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District Celebrates Stellar Graduation Rate Following Release of Nonrated 2019-20 School Report Cards

Annual South Carolina state school report cards released today appear considerably different than those of previous years. Given the national migration to remote learning this past spring, schools did not administer many assessments used to monitor progress in student achievement that comprise the South Carolina school accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2016.

Due to the pandemic, the United States Department of Education suspended statewide assessments and accountability ratings and metrics for the 2019-20 school year. These metrics are the foundation of a school’s overall annual rating, so no individual ratings were assigned for 2019-20 school year report cards.

“The 2019-20 school year was unlike any other that our state and nation has faced,” stated State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “With facilities closed due to the novel coronavirus in March our schools were unable to administer many of the accountability measures that are used for the basis of our annual report cards. Instead, these report cards highlight those aspects of our education system such as safety, finance, and classroom environment that are equally important.”

In Aiken County, the school district’s stellar graduation rate of 91.2 percent for the 2019-20 school year continues to be a source of pride.

“Of the few metrics that were reported on the annual report cards, we are particularly pleased that our graduation rate continues to exceed the state average,” commented Aiken County Superintendent King Laurence.

Aiken County’s graduation rate exceeded the state average (82.1%) by nearly 10 percentage points.

“Some of the most important metrics we monitor, particularly those influencing student learning and including indicators of quality in the learning environment such as teacher retention, have improved over last year,” added Superintendent Laurence. “This is a direct result of our continued strategic focus in these areas.” 

Aiken County reported a six-percent increase in the percentage of teachers returning from the previous year over 2019. Additionally, the District has reduced the percentage of long-term teaching vacancies and the percentage of inexperienced teachers teaching core classes.

“The average Aiken County teacher salary also increased nearly five percent to $54,433 from $52,134 the previous year,” stated Superintendent Laurence. “This allows us to continue to attract and retain high quality teachers.”

The U.S. Department of Education does not expect end-of-year testing waivers to be granted this academic school year, although officials with the South Carolina Department of Education have indicated they will file a waiver for end-of-year assessments again this academic year.

“Whether or not a waiver is requested or granted for end-of-year assessments for the 2020-21 school year our approach to instruction and student learning will not change; we will continue to ensure high-quality instruction and content knowledge so our students possess the knowledge and skills to be successful on academic assessments whether they are administered or not,” commented Aiken County Public Schools’ Chief Officer of Instruction, Jeanie Glover.

State assessment results are used extensively to monitor student progress and inform continuous improvement initiatives, according to Kate Olin, Aiken County Public Schools’ Director of Accountability and Assessment.

“Not only do these assessments provide critical information allowing us to monitor the progress of Aiken County’s students in meeting state academic standards, the information also allows us to monitor the performance of our students against their peers throughout the state,” stated Olin. “The granular data these assessments provide help to inform instructional and curricular improvements and are a critical component of our monitoring process to ensure every student is on a trajectory to graduate college and career ready.”

That monitoring process begins the day a student enters Kindergarten and continues through high school graduation.

“We want to ensure they have mastered critical academic standards, are reading and engaging in numeracy at the levels necessary to be successful and that they are truly college and career ready upon graduation,” added Olin. “Thankfully, as part of our balanced assessment system, we have other formative measures we will continue to use until state assessments resume.”

State school report cards may be viewed online by visiting https://screportcards.ed.sc.gov/.

ACPSD Communications Department