- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina educators oppose the possibility of rating schools A through F on public report cards, saying the letter grades would label students and discourage economic development in communities that need it the most.

District superintendents, state Department of Education officials, and teachers’ representatives were among opponents speaking out at a subcommittee meeting Monday.

“Failing labels could have a negative impact on students, teachers and the community,” said Kathy Maness, director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association. “Good teachers in F schools will leave. Those are the students who need those good teachers the most.”

State report cards have rated schools “excellent,” ”good,” ”average,” ”below average” or “at risk.”

The letter grades are under consideration as the state’s Education Oversight Committee attempts to craft a new, single education accountability system that’s simple to understand and more informative. It will replace the dual - and often contradictory - state and federal rating systems that have confused parents for years.

In its drafted proposal, the agency responsible for student testing notes that 17 states, including neighboring North Carolina and Georgia, have an A through F grading system because it is “widely understood” by non-educators. The proposal calls for a single rating to sum up schools’ performance on various benchmarks, including testing achievement, graduation rates and student progress; report cards would also break down schools’ scores in each category.

The agency’s board is expected to vote next month on recommendations to send the Legislature.

Opponents contend the letter grades are actually subject to interpretation.

“In some homes, a C is a solid, good, positive score, and in some homes, a C means you’re going to get your phone taken away and you’re going to be on restriction for the next month,” said Sheila Quinn, a deputy superintendent for the Department of Education. “Grades mean something different depending on the values you have for letter grades.”

That agency, as well as a group of district superintendents, recommend instead rating how well schools perform in each category with phrases ranging from “exceeds expectations” to “fails to meet expectations” - without giving a cumulative rating.


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