More South Carolina elementary and middle schools are meeting federal education goals for math and reading proficiency, according to data released by the state Department of Education today.
Just three school districts statewide met the federal standards, after none of the state's 85 school districts achieved those goals last year. The three districts that met the standards were Lexington District 3, Anderson 2 and Greenwood 52.
But state officials said the flawed federal accountability system will require unrealistic achievement, making it difficult to target help to the schools that need it most.
"This year we look pretty good," said state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex. But Rex said that when the state again ratchets up achievement goals next year, the Adequate Yearly Progress report card will suffer.
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"It will look dismal again."
Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is a central measure of achievement included in the federal No Child Left Behind law. The law sets annual testing goals for math and reading and measures overall school performance as well as among individual demographic groups within schools, such as female or Hispanic students.
Most school districts in South Carolina are measured in 17 or 21 categories, called objectives, though larger schools can have more objectives and smaller schools fewer.
All student demographic groups are expected to meet the annual goal, including students for whom English is a second language and disabled students.
The federal government has required that 100 percent of students achieve math and reading proficiency by 2014, a goal state officials said no school in the country will reach.
The goals are all or nothing; fail one and the school or district has failed to achieve adequate yearly progress. Consistently failing to meet AYP goals can result in sanctions for those schools, including allowing students to transfer to a better-performing school or requiring more staff training.
According to the data, 556 of 905 elementary and middle school students had at least 58.8 percent of students proficient in English language arts and at least 57.8 percent proficient in math. The 61 percent of elementary and middle schools that met the goal is an increase from the 59 percent that met the goal last year.
The scores were measured using the state's Palmetto Assessment of State Standards, the second year the test was used.
High schools held steady from last year, with 13 of 184 high schools meeting goals. To reach AYP, 71.3 percent of high school students must be proficient in English language arts while 70 percent must be proficient in math.
But Rex thinks the No Child Left Behind standards will be rewritten as more states ramp up their testing standards - and therefore report more failing schools.
"The dissatisfaction with (AYP) will be heightened," Rex said. "It will definitely be changed in the next 24 months."
Rex said setting high goals did improve school performance, but the new law should recognize more gradual school improvement.
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To view detailed results and see how well students in each school are doing, go to ed.sc.gov. Under the Topics heading, click "Testing & Assessment." Click "Test Scores," then "AYP Ratings."