High school grad rates up for ninth consecutive year

BCSD Report Card ratings improve
Posted on 10/01/2019
students at computers

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Report Card ratings improve; high school
grad rates up for ninth consecutive year

BEAUFORT – Improved student academic performance in Beaufort County led to significant gains in state School Report Card ratings released today by the South Carolina Department of Education.

The Beaufort County School District’s on-time high school graduation rate improved for a ninth consecutive year in 2019 to reach an all-time high.  The graduation rate – the percentage of students who complete high school “on time” and earn a diploma in four years – improved to 86.9 percent, up from 86 percent in 2018 and up from 78.7 in 2015.  South Carolina’s statewide graduation rate for 2019 was 81.1 percent, up from 81 percent in 2018. 

The percentage of district schools rated Excellent, Good or Average improved from 70 percent in 2018 to 88 percent in 2019.  Looking at individual rating categories:

  • Five district schools were rated Excellent, up from three last year.

  • Fifteen schools were rated Good, up from nine last year.

  • Ten schools were rated Average, down from 12 last year.

  • Four schools were rated Below Average, half as many as last year’s eight.

  • No schools were rated Unsatisfactory, an improvement from two last year.

A key report card metric found that 86 percent of Beaufort County high school seniors were “College- or Career-Ready,” reflecting whether they are prepared for college or careers after graduation.  That represented an improvement over last year’s 78.4 percent.  The statewide “Ready” percentage for 2019 was 75.3 percent, up from 69.8 percent last year.

“We’re not where we want to be,” said Superintendent Frank Rodriguez.  “We want all of our schools to be rated Good or Excellent.  But that being said, these are significant improvements, and we’re very proud of our students, their teachers and all of our employees.

“Our challenge is to continue these improvements and continue to focus on the needs of all of our students.”

South Carolina’s state-issued report cards, which were redesigned last year, rate schools across a broad range of categories.  The report cards are the result of a federal education law called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires every state to have challenging academic standards that specify the knowledge and skills it expects students to achieve.  States also are required to administer annual tests aligned with their new standards and to develop school report cards.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said she hoped parents and communities would use the Report Card results “to engage in important conversations about the previous year’s successes and challenges.”

In addition to Report Card ratings, the South Carolina Department of Education today released overview data on several specific state-administered assessments:

  • SC READY, SC PASS – Beaufort County students in grades 3-8 improved their performance – increased the percentages of students meeting or exceeding state standards – on two key statewide assessments.  In 2019 SC READY testing, Beaufort County students improved their performance over the previous year in five of six grades tested in mathematics and in all six grades tested in English Language Arts.  In 2019 SC PASS, district students’ performance on science tests improved in all three grade levels tested and decreased in social studies on both grade levels tested.

  • Ready to Work (R2W) exams – South Carolina requires all 11th-graders to take exams each spring that let them earn qualifying scores for “portable” certificates that students can use to qualify for good-paying jobs anywhere in the nation.  More than 51,000 South Carolina 11th-graders – and 1,565 11th-graders in the Beaufort County School District – took 2019 R2W exams to qualify for Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum certificates.  In Beaufort County, 63.5 percent of 11th-graders earned Silver or higher (compared to 63.7 percent statewide), indicating they already have the skills necessary for two-thirds of profiled jobs; 10.9 percent scored Gold (compared to 10.1 percent statewide), indicating they are already equipped with the skills for 90 percent of jobs; and 2.5 percent scored at the Platinum level (compared to 3.0 percent statewide), indicating they are ready for virtually any job in the workforce.

  • End-of-Course exams – South Carolina students’ scores on high school end-of-course exams count for 20 percent of final grades in Algebra 1, English 1, Biology and U.S. History and Constitution.  The percentage of Beaufort County School District students scoring C or above increased on two exams (Algebra and Biology) and decreased on two exams (English 1 and U.S. History and Constitution).  Beaufort County School District percentages of students scoring C or above were higher than state averages on all four exams:  Algebra – 55.7 percent for Beaufort County compared to 43.5 percent for the state as a whole; Biology – 54.5 percent compared to 47 percent; English 1 – 62.3 percent compared to 59.2 percent; and U.S. History and Constitution – 48.5 percent compared to 47.1 percent. 

Another aspect of the state-issued report cards focused on parents’ and teachers’ perceptions of school safety as revealed in their responses to surveys.  For Beaufort County:

  • 87.6 percent of parents said their children feel safe at school.

  • 69.4 percent of parents said their children’s teachers and school staff prevent or stop bullying at school.

  • 73.5 percent of teachers said that rules for behavior were enforced at their schools.

  • 95.8 percent of teachers said they felt safe at school before and after normal school hours.

Editor’s Note:  School-specific data can be found at screportcards.com.