Legislative Update

March 24, 2017

ALERT

H. 3969 – Education Accountability Act

A – F Rating

 Thursday morning in the House Education Committee meeting, the Committee adopted an amendment which moves from a 120-point scale to a 100-point scale when rating schools. Additionally, the amendment changes school performance rating terminology from “at-risk” to “unsatisfactory.”

Time ran out before an amendment by Representative Collins (Pickens) could be considered which would change school performance ratings to A-F.  Prior to adjournment, Representative Taylor (Aiken) stated he conducted a survey via Face Book on this issue and that 98% of the 126 people that responded wanted an A-F rating scale. It is our understanding that Representative Collins has the votes to adopt the A-F rating.

Additionally, SCDE supports a strong growth metric for measuring student growth by defining what growth means to our state.  EOC supports naming a specific statistical model in statute (value-added).  We have never named a statistical model in statute before and believe that one should not be named until models and simulations have been run to determine which model best exemplifies what we want to see in student growth.

We need you to contact members of the House Education Committee to let them know that you

·         Oppose an A-F school rating scale and support changing “at-risk” to “unsatisfactory.”

·         Oppose naming a specific statistical model, value added, in statute and support having a definition for growth in the statute that is “a statistically reliable measure of the magnitude of student growth from one year to the next at the student and school level. “

The Committee will meet again on Tuesday, March 28 so please contact members of the House Education Committee and your House member prior to Tuesday morning.

 The tenth week of General Assembly was consumed with the Senate building its version of the FY 2017-18 Appropriations Act and the House clearing its calendar after the previous week being spent on creating its version of the budget.

House of Representatives

House Floor Debate

·         H. 3427 –( Computer Science Education) As introduced this bill enacts the “South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative” and provides that beginning with the 2018-2019 school year public high schools and public charter high schools shall adopt grade appropriate standards for computer science and computational thinking and computer coding for grades 9-12 and by the 2019-2020 School Year, each public high school and public charter high school must offer at least one computer science course. In school year 2018-19, the Department must employ one full-time employee to coordinate and lead the computer science education initiative, support teachers in designing instruction and assignments, design career pathways that connect students to postsecondary programs, and offer teacher endorsements and professional development to new computer science teachers in a two to four-week summer institute. Also, the Department of Education is to develop guidelines for outlining the educational and degree requirements for appropriate computer science teachers. The Commission on Higher Education shall determine what, if any, financial incentives are needed by institutions of higher education to design programs to prepare and credential computer science teachers. In addition, the Office of the Governor, beginning in fiscal year 2018-2019, shall establish criteria and a process for designating a STEM community or STEM region. Consistent with federal law, STEM includes computer science.

o   Action: The bill received second reading on Tuesday with a vote of 106-1 and received third reading on Wednesday. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

·         H. 3726 – (Pension Reform) This bill decouples employer and employee contribution rates into pension systems by eliminating the required differential between the two rates which is currently set at 2.9% for the largest pension plan, the South Carolina Retirement System which serves most state government employees, teachers, various local government employees, and others, and 5% for the Police Officers Retirement System. The legislation provides for a 2% increase in the employer contribution rates for these systems effective July 1, 2017, so that the SCRS employer contribution rate will increase from the current 11.56% to 13.56% and the PORS employer contribution rate will increase from the current 14.24% to 16.24%. Each year thereafter, a 1% increase is scheduled for these employer contribution rates until Fiscal Year 2022-2023. The legislation increases and places a cap on the employee contribution rate for these systems with the SCRS employee contribution rate increasing from the current 8.66% to 9% and the PORS employee contribution rate increasing from the current 9.24% to 9.75%. The assumed rate of return on pension plan investments is reduced from 7.5% to 7.25%. Future changes to the assumed rate of return, beginning with Fiscal Year 2021-2022, are to be recommended by the Public Employee Benefit Authority, with the General Assembly afforded an opportunity to disagree with PEBA’s recommendation prior to the new rate taking effect. The total cost contemplated for state general fund agencies and the Education Improvement Act for both SCRS and PORS is $73.6 million for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 and an additional $36.8 million for each of the next 5 years. The amortization period for unfunded liabilities is reduced from 30 years to 20 years over the course of the next 10 years. By applying the 2% employer contribution rate increase in year 1, the funding period will be reduced an additional 3 years in the first year, and an additional $100 million payment would be applied to the negative interest payment, which is now approximately $220 million annually. Provisions are made for how employer and employee contributions are to be reduced should the pension systems reach the point of comparative financial health when actuaries find them to be at least eighty-five percent funded.

o   Action: The House adjourned debate on the bill until March 29th.

