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Area schools vary on progress

No South Carolina school districts, including those in York and Chester counties, met Adequate Yearly Progress standards this year, according to results released Tuesday.

The federal standards require schools and districts to meet milestones for achievement each year. AYP is determined primarily by the percentage of students scoring "proficient" on state tests.

Research suggests that South Carolina's tests are among the toughest in the nation. State Superintendent Jim Rex has criticized AYP for rewarding states that set the standard for proficiency low.

The number of students required to score proficient will drastically increase next year.

"Whether this system is flawed or not, whether the expectations are realistic or not, we're still not making the kind of progress we need to be making," Rex said.

Some local districts did well this year, while others will face sanctions for consistently falling short of "adequate progress." Here's a breakdown of how local districts fared:

Rock Hill

Six of Rock Hill's 22 schools met AYP, two fewer than last year. Those schools are Belleview, Ebenezer Avenue, Ebinport, Oakdale, Richmond Drive and Rosewood elementary schools.

Because the district as a whole did not make AYP for the fourth year in a row, it will be required to take corrective action at the direction of the state.

"These are certainly not the scores we would have liked to have had," said Harriet Jaworowski, associate superintendent for instruction and accountability. "But I can tell you ... there are many things we've already put in place to address the needs of these subgroup populations."

Jaworowski cited curriculum mapping -- planning what will be taught, and when, in each subject and across grade levels -- as a key to making improvements.

Two Title I schools will face sanctions for not making AYP this year.

Sunset Park Elementary will begin offering extra instruction outside of class time, in addition to transfers. Sunset Park is unique because it is a school of choice, which means parents made the decision to send their children there.

Independence Elementary also must allow students the option to transfer.

Fort Mill

In Fort Mill, where test scores are among the highest in the state and rank with national figures, five schools met AYP.

Four did not-- Fort Mill Middle and High schools and Springfield Elementary and Middle schools. The result prompted a school official to question whether the test gives an accurate picture.

"Fort Mill High School is a National Blue Ribbon School, and it did not make AYP," district spokesman Bob Ormseth said. "What does that say about this law?"

The high school only missed the AYP benchmark in one category: Percent of students graduating on schedule. The three-year average at Fort Mill High is 88.2 percent. In 2007, 84 percent of those students graduated.

Ninety percent or more of Fort Mill's students generally score at or above standard on standardized tests, Ormseth points out.

"Our overall improvement was up," he said. "If you have to raise that by, say, 4 percent, what are the chances that 99 percent of the students will make that? A score can be off just because a student had a bad day."

At Springfield Elementary, special education students missed the new benchmark in English/Language Arts by .9 of 1 percent. At Springfield Middle, students on assisted lunch missed the ELA benchmark by .3 of 1 percent. The school met standards in all other categories.

At Fort Mill Middle, Ormseth said students on assisted lunch missed the ELA benchmark by 5.1 percent. Special education students missed the math benchmark by 11.5 percent and ELA by 23.5 percent.

Special education students formerly were allowed to take an alternate test, but that was eliminated in recent years.

"You're expecting a student who is disabled to score on a par with an average or above student," Ormseth said. "How can you make a child who performs on a third-grade level take an upper level test and tell him he failed?"

York

York Comprehensive was the only high school in the county to meet AYP.

The results are encouraging, particularly given that the school has a 61 percent poverty rate, said Principal Diane Howell.

"A lot of people will tell you, you just can't do it with poverty, but our kids are performing well," she said. "We did it."

The graduation rate kept the high school from meeting the standard last year. This year, the rate increased from 78.6 percent to 82 percent.

There was also progress made in black male scores, Howell said.

Across the district, compliance index scores improved, although as a whole, the district didn't meet the AYP standards.

The three out of seven schools that didn't meet the standards were Harold C. Johnson Middle School, Hunter Street Elementary and York Junior High.

The district has several literacy initiatives that should help improve scores in the future, Superintendent Russell Booker said.

"If we can get our English/language arts scores to where our math scores are, I think we're going to be in really good shape," he said.

Clover

In Clover, three of nine schools didn't meet the standard: Clover High, Clover Junior High and Clover Middle School.

"In some areas, I'm very pleased, and in some areas, I've got a lot of questions that we're going to be taking a look at in the school district," said Marc Sosne, Clover superintendent.

The school that fared most poorly was Clover Junior High. It missed six of 21 objectives.

"I've got a lot of questions about why they didn't do as well as the other schools," Sosne said.

Part of the reason could have been a fairly high faculty turnover rate last year, he said.

Chester

Great Falls High School was the only Chester County school to meet AYP this year.

Principal Corey Murphy said the school celebrated its success for about 15 minutes, then looked at how it can continue to make progress.

"We're happy that we made AYP," he said. "But, then again, we know that we have a long way to go in order to turn our report card rating around."

Three of the county's five elementary schools --Lewisville, the Chester Park School of Inquiry and the Chester Park School of Literacy through Technology -- failed to meet AYP marks for the second consecutive year, opening the school choice door for those students.

Great Falls Elementary failed to meet AYP for the fourth consecutive year, meaning the district must take corrective action in addition to offering school choice.

District officials could not be reached for comment.

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