Majority of S.C. schools miss targets

COLUMBIA -- Four out of five of South Carolina's schools did not meet 2008 targets under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Eighty-two percent of elementary and middle schools failed to meet the federal objective known as "adequate yearly progress" or AYP.

As a result, thousands of students will have the opportunity to transfer to another school.

The reason for the poor showing -- the federal government moved up by more than 50 percent test score targets for elementary and middle schools.

This year, for the first time, nearly 59 percent of the state's third- through eighth-graders had to score "proficient" on the English portion of the PACT test. That's up from 38 percent last year.

On the math portion of PACT, nearly 58 percent of students had to score proficient, up from nearly 37 percent last year.

"Proficient" means a student is well-prepared to go on to the next grade and is exceeding grade-level standards, according to state education leaders.

State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex predicts parents will be confused because AYP results went down this year while PACT scores improved.

"While schools are improving (according to PACT scores) they're not improving rapidly enough to keep up with this bar that No Child Left Behind has put in place," Rex explained at a Wednesday news conference.

The AYP bar will continue to rise incrementally with the goal of all students scoring proficient by 2014.

Because of the state's AYP results:

nSeventy elementary and middle schools will allow students to transfer to another school within their districts starting in the next few weeks. Parents will be notified by letter. That's in addition to nearly 190 schools already required to offer transfers.

nOverall, 257 schools are facing sanctions ranging from offering transfers and after-school tutoring to intervention by the state Department of Education to restructure the school.

AYP has long been criticized by educators around the nation because of its "all or nothing" approach.

Phil Clark, president of the state PTA, said the AYP results are proof No Child Left Behind must be reformed.

Specifically, Clark would like to see one standardized test all 50 states use in determining AYP. Currently, each state develops its own test.

"Right now, we're not comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges," he said.