·         H. 3462 – (Florence Three School Board) This bill revises the election of the Board of Trustees of Florence County School District Three to extend the terms of board members to four years, stagger the terms of the members, require that the members be elected at a general election held in an even-numbered year, and provide the process by which a vacancy is filled.

o   Action:  Rep. Kirby moved to adjourn debate until Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

·         H. 3311 – (Career Pathways/Workforce Scholarships) This bill provides for the development and implementation of a Career Pathways Initiative, including a Pathways to First Careers Program and a Pathways to New Opportunities Program. The legislation makes provisions for a Workforce Scholarship and Grant Fund by establishing a tax credit for taxpayers who hire an apprentice and providing a tax credit for taxpayers who contribute to the Workforce Scholarship and Grant Fund.

o   Action: The House adjourned debate on the bill.

·         H. 3343 – (School Facilities Act) This bill enacts the “South Carolina Education School Facilities Act” to provide financial assistance to school districts to acquire school facilities by using general obligation bonds, and other forms of assistance. The legislation: makes provisions for the State Board of Education to determine and select on a priority basis, qualified school projects which shall receive financial assistance from the state; provides for the powers and duties of the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education in this regard; and, makes other provisions about the construction or renovation of school facilities. The legislation repeals State School Facilities Bonds Act provisions which authorized the issuance of specific dollar amounts of state school facilities bonds within a specified time period.

o   Action: The Ways and Means Committee gave a favorable report to the bill as amended on Tuesday and the House moved to adjourned debate on the bill on Thursday.

Senate Finance Committee

·         H. 3720 – (Appropriations Act) Senate Finance spent the entire week examining provisos received from the House and did not “talk money” at all this week. Every proviso that had funds attached was adopted “conform to funding.” Upon adjournment of the Senate on Tuesday, the Committee will meet to hand out the spread sheets showing how available funds will be allocated.  Once the Senate version of the bill has been finalized, details of the budget will be included in next week’s legislative update.

Education and Public Works Committee

 

·         H. 3969 – (Education Accountability Act) This bill provides that the Education Oversight Committee shall design and pilot certain district accountability models that focus on competency-based education; by establishing a state longitudinal data system for measuring the continuous improvement of public education and the college readiness and career readiness of public school graduates. The bill also provides the measuring of student progress or growth using a value-added system in addition to other changes.

o   ActionThe State Department of Education (SCDE) and the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) worked on a compromise amendment that dealt with the differences of opinion on specific parts of the bill. As part of the compromise amendment, the SCDE will now design and pilot a competency-based education; exempts educator effectiveness data from public disclosure and will not be subject to the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act; adds language referring to the Profile of the Graduate; changes the “absolute performance” to “performance rating;” specifies that formative assessments may be used in the performance ratings of primary schools but may not be used in ratings elementary, middle, and high schools; reduces testing in science and social studies; provides definitions for the school ratings of excellent, good, average, and at-risk; and phases in an earlier delivery of the school report cards so that by 2020 report cards will be available by September 1. One additional amendment was offered and agreed upon. The amendment changes the school rating of “at-risk” to “unsatisfactory” and moves from the current 120-point scale to a 100-point scale for use when rating schools.

