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