Education

Chester County school listed among worst performing in SC. Here’s why

A Chester County elementary school is among the worst-performing in the state, according to the South Carolina Department of Education.
A Chester County elementary school is among the worst-performing in the state, according to the South Carolina Department of Education. Getty Images/iStockphoto

A Chester County elementary school is among the worst-performing in the state, according to the South Carolina Department of Education.

Great Falls Elementary School is the only area Title 1 school to be included in the lowest performing 5 percent of all Title 1 schools in the state, according to the state report.

Title 1 schools receive extra federal funds for low-income students.

In Chester County, 78 percent of the district’s students live in poverty, according to South Carolina report cards for 2017-2018 released Nov. 29.

The state identifies Comprehensive Support and Improvement schools every three years. The group includes Title 1 schools that perform in the lowest 5 percent and any high school with a graduation rate of less than 70 percent, according to the department of education. CSI schools were identified based on their overall score on the state report card.

“Great Falls Elementary is a Title 1 school with a weighted-point index at or below the 5th percentile, which qualifies for CSI,” Chester County School District Superintendent Angela Bain said in a prepared statement. “The weighted-point index is calculated based on the school’s overall performance on all accountability indicators.”

CSI schools are given a state transformation coach, a school needs assessment and money for school improvement.

The General Assembly has allocated $23 million to hire coaches and provide funds for the lowest performing 10 percent of schools in the state, said Ryan Brown, spokesperson for the S.C. Department of Education. The department has hired 50 coaches.

How many students a school serves determines the amount of money it will get, Brown said. Schools with 401 to 600 students will receive $225,000 in state and federal funds for school improvement.

Great Falls Elementary had 424 students as of 2017-18, according to the report card.

Schools must submit a funding application and must use the money to implement federal and state-approved strategies to help students academically, according to the state’s education department.

A closer look

Great Falls Elementary School received an overall score of 24 on the state report card and was rated “unsatisfactory.”

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.”

Great Falls received a “below average” rating on academic achievement, which looks at the percent of students in the school who scored “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations” on the SC Ready for English Language Arts and math.

Great Falls Elementary SC ready results.JPG
Amanda Harris Information from South Carolina report cards

Great Falls received an “unsatisfactory” score on student progress, which measures students’ academic growth on standardized tests as compared to the rest of the state.

That metric also forces schools to look at the progress of students in the lowest 20 percent, 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 new report cards.

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

The progress metric also helps account 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.”

Great Falls Elementary scored “average” on student performance that looks at standardized test scores in science and social studies.

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

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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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