Senate

Action on the Floor

·         S. 199 – (Stopped School Bus) This bill authorizes the Department of Public Safety to issue a ticket to the owner of a vehicle that illegally passes a stopped school bus based upon the inspection of photographs, microphotographs, videotape, or other digitally recorded images produced by a digital recording system mounted on a school bus. It establishes civil penalties in an amount not to exceed $250 for the first offense and $500 for a second or subsequent offense. Appeals procedures are also outlined in the bill.

o   Action: The Senate moved to carry over the bill.

·         S. 562 – (Sumter School Board) The bill increases the number of board members by two that are from the county at large; members elected in nonpartisan elections and must live in the district they are representing; initial at-large members are appointed by the Sumter County Legislative Delegation where they will serve until the next scheduled nonpartisan election; and staggers the terms of the two at large members with the one serving a two year term and one serving a four year term with the legislative delegation determining which will serve the two/four year term.

o   Action: The Senate gave the bill second and third reading this week and the bill moves to the House for consideration.

·         S. 568 – ( Williamsburg School Board) The bill increases the number of board members by two that are from the county at large; members elected in nonpartisan elections and must live in the district they are representing; specifies the members are elected for a four year term; initial at-large members are appointed by the Williamsburg County Legislative Delegation where they will serve until the next scheduled nonpartisan election; staggers the terms of the two at large members with the one serving a two year term and one serving a four year term with the legislative delegation determining which will serve the two/four year term; and specifies that the election of school boards shall occur on the first Monday of November every two years.

o   Action: The Senate gave the bill second and third reading this week and the bill moves to the House for consideration.

Education Committee

·         S. 462 – (Diploma Pathways) This bill, promoted by the State Department of Education, provides for personalized college and career ready pathways for students to receive a high school diploma. It also provides that all students must take a computer science course in coding and computer programing to meet graduation requirements. The bill also creates an Employability Credential for students who are not on track for graduation or who have an IEP which specifies that the student would not meet the state’s graduation requirements.

o   Action: The Committee gave a favorable report to the bill as amended by the subcommittee. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for consideration by the entire body.

·         S. 534 – (Education Accountability Act) The bill makes several changes to the act. Changes are in the areas of the value-added system; adding Profile of the Graduate language; specifics on what data must be disaggregated; changing terminology from “absolute performance” to “performance rating;” redefining growth; reducing testing in science and social studies; and defining the academic performance ratings of excellent, good, average, below average, and at-risk.

o   Action: Senator Hembree asked that the Committee carry over the bill since the companion bill was being considered in the House Education Committee on Thursday. He stated that he wanted to be able to consider the compromise amendment being worked on by the Department of Education and the Education Oversight Committee.

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee

·         S. 131 – (Disturbing Schools) This bill removes students enrolled in a school from being charged with disturbing schools. The bill allows only those that are expelled/suspended and return to the campus or others who are not enrolled students to be charged with disturbing schools. The bill lists specific actions that constitute disturbing schools.

o   Action: The Committee was offered an amendment to the bill which outlines unlawful acts of a person who is not a student (defined in the bill) who interferes, disrupts, or disturbs the normal operations of a school; specifies that students who have been suspended and asked to by a school administrator to leave the school property is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction is fined not more than $100 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days or both. School administrators should comply with suspension and request for the student to leave the school property before calling law enforcement intervention. The amendment was adopted and the amended bill received a favorable report. The bill moves to the Senate calendar for consideration.

 

Legislative Update – March 17, 2017

The ninth week of General Assembly was consumed with debating the 2017-18 Appropriations Bill, H. 3720. The House of Representatives spent most of the day  Monday, Tuesday, and worked past midnight on Wednesday to give the budget second and third readings this week.

House of Representatives

Because of the extensive debate in the House of Representatives on the FY 17-18 Appropriations Bill, H. 3720, there were no subcommittee meetings by House committees this week.  Additionally, no other bills on the House calendar were discussed while the House was in session.

House Budget Debate

Regarding education, very little changed from the version passed by the Ways and Means Committee (see February 24th Legislative Update).  Listed below are the changes made on the floor of the House during the debate. The following funding additions were made possible when the House amended the Roads Bill to return the $37.5 million of EIA funding that was swept up in the Infrastructure Trust Fund.

