It might take a while to get SC re­port card on area schools

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Local - BY BRIS­TOW MARCHANT [email protected]­tate.com

S.C. school of­fi­cials are hope­ful you’ll see this week the first com­pre­hen­sive re­port card for your child’s school in four years. But they still have a lot of work to do.

The re­port cards — which grade the qual­ity of the state’s schools across all 85 school districts — were orig­i­nally sched­uled to be re­leased Nov. 15. But state Su­per­in­ten­dent Molly Spear­man post­poned the re­lease be­cause of “er­rors in crit­i­cal data files” that left the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment un­able to com­plete the school rank­ings.

Spear­man ten­ta­tively resched­uled the re­lease for this Thurs­day, Nov. 29, but as state em­ploy­ees worked through the week of Thanks­giv­ing to get the re­port cards ready, even that date seemed in doubt.

S.C. Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment spokesman Ryan Brown said al­most all of the 11 mil­lion data points are ready, but cited prob­lems with the files sent by ven­dor Ad­vancED that have left of­fi­cials scram­bling to get the re­port cards done.

A stu­dent en­gage­ment sur­vey was ad­min­is­tered by Ad­vancED to stu­dents in grades 3 through 12 to get their feed­back about the qual­ity of their own schools, Brown said. That in­for­ma­tion is crit­i­cal to how of­fi­cials judge the suc­cess of a school.

“It’s worth 10 points, so it’s one-tenth of a school’s rank­ing,” Brown said.

The sur­vey is part of a re­vamped sys­tem South Carolina is launch­ing for the first time this year, as­sign­ing a score of 0 to 100 to ev­ery school in the state, as well as over­all rat­ings of Ex­cel­lent, Good, Av­er­age, Be­low Av­er­age or Un­sat­is­fac­tory.

When mul­ti­ple files sent from the ven­dor with the sur­vey re­sults were deemed un­us­able by the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment, of­fi­cials ac- quired the raw sur­vey data from the com­pany and went about com­pil­ing the re­sults them­selves.

Ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment staff were work­ing with the data this week get the re­port cards out on time — with one big ex­cep­tion.

“The su­per­in­ten­dent wants them to go see their fam­i­lies on Thanks­giv­ing,” Brown said.

Spear­man said she did not make the de­ci­sion lightly to push back the re­lease, but said par­ents “de­serve to have re­li­able and ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion” about their chil­dren’s schools.

“These in­ac­cu­ra­cies can­not be reme­died in time for the sched­uled re­lease and those at fault will be held re­spon­si­ble,” the su­per­in­ten­dent said in a state­ment.

In a state­ment, Ad­vancED said its re­sults

were “in­ac­cu­rate due to a num­ber of fac­tors re­lated to the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the sur­vey by districts and the scor­ing process fa­cil­i­tated by Ad­vancED.”

“We apol­o­gize for the er­rors, ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity and have ini­ti­ated steps to en­sure that it does not hap­pen again,” said CEO Mark El­gart.

TOWN IN WA­TER DIS­PUTE GETS TRANS­PAR­ENT, LIT­ER­ALLY

Govern­ment agen­cies of­ten are crit­i­cized for clos­ing meet­ings so the pub­lic won’t hear what they have to say.

But in the town of Den- mark, lo­cal of­fi­cials were a bit more trans­par­ent this week.

The town coun­cil met in closed ses­sion be­hind a glass door dur­ing Mon­day’s coun­cil meet­ing.

So while folks gath­ered in coun­cil cham­bers for the meet­ing couldn’t hear what coun­cil mem­bers were say­ing, they could see ev­ery­thing that was oc­cur­ring in the pri­vate ses­sion.

Seen through the glass door were at­tor­neys dis­cussing a le­gal mat­ter about the town’s wa­ter sys­tem.

The town has been sued not once but twice by res­i­dents upset with the use of a chem­i­cal in the town’s drink­ing wa­ter, pre­vi­ously un­known by many of Den­mark’s res­i­dents.

For 10 years, the town had used HaloSan — a ma­te­rial more com­monly used to dis­in­fect hot tubs — in drink­ing wa­ter to kill bac­te­ria that causes red stains in the wa­ter, The State’s Sammy Fretwell re­ports. But that use of the chem­i­cal has not been ap­proved by fed­eral reg­u­la­tors, amid con­cerns the chem­i­cal can cause ir­ri­ta­tion to skin and eyes if not used prop­erly.

It’s un­clear if any of the town’s 3,000 res­i­dents have been made ill from HaloSan in Den­mark’s wa­ter sup­ply.

Sammy Fretwell con­trib­uted.

SETH PERL­MAN AP

SC ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials still plan to get school re­port cards out this week. But Su­per­in­ten­dent Molly Spear­man’s of­fice says the de­part­ment is still work­ing on a stu­dent sur­vey be­fore kids can get school grades.

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