not have significant achievement gaps and are not a primary school.

Horry and Georgetown schools also made the list of Focus Schools, which are Title I schools with the highest average performance gap between subgroups. Horry had six schools on the list: Daisy, Green Sea Floyds and Loris elementary schools; Green Sea Floyds High School; and Loris and Whittemore Park middle schools. Georgetown made the list with Andrews Elementary School and Rosemary Middle School.

The list has 55 schools, equal to at least 10 percent of the total number of the state’s Title I schools. Primary schools do not have grades that are tested by state assessments and are not included.

PASS, HSAP scores

State Superintendent of Education Mike Zais said he is encouraged by this year’s PASS and HSAP results. State results say that larger percentages of public school students met state standards on PASS in 2012, while 4 out of 5 high school students passed the state’s high school exit examination on their first try. On both tests, state results say achievement gaps narrowed in most grades and subject areas.

PASS is the state’s end-of-year accountability test, which is given to grades three through eight and is based on state academic standards. There are three scoring levels for meeting the grade-level standard - exemplary, met and not met - in five subjects: English language arts (reading and research), mathematics, science, social studies and writing.

On PASS, Zais said while more third-graders are showing reading proficiency, almost 20 percent of students are leaving third grade not reading on grade level. Third grade is key because students learn to read from kindergarten through third grade, but entering fourth grade, they must know how to read to learn. Zais said he also had concerns about reading and math scores of eighth-graders, of which 30 percent head to high school without proficiency in those subjects.

In Horry County Schools, 84.7 percent of third-graders scored “met and exemplary” in English language arts, but the percentages for that category drop to 73.1 percent in ELA for eighth-graders, the lowest for all the grades. In math, grades four and five had the highest percentages of students at “met and exemplary,” with 81.7 percent and 81 percent respectively, and eighth-graders had the lowest percentage again, 75.7 percent.

In Georgetown County, 80.6 percent of third-graders scored “met and exemplary” in English language arts, with eighth-graders scoring 65.7 percent. The lowest percentage for “met and exemplary” in ELA was 62.9 percent for grade six. In math, 77.3 percent of students in grade four scored “met and exemplary,” the highest in that category for all grades, while eighth-graders came in at 67.8 percent.

On HSAP results, the state said the percentage of first-time test-takers passing the high school exit exam increased to 80.1 percent. It is the second time the passage rate has been above 80 percent since 2004.

For all students in Horry County, 89.9 percent met the HSAP standard (Level 2 or higher) for ELA and 86 percent for math.

The following list gives for all students by high school the percentage who met the HSAP standard (Level 2 or higher) first in ELA, followed by math: Aynor, 94.1, 94.1; Carolina Forest, 90.2, 87.8; Conway, 87.3, 76; Early College, 100, 100; Green Sea Floyds, 79.8, 74.4; Loris, 82.9, 78.9; Myrtle Beach, 88.4, 85.9; North Myrtle Beach, 94.3, 88.9; St. James, 91.2, 88.6; Socastee, 89.7, 88.5.

For all students in Georgetown County, 90.7 percent met the HSAP standard (Level 2 or higher) for ELA and 82.9 percent for math. The following list gives for all students by high school the percentage who met the HSAP standard (Level 2 or higher) first in ELA, followed by math: Andrews, 84.4, 72.3; Carvers Bay, 90.2, 85.9; Georgetown, 88.3, 81; Waccamaw, 98, 91.1.

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