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State Department of Education Releases First State Report Cards Utilizing More Stringent Federal Academic Performance Criteria

Thursday’s release by the South Carolina Department of Education of inaugural state school report cards associated with increased academic expectations set by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 shows 17 Aiken County Public Schools as earning ratings of Excellent or Good based upon the new enhanced academic performance criteria.

Groups of stakeholders have worked with the Education Oversight Committee for the past three years to develop accelerated expectations and a new format for the release of the 2018 Projected Absolute Ratings, which are designed to give South Carolinians, and those who move into our state, a glimpse into how schools are performing in key areas. Some of these areas are rated and others are reported as information.

The 2018 SC School Report Cards provide ratings for individual schools, not school districts. The following indicators influence school ratings in elementary and middle schools: Academic Achievement, Student Progress (Growth), Preparing for Success, English Learners’ Proficiency, and School Quality. High Schools are not rated on the Student Progress (Growth) metric but are measured on Graduation Rate and College and Career Readiness. The following indicators are reported but do not impact school ratings: Classroom Environment, Student Safety, and Financial Information. The Academic Achievement metric is weighted heavily in the new model and is based on overall student performance in math and English Language Arts.

Unlike prior year’s reports, the 2018 SC School Report Cards address student proficiency regarding academics as well as individual student growth from year to year.

“What was once considered excellent academic performance in 2014 does not meet that same level or performance criteria in 2018, and these ratings certainly reflect those increased performance expectations across our state,” stated Aiken County Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford.

The 2018 SC School Report Cards rate schools by the following five-point performance scale: Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, and Unsatisfactory. Approximately 15% of schools in each level across the state (elementary, middle and high) are able to be rated Excellent. As an example of increased performance expectations, there are over 650 elementary schools in South Carolina. Under the new model, 99 schools are rated Excellent compared to 224 schools in 2014, representing a 55% decrease. 

Aiken County Public Schools earning a rating of Excellent include Chukker Creek Elementary School, North Augusta Elementary School, New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School, and North Augusta High School. Chukker Creek and North Augusta Elementary schools maintained their Excellent rating from 2014. North Augusta High School raised its score from a 2014 grade of Good to 2018’s Excellent, largely due to the collaborative efforts of teachers and students, increased learning expectations and student achievement in Advanced Placement coursework through their Academy in partnership with the National Math + Science Initiative. The greatest noted Excellent rating, however, belongs to New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School. The partial-magnet, accepting students from both an attendance zone and through student choice application, is on an upward trajectory with ratings soaring from a 2014 grade of Average, to this year’s Excellent rating, despite a significant increase in expectations from federal guidelines. 

According to the 2018 SC School Report Cards rating system, only approximately 35% of South Carolina schools, at each grade level are rated Excellent or Good. Nearly 53% of elementary schools, 37.9% of middle schools, and 70.1% of high schools throughout the state earned those highest marks by 2014 standards. Additionally, approximately 30% of South Carolina schools at each grade level are rated Below Average or Unsatisfactory.  In 2014, only 11% of elementary schools, 19.2% of middle schools, and 10.7% of high schools in South Carolina received the lowest ratings. 

2018 report cards graph

“It used to take 100-yards to make a touchdown,” Melanie Barton, Executive Director for the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, told Aiken County school board members at their November 27 meeting where she presented on the heightened expectations. “We’ve moved the goal line,” she stated, without apology, noting the states that outperform South Carolina in national ranking and the fact that 60% of the jobs in South Carolina will require a post-secondary degree or certificate.

“The Report Card data should be used as tools to help schools, administrators, parents, and the community to do all that we can do to help students,” she continued as she described the expectations as “aspirations” and the ratings as a “benchmark.” 

For the first time, success of non-English speaking students is being calculated in South Carolina’s report, and the growth year-to-year of the lowest performing students in a school is measured as well.



Elementary schools in Aiken County earned the following ratings according to the 2018 SC School Report Cards: Aiken Elementary (Average); Belvedere Elementary (Good); Busbee Elementary (Average); Byrd Elementary (Average); Chukker Creek Elementary (Excellent); Clearwater Elementary (Unsatisfactory); East Aiken School of the Arts (Below Average); Gloverville Elementary (Good); Greendale Elementary (Below Average); Hammond Hill Elementary (Good); J.D. Lever Elementary (Average); Jefferson Elementary (Good); Millbrook Elementary (Average); Mossy Creek Elementary (Good); North Aiken Elementary (Good); North Augusta Elementary (Excellent); Oakwood-Windsor Elementary (Average); Redcliffe Elementary (Average); Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary (Good); and Warrenville Elementary (Average).

Dr. Sean Alford, Superintendent, commented, “Our school-based leadership teams understand where we truly are and need to be as an organization and as a state.  This understanding facilitates a greater level of commitment, involvement and dedication among educators, parents, students, and those not already formally connected with our public schools. Educating our children in South Carolina cannot be the job of teachers alone.”

“It’s also exciting to see a number of our schools already meeting the new heightened academic expectations, and many others that have been able to show improvement and increase their overall performance ratings, despite heighted expectations,” he added. “North Aiken Elementary School, for example, was rated Below Average in 2014. Through rigorous professional learning opportunities and a collaborative commitment to success, I couldn’t be more proud of the school’s rating of Good today and the very hard work that’s evident in this new ranking.” 

Other highlights at the elementary level include improved ratings for Gloverville, Jefferson, Mossy Creek and Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary Schools.



In addition to the impressive improved rating for New Ellenton STEAM Magnet, A.L. Corbett Middle earned an overall Good rating, a significant improvement from a 2014 Below Average grade. Also on the upward trend is Paul Knox Middle School.

Aiken County Middle Schools earned the following ratings: Aiken Middle (Unsatisfactory); A.L. Corbett Middle (Good); Jackson STEM Middle (Average); Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle (Average); Leavelle McCampbell (Average); Kennedy Middle (Average); New Ellenton STEAM Middle (Excellent); North Augusta Middle (Below Average); Paul Knox Middle (Good); Ridge Spring-Monetta Middle (Below Average); and Schofield Middle (Below Average).



High schools in Aiken County earned the following ratings: Aiken High (Good); Midland Valley High (Good); North Augusta High (Excellent); Ridge Spring-Monetta High (Average); Silver Bluff High (Good); South Aiken High (Good); and Wagener-Salley High (Average).

“We’ve taken great steps over the past several years to prepare for this new report card with heightened expectations,” Jeanie Glover, Chief Instructional Officer commented. “There’s a higher bar now, there’s no doubt about that. Because we have increased rigor in our classrooms and expectations across the board, I’m encouraged to see many of our schools and students already reaching that higher bar. Others will clear the bar, too, but it will certainly take all of us working together to do that – One Team.”

Report Card data for each school is available online at, and is linked on our District website,





ACPSD Communications Department