State seeks a new 'pause' in school report cards - until 2018

The state Department of Education is seeking another "pause" in the annual "report cards" it gives on the academic performance of public schools. The new pause would mean that Tri-County and other state public schools wouldn't get new report cards until 2018 - three years after the last ratings.

The Department of Education is  seeking the delay to better align its work on school performance with the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind legislation. ESSA gives states more flexibility in meetings academic performance standards.

Charleston County district-wide school scores under the one-year ACT Aspire assessment given in 2015 showed that a majority of students in Grades 3-8 were not "Ready" in Reading (chart above). But the state didn't issue report cards on school performance in 2015, and won't in 2016, either. Report cards for 2017 are now in question as well. Single bar at bottom of chart shows four sample scores - "Exceeding" and "Ready" and "Close" and "In Need of Support." Students needed to score in first two categories to read at grade level.

Charleston County district-wide school scores under the one-year ACT Aspire assessment given in 2015 showed that a majority of students in Grades 3-8 were not "Ready" in Reading (chart above). But the state didn't issue report cards on school performance in 2015, and won't in 2016, either. Report cards for 2017 are now in question as well. Single bar at bottom of chart shows four sample scores - "Exceeding" and "Ready" and "Close" and "In Need of Support." Students needed to score in first two categories to read at grade level.

A second pause in report cards would come at an especially important time for Tri-County public schools, which are trying, but so far not very successfully, to close the historic achievement gaps between the performance of white and black students. The extent of those gaps was underscored by the results of the 2015 ACT Aspire assessment tests given to elementary and middle-school students. The results showed that black students were performing far worse in reading, writing and math than they were under the old, less rigorous PASS assessment system.

Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait on Feb. 22 issued a "brutal facts" report on widespread failures in the system to close minority academic performance gaps. Postlewait said the gaps begin to open up in the early years of education and continue through high school, and pledged widespread reforms to close them.

The  state has developed a new assessment system - SC Ready - to replace ACT Aspire. The SC Ready tests will be given this spring in all state public schools. But it's not yet clear how rigorously the state will grade student performance with SC Ready. How well students do in the assessment test will be a big part of their schools' final report cards - which wouldn't be issued until 2018 under the proposed new "pause." 

TOM GRUBISICH