Fort Mill schools top SC report cards; others in York County have ‘room to improve’

New state report cards, released by South Carolina’s Department of Education and Education Oversight Committee, show mixed results for this region.

Several York, Chester and Lancaster County schools scored an “excellent” to “average” ranking, while others ranked “below average” or “unsatisfactory.”

All York, Chester and Lancaster County school districts are seeing a higher on-time graduation rate than the rest of South Carolina.

School ratings -- excellent, good, average, below average and unsatisfactory -- are based on a 100-point scale that considers student performance on state and national tests, student progress and graduation rates, according to the South Carolina Department of Education. Points are totaled and ratings are assigned to individual schools based on their standing when compared to other schools in the state.

The top 15 percent of schools are ranked “excellent,” the next 20 percent “good,” the next 35 percent “average,” the next 20 percent “below average” and the lowest 10 percent are ranked “unsatisfactory.”

For more report card data, visit and search by district or school.

Test scores, student engagement, graduation rate and school quality are some of the measures used to give a school its overall rating.

The rating also factors school safety and progress that English learners are making, according to the S.C. Department of Education.

For academic achievement, the report cards look at the percent of students in the district who scored “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations” on the SC Ready for English Language Arts and math:

SC Ready Scores compared by district.JPG
This graph shows the 2017-2018 SC Ready exam results for English Language Arts (ELA) and math for each school district in York, Chester and Lancaster County as compared to South Carolina as a whole. Amanda Harris Information from South Carolina report cards

The cards also include the percent of students in the district who scored a C or higher on the end-of-course exams in English 1 and Algebra 1:

End of course results by district.JPG
This graph shows the 2017-2018 end-of-course exam results for English 1 and algebra 1 for each school district in York, Chester and Lancaster County as compared to South Carolina as a whole. Amanda Harris Information from South Carolina report cards

The report cards also include data on science and social studies scores.

“In general, York County has very strong performances in the academic achievement category,” said Clover school district Superintendent Sheila Quinn.

Quinn is the former deputy state superintendent for innovation and effectiveness at the South Carolina Department of Education and was on a team that helped develop the state’s new accountability model and report cards.

For the first time in four years, the 2018 report cards, released on Nov. 29, include scores for individual schools, but do not rate school districts. The new cards also are the first issued under South Carolina’s new joint system, which combines federal and state accountability measures for public schools.

The state report cards include elements required by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law in 2015. The new cards reflect South Carolina’s ESSA plan, approved by the U.S. Department of Education on May 3, 2018.

Test scores are just part of the equation, Quinn said.

She said parents should consider each aspect on the report card rather than the overall rating.

“When you look at the high school report card in particular you see that there was a strong attempt to look at other things outside of test scores,” Quinn said. “Looking at each individual metric gives a better picture of how schools can use these report cards to get better over time.”

In York County

The Fort Mill school district saw high academic achievement across all schools and is one of the highest academically performing districts in the state.

“Our schools performed very well on the academic indicators,” said Joe Burke, spokesperson for the district. “We’re pleased about that.”

In Rock Hill, Northwestern High School was ranked “good” with a score of 61, while South Pointe and Rock Hill High School ranked “average” (55 and 52 respectively). Rock Hill’s middle schools vary with Rawlinson Road and Sullivan Middle School ranking “unsatisfactory.”

Most of Rock Hill’s elementary schools received an “average” ranking. Richmond Drive Elementary was ranked “excellent.” Finley Road Elementary was ranked “unsatisfactory.”

“In Rock Hill, we recognize there is room to improve, and our school and district teams continue to refine processes and identify opportunities to work with students directly to positively impact scores,” Mychal Frost, spokesman for the Rock Hill school district, said in a prepared statement. “While we are not satisfied with the ratings, we look at this as an opportunity to focus efforts on improving student growth outcomes for students at all ability levels.”

Frost said the district has expanded tutoring programs for students.

Quinn said “unsatisfactory” schools will receive funding and professional development from the state. School leaders will write their own plan based on their specific needs.

York Comprehensive High School scored “average” with a 57 while York Middle School scored 26, or “unsatisfactory.” York’s elementary school ratings range from “average” to “excellent.”

“It is challenging for a state report card to capture the true work that is done to help students grow on a daily basis inside our schools,” said Tim Cooper, spokesman for the York school district.

Clover High School ranked “excellent” with a score of 69. Clover Middle School ranked “average” with a 42 and Oakridge Middle School achieved a score of 53, or “good.” Bethany Elementary in Clover was ranked “below average” while the district’s other elementary schools ranked “good” and “average.”

Chester County

Great Falls High School ranked “average” and Lewisville High School was given an “excellent” score of 68. Chester High School ranked “below average.”

Chester County middle schools ranked “below average” (Lewisville and the Academy for Teaching and Learning) and “unsatisfactory” (Chester Middle and Great Falls Middle).

Chester superintendent Angela Bain said she is concerned the report cards are not an accurate picture.

