Standards and Accountability: South Carolina is one of 12 states earning A’s in this category. The state has clear and specific standards in English, mathematics, and science at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, and in social studies/history at the middle and high school levels.
The state has tests aligned with its standards in English, math, and science in every grade span. In social studies/history, standards-based exams are offered at the elementary and middle school levels only. The tests use multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response items.
Test results are published on school report cards and are used to rate schools. South Carolina provides help to schools rated low-performing. Schools that consistently earn low ratings face sanctions, such as school closure. The state also provides cash rewards to high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Although South Carolina was knocked out of the top spot in this category, the state still does extremely well in its efforts to improve teacher quality, ranking only behind Louisiana.
South Carolina requires future teachers to pass basic-skills, subject-knowledge, and subject-specific-pedagogy tests to earn their licenses. It also uses performance assessments—specifically, team evaluations, classroom observations, and portfolios—to evaluate teachers already in the classroom. The state pays for mentoring for all new teachers through its performance-assessment program.
The state has replaced course mandates for prospective teachers with standards-based licensing requirements. Even so, all teacher-candidates must complete a minimum of 100 hours of clinical experience before undertaking 12 weeks of student teaching. The state also supports ongoing professional development for teachers. Districts must set aside time specifically for professional development based on national professional-development standards. And the state finances such training for all districts.
South Carolina reports some teacher-qualification information on its school report cards, and it plans to add additional data in the future. The state holds its teacher education institutions accountable for the preparation of their graduates. Its system of identifying low-performing teacher-preparation programs considers: the accreditation status of the teacher education unit; passing rates on teacher-certification exams; and results from the state’s performance assessments of classroom teachers. The state will publish its first report cards on teacher-preparation programs later this year. The reports will include information such as pass rates on teacher-licensure exams, survey feedback from program graduates and the employers of such graduates, and accreditation status.
School Climate: South Carolina is one of only five states that include information on parent involvement, school safety, and class size on school report cards. The state also is one of 17 that survey students, parents, or teachers about the conditions in their schools. The state conducts a brief survey of each of those groups and makes the results available on the school report cards.
Data from the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey put the average elementary-class size in the state at 17.9 pupils, one of the lowest averages in the nation.
Other indicators, though, pull the state’s grade down. According to school officials who participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey, only 60 percent of the state’s 8th graders attend schools where classroom misbehavior is not a problem or is only a minor problem, putting the state near the bottom on that indicator. While elementary class size is low, students in South Carolina are more likely to attend large schools than are their counterparts in most other states.
Equity: South Carolina does well on equity, with the exception of its wealth-neutrality score. The state ranks 35th out of 50 states on that indicator, which means that inequities in state and local revenue for education are tied to local property wealth. The state has a coefficient of variation of 10 percent, indicating moderate disparities in per-pupil spending across districts.
South Carolina has a McLoone Index of 94.8 percent, which means the state is spending about 95 percent of what is needed to ensure all students receive at least the state’s median expenditure.
Spending: At $7,751 per pupil, South Carolina spent $17 above the national average for the 2001-02 school year. The state ranks 26th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for per-pupil spending. Fewer than 28 percent of its students attend schools in districts that spend at or above the national average.
The state ranks 19th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia on the spending index, which considers both the number of students in districts spending at least the national average and how far other students fall below that average.