·         $12 million for technology which will be allocated using the same methodology as previously used.

·         $1 million to continue funding the Youth Challenge Program.

·         $24.6 million for the Abbeville Capital Improvements Fund.

Regarding provisos, the House adopted three new provisos. The first proviso was a clean-up amendment deleting several provisos that no longer had funding attached to them.  The second amendment was tied to the $1.4 million added to enable the continued use of the value-added assessment program.  The last proviso dealt with the methodology for distribution of the technology funding.

One other amendment was offered dealing with education but was withdrawn by the amendment sponsor.  The amendment would allow retired teachers to teach certain subjects without the $10,000 earnings cap. The amendment was withdrawn because, per the amendment’s author, that topic is to be discussed when the Pension Reform Committee begins meeting again to work on Phase II of needed changes to the pension system.

Senate

Action on the Floor

·         S. 520 – (CATE Regulation) This is a joint resolution to approve regulations of the State Board of Education relating to career or technology centers/comprehensive high schools.

o   Action: The joint resolution received second and third reading in the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

·         S. 521 – (Defined Program Regulation) This is a joint resolution to approve regulations of the State Board of Education relating to defined program, grades 9-12 and graduation requirements.

o   Action: The joint resolution received second and third reading in the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

·         S. 526 – (Advanced Placement Regulation) This is a joint resolution to approve regulations of the State Board of Education relating to advanced placement.

o   Action: The joint resolution received second and third reading in the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

·         S. 199 – (Stopped School Bus) This bill authorizes the Department of Public Safety to issue a ticket to the owner of a vehicle that illegally passes a stopped school bus based upon the inspection of photographs, microphotographs, videotape, or other digitally recorded images produced by a digital recording system mounted on a school bus. It establishes civil penalties in an amount not to exceed $250 for the first offense and $500 for a second or subsequent offense. Appeals procedures are also outlined in the bill.

o   Action: The Senate began debate on the bill, however, Senator Jackson objected to further consideration of the bill.

K-12 Education Committee

·         S. 462 – (Diploma Pathways) This bill, promoted by the State Department of Education, provides for personalized college and career ready pathways for students to receive a high school diploma. It also provides that all students must take a computer science course in coding and computer programing to meet graduation requirements. The bill also creates an Employability Credential for students who are not on track for graduation or who have an IEP which specifies that the student would not meet the state’s graduation requirements.

o   Action: The subcommittee adopted an amendment which requires the SBE to promulgate regulation establishing pathways and endorsements; requires computer science classes to include design, computer coding, or computer programing; and removes students who do not have an IEP from consideration for an employability credential.

·         S. 445 – (Charter Schools) The bill makes multiple changes to the Charter School Act primarily in the areas of governance and finance.

o   Action: The subcommittee was offered an amendment to the bill from the superintendent of the Public Charter School District and the SC Association of Public Charter Schools.  The subcommittee had many questions regarding the amendment and moved to adjourn debate to allow more time to examine the document.

·         S. 534 – (Education Accountability Act) The bill makes several changes to the act. Changes are in the areas of the value-added system; adding Profile of the Graduate language; specifics on what data must be disaggregated; changing terminology from “absolute performance” to “performance rating;” redefining growth; reducing testing in science and social studies; and defining the academic performance ratings of excellent, good, average, below average, and at-risk.

o   Action: The State Department of Education requested the consideration of an amendment to the bill which was considered and adopted by the subcommittee.  Several areas of differing opinions between the SCDE and the EOC were to be ironed out before the next meeting of the subcommittee.

·         H. 3221 – (Fiscal Practices and Budgetary Conditions) This bill directs the SCDE to develop and adopt a statewide program for identifying fiscal practices and budgetary conditions that, if uncorrected could compromise the fiscal integrity of a school district. The bill outlines three levels of fiscal and budgetary concerns – fiscal watch, fiscal caution, and fiscal emergency.  The bill outlines the conditions and requirements associated with each level.

o   Action: The subcommittee carried over the bill due to lack of time.

