COLUMBIA, SC (AP) - The state Education Department says its report cards show the overall performance for South Carolina school districts declined again in 2007.
No district earned the top grade of excellent, and just three districts were excellent last year.
Seven districts received a good rating. Most are average or below average.
Seventeen districts were unsatisfactory, and that's up from 11 last year.
Fewer than 10 districts improved their grades, while about 70 percent of districts maintained the same overall grade.
Education Superintendent Jim Rex says ever-increasing accountability goals, combined with students' virtually flat performance on standardized tests this year led to the disappointing report cards.
Another education spokesman says school report card grades are worse than last for two reasons you've heard before.
The first reason is more poverty.
"That's not an excuse, but the worsening poverty rates in the schools certainly show you the nature of the challenges schools face," says Jim Foster.
At least 70 percent of students at more than half the schools in the state live in poverty.
Foster says the other reason school report cards haven't improved much are high standards.
"It's possible to be at the same score level from one year to the next, but because the rating goes up, your rating will be lower because in order to keep up, you have to increase your test scores every year, just to stay even with the rating as it goes up," Foster told WIS News 10.
Foster says some schools are improving, just not enough.
We pored over the grades for every school in the state and noticed a few had been improving, but still had not met what's called adequate yearly progress.
We took a look at Eau Claire High School for instance. The Richland One school has received an excellent improvement rating twice in the past four years -- first in 2004, then again this year.
But they've never met what's called Adequate Yearly Progress.
The report cards give South Carolina's 85 school districts and roughly 1,100 public schools grades of excellent, good, average, below average or unsatisfactory.