The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) has released school, district, and state report cards reflective of the 2020-2021 school year. The 2021 report cards include results from state assessments administered in Spring 2021, the first administration of state assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The state assessment results reflected on the 2021 report cards confirm the alarming trends we have observed from locally administered formative assessments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “These achievement gaps, particularly amongst our youngest learners, demonstrate just how much learning has been disrupted and how important it is for every student to be face to face with their teacher every day. Fortunately, every school and district has been equipped with the tools to track and respond to unfinished learning long before the release of these results and have already begun to deploy resources and programs to address individual student needs and overall academic achievement.”
The 2021 report cards incorporate South Carolina’s 2021 state assessment results including the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (SCPASS) and the South Carolina College-and Career-Ready (SC READY) examinations given in the elementary and middle school grade levels, the End-of-Course Examination Program (EOCEP) given at the high school level, the Ready to Work (R2W) career readiness assessment administered to 11th-grade students, and ACCESS for ELLs, an assessment of English language proficiency for grades K-12.
South Carolina saw a decline in overall state assessment participation rates when compared to 2018-2019, the last year state assessments were administered. The result of this decline is reflective of the United States Department of Education’s granting of flexibility in administering assessments and waiving federal accountability requirements. While the South Carolina Department of Education encouraged all students to participate in state testing, a family who determined it was unsafe to attend school for the sole purpose of taking a test was not penalized.
Due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on school operations and instruction during the 2020-2021 school year and adjusted requirements from the United States Department of Education, the descriptive overall ratings of Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, and Unsatisfactory that are assigned to schools, as well as individual report card indicators, do not appear on the 2021 report cards.
However, key information about graduation rates, teacher and administrator salaries and retention, and other financial and classroom details that play important parts in ensuring that a school is a safe environment that fosters learning for all students is still available. The SCDE cautions against comparing this year’s assessment results to those from previous years as testing limitations and incomplete data have led to some results not being representative of the make-up of the state, districts, or individual school populations. The South Carolina Department of Education hopes that parents, communities, and school leaders will use these report cards as a tool to engage in important conversations about the previous year’s challenges and the work that must be done collectively to ensure students complete unfinished learning and arise out of the pandemic stronger than before.
“While these sharp declines in student achievement will be discouraging to many, for our educators this makes them more determined than ever to restore what our students are capable of when in the classroom full time,” said David Mathis, SCDE’s Deputy Superintendent of College and Career Readiness. “Preliminary data prepared us for what was coming, and thanks to federal funds, our districts will now have access to resources unlike ever before that we believe will help produce historic achievement for our students. Districts developed Academic Recovery Plans after carefully analyzing assessment results and have actionable goals and strategies in place designed to increase student achievement.”
South Carolina has received a total of $3.3 billion in COVID-19 relief funding and recently had its American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
One key focus of the plan is addressing the academic impact of lost instructional time. The SCDE is currently working with partners to provide high dosage tutoring to students, identified through data, who have been impacted by COVID-19.
A second key is focusing on early learning. The SCDE will provide literacy training and instructional materials to schools where 33% or more of third-grade students scored in the lowest performance level on state summative reading or language arts assessments. The training and materials must meet evidence-based criteria in the science of reading.
“Our students perform at their best when they are face-to-face inside the classroom with their teacher,” said Superintendent Spearman. “We believe these results are an anomaly and we can best change that by ensuring every school remains open and is a safe environment for our students to learn and our teachers to educate them.”
To view the complete state assessment results and report cards from 2020-2021, please visit SCReportCards.com.