·         H. 3220 – (EEDA Coordinating Council) This bill reinstates the original language from the EEDA codified in 2005. It delineates the membership, duties, and functions of the Council. The bill specifies a five-year sunset provision.

o   Action: The subcommittee gave a favorable report to the bill and it now moves to the full committee.

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee

·         S. 28 – (Religious Instruction) This bill codifies the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Moss vs Spartanburg 7 court case.  The bill allows the transfer of high school credit for religious instruction from an accredited private school to a public high school even if the course is taught by an unaccredited body.

o   Action: The subcommittee gave a favorable report to the bill and it now moves to the full committee.

·         S. 169 – (Teen Dating Violence) This bill requires that teen dating violence education be integrated into the Comprehensive Health Education standards and that developmentally appropriate instructional units be selected or developed for kindergarten through grade five; six through eight; and once in grades nine through twelve.

o   Action: The subcommittee carried the bill over to work on amendments based upon the testimony received.

 

Legislative Update – March 10, 2017

My note – A $50 increase in Base Student Cost will not even fund a step increase for District employees.  FM

The eighth week of General Assembly was spent with clearing the calendar in the House to prepare for the budget debate.  The House will gavel in on Monday at 1:00 pm to begin work on its version of the 2017-18 Appropriations Bill.

Senate Amends Roads Bill

H. 3516 – (Roads Bill):  After hearing an update from Transportation Secretary, Christy Hall, the Senate Finance Special Transportation Subcommittee amended the bill so that it would generate about $800 million annually instead of the $600 million in the House passed version. There are three major differences between the two versions of the bill.

·         In the House version of the bill, the gas tax would be increased by two cents over 5 years for a total of a 10 cents increase.  In the Senate version of the bill, the gas tax would be increased by two cents over 6 years for a total of a 12 cents increase.

·         In the House version of the bill, the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases would be increased from $300 to $500.  In the Senate version of the bill, the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases would be increased from $300 to $700.

·         In the Senate version of the bill there is no reform of the Department of Transportation.

The amended bill received a 7-2 favorable report and should be considered by the full Senate Finance Committee on March 14.

Senate Amends Pension Reform Bill

H. 3726 – (Pension Reform) On Wednesday, Senator Sheheen moved to “poll out” H. 3726 from the Senate Finance Committee.  The Senate agreed to the polling out of the bill and place it on the calendar.  On Thursday, Senator Sheheen offered a strike all and insert amendment to replace the language of the House bill with the Senate’s language found in S. 394.  The amendment was adopted and the amended bill was given a second reading vote of 38-0. With unanimous consent to give the bill third reading on Friday. The bill will be returned to the House with the question of concurrence in the Senate amendments.  The House will likely non-concur and the bill will head to a conference committee once the House finished its debate of the budget.

House of Representatives

Action Taken on the Floor

·         H. 3513 – (Retired Teacher Certification) This bill creates a new teacher certification credential for retired teachers who previously held a professional educator certificate. The credential is good for 30 years and exempts those holding the credential from having to complete any professional development requirements except those required by the district in which the individual is employed.

o   Action:  The House gave second (103-0) and third reading to the bill and it now moves to the Senate for consideration.

·        H. 3587 – (School Seizure Safety Taskforce) The bill creates a study committee and enumerates the membership of the committee. The committee is to examine issues related to epilepsy and seizure safety awareness in public schools.

o   Action:  The House gave second (93-6) and third reading to the bill and it now moves to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee for consideration.

·         H. 3792 – (Stadium Bathrooms) The bill sets minimum standards for the number of toilets and lavatories available for men and women at middle and high school stadiums.  The bill is aimed at relieving public school districts from having to meet the state’s current building code requirements for its stadiums.

o   Action: The bill was amended on Wednesday to effectively return the guidelines/codes for stadium renovations back to the 2015 codes.  In doing so the number of lavatories and toilets required would be significantly reduced.  The amended bill received second and third reading and was moves to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.

