S.C. House bill would send PACT to the scrap heap

The current end-of-the-year state test taken yearly by third- through eighth-graders would be replaced by an exam that gives teachers more detailed and timely information under legislation to be introduced this week.

Teachers and administrators have long criticized the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, saying the results don't come in until after the school year ends, and no details are given on which subject areas students struggle or excel.

Yet, the high-stakes test is key to school and district ratings under state and federal accountability laws.

House Education Chairman Bob Walker said Tuesday that his proposal would replace the PACT, taken yearly since 1999, with another test beginning in 2010.

The Republican's proposal also would revamp state report cards to make them less confusing, he said.

State Education Superintendent Jim Rex and House leaders say the bill is about improving the state's accountability system and will not change the education standards, which repeatedly rank among the nation's toughest.

The local view

The proposal would help teachers understand where students need to improve and also would give schools more credit for showing improvement, said Harriet Jaworowski, associate superintendent for instruction and accountability in the Rock Hill school district. She served on Rex's accountability task force.

"South Carolina was a leader in this accountability piece before No Child Left Behind," she said. "We had such ambitious and high standards before the federal law, that when the federal law was laid on top of that, this really became something that was not necessarily going to promote true student achievement. It only serves to label schools and districts."

She added: "I think it's time to reconsider the Education Accountability Act, and if we're going to continue to have No Child Left Behind, they have to work together a little better. This is a step in that direction."