South Carolina officials: More work needed on school grades

October 12, 2023

Dr. Oran Smith is quoted in this article from The Center Square by T.A. DeFeo.

(The Center Square) — While about a quarter of South Carolina schools received an excellent grade in a new analysis, officials say more work is needed to ensure students are prepared for their next moves in life.

Statewide, state officials said 22.5% of schools received an excellent in the 2023 SC School Report Cards, released by the South Carolina Department of Education and the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee. It marks a nearly 2% increase from a year ago.

About a third of schools (35.6%) received an average grade, up from 33.8% in 2019, while fewer than one in five (17.3%) received a below average or unsatisfactory grade, down from 19.4% in 2019.

“Looking forward, we must redouble our efforts to support early literacy using the Science of Reading, a strategy that we already see showing strong promise in SC’s ELA scores,” State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver said in an announcement.

“We must also focus the same attention on boosting effective math materials and instruction,” Weaver added. “Our students will never get a second chance at their education, and our urgent priority must be equipping them with the foundational skills they need for success in school and life.”

State officials also noted a “disconnect” between the state’s high school graduation rate (84%) and data showing less than a third of students in last year’s graduating class (29%) were ready for college or a career.

A senior fellow at a leading state public policy organization said the results showed uneven progress across South Carolina.

“Progress is uneven. Some schools are performing better, others are not,” Oran P. Smith, a senior fellow at the Palmetto Promise Institute, told The Center Square via email. “But the key metric is whether students are being prepared for what the Education Oversight Committee has called ‘what comes after.’

“Only 29% of students last year were ready for higher education or a career,” Smith added. “To turn this around, Palmetto Promise believes in providing a wider array of education options for parents and adopting proven literacy and math teaching strategies. Those reforms, among others, will go a long way toward closing this dangerous readiness gap.”