Senate to study bill that replaces PACT

The Senate's Education Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would do away with PACT.

The measure will head to the full Senate, but there's a snag. State Sen. Greg Ryberg requested that his objections to the bill be noted when it is scheduled for a vote.

Educators have criticized the state's use of Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests, saying the results take too long to report and teachers aren't able to analyze content in which students are struggling. An update:

What is the status of legislation that would change the state's annual standardized testing system for elementary and middle school students?

It has been approved by the House and is scheduled to be debated by the full Senate.

What are Ryberg's concerns?

The Aiken Republican thinks some of the major changes proposed could be more easily handled administratively by the state's two public education agencies.

Jim Rex, the state superintendent of education, said his legal advisers say that approach is impractical and lacks clout. "If we don't change it through statute, the odds of changing it are slim and none," Rex said.

Will a school that is failing to meet academic goals still be identified as "unsatisfactory?"

Yes. Lobbying by Rex and his allies to change that term to "priority" has yet to gain traction, although some lawmakers have signaled they might substitute another word when the bill hits the Senate floor for debate. Rex says "unsatisfactory" is widely viewed by educators and local community leaders as creating a difficult-to-shake stigma for schools that struggle to meet goals.

What are some of the key major changes in the offing?

Parents would get a two-page summary of the annual report card from their child's school instead of an eight-page edition that has been produced the past several years. Parents who want an expanded version can request it. Rating terms "advanced," "proficient," "basic" and "below basic" would be scrapped and replaced with: "exemplary," "met," and "not met." To meet federal goals, a school would have to be rated either "met" or "exemplary."

What is Rex's assessment of the version making its way through the Legislature?

Rex said he hopes the Legislature will pass a law that streamlines the state's end-of-year testing system, makes it easier for the public to understand and provides schools with more diagnostic testing tools throughout the school year. The new approach would put less emphasis on essay and short answers and replace them with a multiple-choice test called the Elementary and Middle School Assessment Program that would give teachers feedback in a matter of days instead of months.