Education officials: Report cards raise concern

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — School and school district report cards are out, and only one district of more than 80 statewide received an excellent overall rating. Not a single district received a good rating. Education leaders are connecting those results to the state's tough economic conditions.

South Carolina elementary and middle schools are getting higher ratings. But ratings for school districts and exit exam scores are losing ground.

Top educators say the recession and state funding cutbacks might be leaving their mark on the state's public schools.

"In fact, 72 percent of our schools have increases in their poverty rates," said Dr. Jo Anne Anderson of SC Education Oversight. "So you have a whole new set of families that are experiencing particular stress economically that they might not have a year ago."

Dr. Anderson says that might be especially true in high schools, where graduation rates are starting to slide.

"We believe that some of the budget cuts have impacted the safety net programs that worked with dropouts," said Anderson. "We think that as more and more families are under stress that there may in fact be pressure upon young people to get out and work."

State Superintendent Dr. Jim Rex says budget cuts have a direct effect on teacher morale and student performance.

"Even good teachers are much less likely to succeed with each child if the size of their class is increased, so the cutting back in funding is having that impact in a lot of our schools. We'll have more so next year," said Rex. "We also know that by freezing teacher salaries, by furloughing them without pay that we're losing some of our better teachers and we're also not attracting some of the teachers into the teaching profession we want."

Some of the report card findings can be confusing. You have to know, for instance, that the indexes used to rate elementary and middle schools are different now than they were the previous year, and districts are judged by different standards.
But educators agree the economy is taking a toll on school and student performance, and they're aware that state funding cuts are not likely to be restored any time soon.

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