“For example, two of our schools did not receive points for their Student Engagement survey, and we know they sent those in. Also, in my opinion, this system seems to be conflicting with other systems so we may have some validity issues with the results. There is room for improvement in this current system,” Bain said in a prepared statement.

Bain said Chester County school leadership is working on improving student achievement and growth.

“We are confident with the implementation of these strategies and commitment/support of district and school leaders, teachers, parents, and community, our students will continue to grow and be college and/or career ready,” reads a release from the district.

Lancaster County

Lancaster County’s three high schools all were ranked “good.”

Indian Land Middle achieved an “excellent” score while A.R. Rucker Middle was ranked “good” and the others “average.” Most of Lancaster County’s elementary schools ranked “average” or “good,” with three ranked “below average.”

Lancaster Superintendent Jonathan Phipps said the new report cards can be confusing for parents.

“I’m frustrated that the report cards are not as transparent and user friendly as I was hoping they would be,” Phipps said.

Phipps said, for example, the student progress portion included for middle and elementary schools rewards more points to schools that see growth even if they are still below the state’s average and doesn’t reward many growth points to districts who are already seeing high student achievement.

“That sends a wrong message,” Phipps said.

Frost agreed.

“We saw growth in many of our schools that is not reflected in the student progress metric used in the accountability model. For schools to receive more points in the student growth area of the report card, it was required for schools to perform at a higher level than the overage growth of the state,” he said in a prepared statement.

That metric forces schools to look at the progress of students in the lowest 20 percent, Quinn said.

“All schools should focus on those students,” she said.

The progress metric also helps factor for poverty in a district, Quinn said.

“There is a strong correlation between poverty and test scores,” she said. “This report card tried to mitigate for poverty by making growth an achievement weighted equally.”

In Rock Hill, 60.1 percent of district students live in poverty while 67.3 percent of York students live in poverty, according to the report cards. Fort Mill has the lowest with 21.5 percent of students in poverty, followed by Clover with 36.2 percent.

More than half of Lancaster County students live in poverty and in Chester County, that number is 78 percent.

Some question report cards’ impact

“It is important for families to understand the report card is only part of the story,” Forst said in a statement. “Teachers and support staff across our district, along with community volunteers and district administration, are working collaboratively to improve student achievement while providing a safe and secure learning environment.”

Cooper said the report cards still over-emphasize academic achievement through standardized tests.

“The state’s goal with the new report card is to design a system that uses multiple metrics – not just test scores – to tell a more complete story of how students and schools are performing,” he said. “We believe that the state has succeeded in this goal with the high school report card which includes multiple academic achievement metrics ... and nine different ways a student can demonstrate his/her college and/or career readiness. Unfortunately, the elementary and middle level report cards still place a disproportionate emphasis on academic achievement as measured by standardized test scores.”

The school quality measurement is based solely on a voluntary student engagement survey given to students in grades 3-12 and only awarded points for students who ranked “committed” to school on the survey, Burke said.

Quinn said that measure doesn’t reward schools for students who are engaged in school, but not at the highest rate.

“It’s a goal to get our students to that committed level, but a lot of our very good students are also compliant,” she said.

South Carolina will need to make the report cards clearer, Quinn said.

“Because there are so many metrics on this report card, instead of making it easier we might have made it a little bit harder for parents to understand,” she said. “There are some areas we know we need to focus on to make stronger in this accountability model.”

The report cards also don’t factor in opportunities for students, such as clubs, athletics or the arts, Quinn said.

“All of those things that make school a rich experience for our students,” she said. “We just don’t have a way to measure those.”

Best rated high schools:

  • Fort Mill High School (Fort Mill, York County) - Excellent, 76

  • Nation Ford High School (Fort Mill, York County) - Excellent, 76

  • Clover High School (Clover, York County) - Excellent, 69

  • Lewisville High School (Chester County) - Excellent, 68
  • Northwestern High School (Rock Hill, York County): Good, 61

  • Indian Land High School (Lancaster County): Good, 61

Best rated middle schools:

  • Springfield Middle School (Fort Mill, York County): Excellent, 73

  • Pleasant Knoll Middle School (Fort Mill, York County): Excellent, 65

  • Indian Land Middle School (Lancaster County): Excellent, 62

  • Banks Trail Middle School (Fort Mill, York County): Excellent, 61

  • Fort Mill Middle School (Fort Mill, York County): Excellent, 57

  • Gold Hill Middle School (Fort Mill, York County): Excellent, 56

Best rated elementary schools:

  • Cotton Belt Elementary (York, York County): Excellent, 64

  • Jefferson Elementary (York, York County): Excellent, 64

  • Springfield Elementary (Fort Mill, York County): Excellent, 63

  • Orchard Park Elementary (Fort Mill, York County): Excellent, 62

  • Richmond Drive Elementary (Rock Hill, York County): Excellent, 62

  • Oakridge Elementary (Clover, York County) Good, 60

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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