Ways and Means Committee

·         H. 3720 – (Appropriations Act):  In preparation for the budget debate, the House Ways and Means Committee provided a budget briefing on Wednesday to the membership. The following are the education highlights reported.

o   $100 million for capital improvements in a school district that was an Abbeville lawsuit plaintiff or with a poverty index of 80% or higher;

o   $38 million to increase the Base Student Cost by $50 to $2400 per pupil;

o   $19 million for SC Public Charter Schools student growth;

o   $10 million in the lottery for new school buses to move towards a 15-year replacement cycle; and

o   $3 million to help fund the cost of industry certifications.

 

·         Ways and Means Capital Needs and Bonding Subcommittee met on Tuesday morning to discuss a bond bill.  Each subcommittee presented the capital needs of its agency.  Representative Whitmire requested $95 million for replacement of all 1995 or older buses.

o   Action: The subcommittee only received reports from the budget subcommittees.

Ways and Means Subcommittees Actions

·         H. 3343 – (SC Education School Facilities Act): This bill establishes a mechanism to defray the costs of qualified school projects based on a prioritization report for needed school facility construction and renovations.

o   Action: The bill was amended and received a favorable report.  It now moves to the full Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

·         H. 3056 – (State Leadership Scholarship Program): This bill creates a scholarship program for “students who demonstrate leadership potential.”

o   Action: The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

·         H. 3058 – (Lottery Game): This bill would create a new lottery game of which the proceeds would be allocated to the State Department of Education to facilitate accelerated learning of underachieving students.

o   Action: The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

·         H. 3311 – (EEDA Pathways): This bill directs the State Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education, the State Department of Education, the Employment and Workforce, and the Department of Commerce to implement a Pathways Initiative in alignment with the EEDA. The initiative is to facilitate a seamless transition from K12 education to employment in industries with critical workforce shortages.

o   Action: The bill was amended and given a favorable report.

·         H. 3098 – (Tier IV Tax Deduction): This bill provides income tax deductions for teachers who reside and work in a Tier IV county or counties with a combination of the highest unemployment rate and the lowest per capita income.

o   Action: The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

 

Senate

Action on the Floor

·         S. 199 – (Stopped School Bus) This bill authorizes the Department of Public Safety to issue a ticket to the owner of a vehicle that illegally passes a stopped school bus based upon the inspection of photographs, microphotographs, videotape, or other digitally recorded images produced by a digital recording system mounted on a school bus. It establishes civil penalties in an amount not to exceed $250 for the first offense and $500 for a second or subsequent offense. Appeals procedures are also outlined in the bill.

o   Action: The Senate gave second reading to the bill after adopting an amendment that would allow the registered owner to present certain evidence that he was not the driver at the time of the violation.

 

K-12 Education Committee

·         S. 389 – (Teachers of Tomorrow) The bill provides for another alternate route to obtaining a teaching certificate in the state. This bill authorizes the for-profit company, Teachers of Tomorrow, to certify teachers.  Per the bill’s preamble, the company is based out of Texas, has been operating for 11 years, and has certified more than 42,000 individuals.

o   Action: The Committee carried the bill over.  The Committee stated that the Alternative Certification regulation could be amended to allow the State Board of Education to approve this, and other alternative route certification programs as they come forward.

·         State Board of Education Regulations: The following regulations received a favorable report of the Committee.

o   Reg. 43-234 Defined Program, Grades 9-12 and Graduation Requirements.

o   Reg. 43-236 Career or Technology Centers/Comprehensive High Schools.

o   Reg. 43-258.1 Advanced Placement.

Letter To Legislators

Below is the letter I sent to our Legislative Delegation concerning the accountability proposal from the Education Oversight Committee that is now in front of the General Assembly.  While the proposal certainly has some very positive aspects, it also has some significant flaws.  I am sincerely hopeful that legislators will give this proposal serious scrutiny.  If you would like to comment to our Legislative Delegation, it consists of Senator Vincent Sheheen, Senator Thomas McElveen, Speaker Jay Lucas, Representative Laurie Funderburk, Representative Jimmy Bales, and Representative William Wheeler.  They can be contacted through the Legislative Liaison, Daniel Roberts, at delegation@kershaw.sc.gov.  I am concerned that this proposal will be characterized to legislators as a consensus, and it’s not.

