The Rock Hill and Lancaster County school districts have again failed to meet federal student achievement standards, forcing both to remain under the law's most stringent sanctions, according to results released Wednesday.
Rock Hill officials are revamping that district's curriculum. Lancaster County schools are using federal money to hire teaching coaches, launch an online learning program and fund a committee to monitor progress.
Those sanctions fall under the No Child Left Behind Law, a federally mandated push to have every public school student in America scoring "proficient" in English and math by 2014.
"These are things that should help the entire district," said Kathy Mason, an education associate with the S.C. Office of Federal and State Accountability. "The point is to make quick and good progress."
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The S.C. Department of Education earlier this month released results for elementary and middle schools.
High school data was delayed two weeks, following a calculation error involving graduation rates. That also delayed district and state ratings.
Unlike with elementary and middle schools, federal benchmarks for high schools didn't jump this year. They will next year.
To meet objectives, high schools had to have about 52 percent of students from various groups score proficient in English and 50 percent do the same in math.
For some districts, that marked a bright spot amid otherwise gloomy ratings.
All three of Chester County's high schools, for example, met standards. None of the district's other schools did.
The No Child law, enacted in 2001, requires schools to show that all kinds of students are performing at certain levels. Schools must report state test results for all racial groups, students with disabilities, students who speak limited English and those who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. If a school has fewer than 40 students in a group, results are not tallied.
A school that hits all its targets makes "adequate yearly progress," or AYP.
Schools that miss academic targets for any group -- or that fail to test at least 95 percent of students in any eligible group -- do not meet the federal standard.
The ratings for elementary and middle schools are based on students' performance on the state's PACT test. High school scores are based on the High School Assessment Program test.
Statewide, 50 of 200 high schools made AYP. That's down from 60 last year.
Twenty-two districts this year were hit with corrective actions. None of the state's 85 districts made AYP.
Educators across the state have criticized No Child Left Behind for what they call unrealistic expectations. They say it's impossible to get 100 percent of students to proficiency by 2014.
Here's a look at how area districts and high schools fared:
The district hit 29 of its 37 targets. That's an improvement over last year, when it hit 27. That's also higher than the state, which hit 27 of 37.
None of Rock Hill's three high schools made AYP. Northwestern and Rock Hill High lost ground. Both hit fewer targets than last year.
As Rock Hill schools go into year two of the federal law's highest level of sanctions, district officials are rethinking the way classes are taught.
Through a process called curriculum mapping, the district hopes to coordinate classes across all subjects. "It's basically a broad term for laying out what you're going to teach and when and how," Mason said.
In the past, subjects were separated like compartments. Teachers worked independently, and standards varied between schools.
One intent is to get students districtwide on the same page, said Harriet Jaworowski, Rock Hill schools' associate superintendent for instruction and accountability.
The number of transient families in Rock Hill has grown in recent years, Jaworowski said. Their children sometimes attend several schools in a year. The new curriculum should make it so they'll learn the same thing no matter which school they attend.
"Part of our premise was that this would ensure they wouldn't have gaps," Jaworowski said.
Also in its second year of stringent sanctions, Lancaster County schools' improvement plan has three parts. The district hired five teacher coaches to help fine-tune lessons. It also added an online program called Classworks. Elementary students spend 45 minutes per week with the program. The computer activities adjust to students' abilities.
"It's a lot like computer games that kids are used to," said Lynn Ferguson, the district's testing coordinator. "They have to get points to go to the next level."
Finally, the district created an oversight committee to monitor the efforts.
Two of Lancaster County's four high schools -- Buford High and Indian Land High -- made AYP this year.
In its first year under No Child Left Behind, Nation Ford High hit 12 of 12 targets to make AYP.
Fort Mill High improved from last year when it missed one of its 17 targets. The school made AYP this year.
Clover High, the district's only high school, missed AYP by three targets.
York Comprehensive High, the district's only high school, missed AYP by two targets.
All three of Chester County's high schools -- Lewisville, Great Falls and Chester -- made AYP.
Chester High saw the biggest gains. The school hit all 17 of its targets. That's up from last year when it hit only 11 of 17.
For detailed results, go to: ed.sc.gov
Highlight "Topics" in the blue bar. Then click "Testing and Assessment." Click "Test Scores." Then click "AYP Ratings."