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School, district letter grades released

First Byline: 
Sean Gruber, Staff Writer

Both Hampton school districts met with South Carolina's educational goals overall but several schools in the county are struggling to meet standards, according to letter grades released by South Carolina Sate Board of Education.

The grades, based on standards created by the federal guideline in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in order to see if schools were meeting South Carolina education standards on an annual basis and to inform the public about their children's education.

"Letter grades inform students, parents, schools, policy makers, the media, and the public how schools are performing in a clear and easily understood system," State Superintendent of education Mick Zais said in a press release. "Students have received letter grades on their report cards for decades; schools and school districts should be held to the same level of accountability and transparency."

Hampton School District 1 met overall standards overall with a passing grade of 77.4. Students district wide met Language Arts and Math standards but did not meet standards for social studies or science.

Some individual schools in the district scored highly in the reports. Bronson Elementary and Ben Hazel Primary Schools both scored in the 80s out the 100 point scale the report uses, meeting standards across the board in Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. North District Middle School scored a 90.1, "exceeding the state's expectations" according to the grading rubric.

Wade Hampton High School dropped from a having a high grade last year to a D, scoring 60.3. The High School met standards in Math and Language Arts but lagged in Social Studies and Science.

Hampton School District 2 also met overall standards in their district, passing with a score of 74.1.  This is an almost 50 point improvement from their scores last year, where they had an F.

Scores for individual schools were just as mixed as the District 1 results. Estill Elementary scored 92.5 on the grading scale, exceeding standards in all subjects and shooting far beyond the schools F rating last year. But Estill Middle School and Estill High School still scored low on the scale. Estill Middle was given a D letter grade, scoring a 65.1. Estill High received an F, scoring 56.4. Both schools did not meet state standards for many subjects, including Math and Language Arts, but scores did improve for both the schools acorss the board.  

Representatives from both districts and school board organizations say to not despair, parents and community residents. They feel the methodology of the tests and the "all or nothing standards" of the AYP reports lead to distorted results.

"The grades assigned to schools and districts do not reliably reflect the performance of individual students or how a school is performing. The wide swings in schools going from an A to an F or from an F to an A in one year is enough to indicate the volatility of the method the State Department of Education uses to calculate the grades," Paul Krohne, executive director of the South Carolina School Boards Association said. "But, when you add the fact that student test scores have increased statewide, yet grades fell for half of the state's school districts and more than one fourth of schools, is clear evidence of the weakness of their methodology."

Hampton School District 1 Superintendent Doug McTeer agreed, blaming the sudden drop in score for Wade Hampton High on the fact the report was using outdated graduation results.

"We aren't too excited or to despondent when these results come out. The scores and standards change radically from year to year," McTeer said. "When we missed the deadline for sending in graduation results, we lost thirty percent off our score."

McTeer said the school district was always ready to work for the betterment of their student's future.

"We go school by school, working with administrators to set goals and create new strategies," McTeer said. "It's an extensive planning process. We have areas that we excel at and things we could do better. We're always trying to improve."

Hampton School District 2 Superintendent Beverly Gurley is not as suscpicious of her district's scores.

"I've always said that our school was not an F district," Gurley said.  "And here's the proof.  Look at how far we've come in just a year.  That wil only continue."   

According to a press release issued by the State Board of Education, 77 percent of school districts and 76 percent of schools met the State's expectation during the 2012-2013 school year.