February 23, 2017

Dear Legislative Delegation,

As you are aware, the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) has developed a proposed accountability system for public schools in response to the General Assembly’s direction from the 2016 Session. The Assembly’s direction was to develop a combined accountability system that would meet both state and federal mandates. Consolidating these systems is a good idea. Having a state and federal report card was both confusing and inefficient. The system proposed by the EOC is now to be acted on by the General Assembly. The purpose of this letter is to communicate what I see are some significant flaws in the proposal.

First and foremost, the new system does not really decrease the amount of testing in any meaningful way. It actually requires more testing than is required by the federal government. At a recent meeting of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees, staff presented the Board a yearly calendar of required state tests that reflected some kind of testing potentially being done during 140 out of 180 school days. While I certainly understand and support accountability, this would seem excessive to anyone. It is no surprise that good and conscientious teachers are being driven from the profession because of this ever-increasing obsession with standardized tests.   It’s also not surprising that parents want public money for their children to attend private schools because private schools are not subject to these requirements. This over-emphasis on test results also causes schools not to take instructional time for enriching activities like field trips, artists-in-residence, assemblies, etc. This is an unfortunate reality in public education in our state.

The proposal relies heavily, much too heavily I believe, on the ACT as an indicator of college readiness. Cut scores in the elementary and middle grades are geared to a hypothetical statistical projection of whether or not a student will ultimately score a 22 on the ACT English and a 19 on the ACT Math. In my view, there are two problems with this approach. First, while the ACT is certainly a legitimate predictor of success in college, the research strongly indicates that class rank (grades) is still the best predictor. The EOC has chosen to completely ignore this research. Second, as an educator with 42 years of experience doing about every job there is in a school district, I can tell you that trying to project where an elementary or middle school student will be in the eleventh grade is dicey at best. Certainly, we want students to be performing at grade level and growing academically each year. If they are, success in high school will take care of itself. However, I cannot understand or justify to a teacher or anyone else why the EOC has tied itself so exclusively to the ACT.

I would further point out that the cut scores for the various South Carolina high-stakes tests are among the highest in the country. While I have no issue with high standards and rigor, the level of these cut scores will have the unintended consequence of faulty comparisons between South Carolina and other states. For example, it might appear that fewer students in South Carolina are reading on grade level than in other states, when in reality, the comparison would be skewed because of lower standards and cut scores in other states. Actually, this already happens and the EOC proposal will make it worse.

Finally, I have deep concern about the fact that only a four-year graduation rate will be considered for report card ratings. What is so magical about 4 years? Especially given the difficult environments in which many of our students live, graduating in 4.5 or 5 years is a noteworthy accomplishment. I also don’t understand why a student who earns a GED during normal high school years is not counted as a graduate for the purposes of accountability. If you think a GED is a cakewalk, I invite you to go to your community’s Adult Education Center and take the TABE, which is a test used to determine a student’s readiness for the GED. I simply don’t understand why a student who graduates within five years or earns a GED is not considered a legitimate graduate for accountability purposes.

I apologize for the length of this letter. I would end by saying that the flaws in this proposal clearly point to a major structural problem in terms of educational governance in our state. The makeup of the EOC guarantees that politicians and the business community will drive EOC proposals. While I believe that individuals from these areas have important perspective to offer, they do not have a “hands-on” understanding of the complexities of schools in the year 2017. Education seems to be the only professional endeavor I can think of where mandates are driven by folks who generally have never worked in a classroom or a school.

My perception is that educators by and large do not fully support this proposal, but it was the best deal that could be cut with the EOC. This proposal needs close scrutiny by legislators

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if I can be of service in any way. Thank you for your sincere dedication to our state.

Sincerely,

Frank E. Morgan, Ed.D.

Superintendent

 

cc: The Honorable Molly M. Spearman, Superintendent of Education

Ms. Melanie Barton, Executive Director, Education Oversight Committee