2019 State Report Cards
2019 DISTRICT REPORT CARD RATINGS SHOW AIKEN COUNTY WITH THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF EXCELLENT, GOOD, & AVERAGE SCHOOLS AMONG THE STATE’S 10 LARGEST DISTRICTS
The academic gains present in Tuesday’s release of school report card ratings by the South Carolina Department of Education show Aiken County Public Schools are succeeding at record levels as all three instructional levels saw marked improvement. Even more noteworthy is what’s missing from this year’s report card ratings – any Aiken County schools rated as “Unsatisfactory.”
This level of growth in Aiken County Public School District (ACPSD) is made all the more impressive by its timing.
The gains come at a moment when the state has revised performance criteria to more rigorous levels as part of the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This means the difficulty of exceeding year-to-year school performance has increased in an effort to better prepare South Carolina students for the 21st-Century workplace, the college classroom and a global economy.
Report Card Results are Clear: Aiken County Students are Thriving in the Classroom
“There are so many things to celebrate it’s difficult to know where to start,” commented King Laurence, Interim Superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools. “Obviously, we’re thrilled with the significant increases in overall performance ratings. It’s clear evidence that we’re delivering on the promise that in Aiken County there will be no ‘have and have not’ schools. Performance has increased at every single level – elementary, middle and high school – and for the first time in a very long time, we have no schools rated as ‘Unsatisfactory’ in Aiken County.”
State report card ratings from 2018 showed there were seven Aiken County schools rated in the bottom two categories of “Below Average” and “Unsatisfactory.” This year, there are no “Unsatisfactory” schools in the District, and only one school is rated at “Below Average,” missing the “Average” cut point score by just three points. These gains mark a 150-percent improvement year over year.
“This will be so gratifying for our teachers, support staff, students and families to see schools like Oakwood-Windsor Elementary, J.D. Lever Elementary, Redcliffe Elementary, and East Aiken School of the Arts rated as ‘Good’—something that hasn’t happened at these schools over the 15 years we have been monitoring South Carolina Report Card ratings,” Laurence added. “Wagener-Salley High School received its first ‘Good’ rating in 13 years.”
From a statewide perspective, when looking at the 10 largest school districts in the state by enrollment, Aiken County has the highest percentage of schools rated “Excellent,” “Good,” and “Average,” at 97.6 percent, followed by Dorchester Two, Richland Two and Greenville County. According to South Carolina’s school report cards, Aiken County Public Schools also has the lowest cost per pupil expenditure of the 10 largest school districts in the state. Aiken’s cost per pupil is $8,988, followed by Dorchester School District Two at $9,027 and Greenville County School District at $9,239.
Strategic Focus on Middle Instructional Level Paying Dividends
In recent years, a goal of increased academic performance was set for all ACPSD middle schools and report card results for 2019 point to a changing tide in Aiken County middle school performance. Langley Bath Clearwater received its first rating of “Good” in over 15 years, while Aiken Middle – which had been rated at “Below Average” or “Unsatisfactory” every year for a decade – advanced two full performance categories. Schofield Middle school also improved two levels as well.
“One of our strategic priorities has been increasing student achievement at the middle school and ensuring equity in the many programs and offerings available to our middle school students and families,” stated Jeanie Glover, Chief Officer of Instruction for Aiken County Public Schools. “The hard work of our students, teaching staff, building administrators, and curriculum specialists has really paid off with these outstanding results in our middle schools.”
North Augusta Middle and Ridge Spring-Monetta Middle also moved up an entire proficiency category.
Graduation Rate, College and Career Readiness Continue to Improve
The new accountability system associated with ESSA outlines nine ways in which high school students may demonstrate they are either college or career ready. The percentage of Aiken County’s graduating students achieving one of those criteria this year stands at nearly 81 percent (80.8%); the statewide average is 75.2 percent.
“Our graduation rate continues to exceed the state average, but we’re even more proud that Aiken County is exceeding the state average in the percent of students graduating either college or career ready,” commented Interim Superintendent King Laurence.
Additional Report Card Highlights
Looking at the District as a whole, 2019 Report Card results for Aiken County Public Schools show 14 of 38 schools, or nearly 37 percent, increased a performance level. An analysis of report card results by instructional level shows 35 percent of ACPSD elementary schools, 45 percent of middle schools and 28.6 percent of high schools increased an entire performance category.
At the elementary level, Clearwater Elementary advanced its rating two criteria levels – from “Unsatisfactory” to “Average.” Aiken, Greendale, J.D. Lever, Redcliffe, and Oakwood-Windsor Elementary Schools also increased a performance level.
South Aiken High School received an “Excellent” rating this year along with North Augusta High School. Millbrook moved from an “Average” rated school to “Excellent,” joining North Augusta Elementary with this high honor. New Ellenton Middle School was rated “Excellent” for the second consecutive year.
An additional change in the new ESSA accountability model factored into the 2019 report card results is the monitoring of English Language Learners (EL) and progress in meeting English language proficiency goals. In Aiken County, 54.3 percent of English Language Learners achieved their goals this year, exceeding the South Carolina state performance of 49.8 percent.
THE TAKEAWAY: Eighty Percent of ACPSD Schools Show Gains and Improvement in Student Achievement, with ‘Staggering’ results at Elementary and Middle Levels in Math and ELA
“Fourteen of our schools increasing an entire proficiency category is certainly cause for celebration,” commented Kate Olin, Director of Accountability and Assessment for Aiken County Public Schools. “Even more indicative of the hard work of our students, teachers and school leaders is that 68 percent of our schools made overall gains over last year. These types of incremental increases are the hallmark of true continuous improvement — slow and steady really does win the race.”
Report card results show that within the Academic Achievement performance measurement alone, 81.6 percent of ACPSD schools made gains in that specific area comprised of student achievement in English Language Arts and Mathematics. That increases to 90 percent when looking at elementary schools, while all 11 ACPSD middle schools made incremental gains in the Academic Achievement category.
“We have some truly remarkable students and teachers in Aiken County and they are making us proud each and every day,” Olin added. “Especially within the Academic Achievement category, the gains by our schools, particularly at the elementary and middle levels, are staggering.”