On April 5, the South Carolina House of Representatives rejected a plan to grade public schools on an A-to-F scale, instead favoring a scale that ranges from Excellent to Unsatisfactory.
This action stems from a fear of stigmatizing struggling schools, which occurred under the No Child Left Behind Act. The No Child Left Behind Act was replaced by the Every Student Achieves Act by the U.S. Senate in 2015.
The Every Student Achieves Act reduces the federal government’s authority over state-level standardized testing and expands funding and support for charter schools, according to a 2015 Post and Courier article.
The Every Child Achieves Act requires annual testing in reading and mathematics, and requires states to take action to improve their worst-performing schools. However, states and districts have increased authority to set their own goals, rate schools on their own metrics and take corrective action independently. The ECAA places less focus on standardized test scores and more on producing well-rounded, fully-educated students. The ECAA views music, computer science and physical education classes as core subjects in the curriculum, placing as much value on the arts and music as science and math.
Proponents of enacting a scale ranging from A-F offer a statistic: a survey conducted by the pro-charter school group SouthCarolinaCAN found that one-third of South Carolina voters prefer letter grades to other methods – 62 percent said they’d be more likely to get involved with improving their neighborhood school if it earned an F on a report card, according to the Post and Courier.
The Executive Director of SouthCarolinaCAN, Bradford Swann, believes that by passing the bill, South Carolina lawmakers have enacted an important era for South Carolina and its students.
Although the legislation failed to adopt the amendment of an A-F rating system for school performance, Swann believes that it will “make South Carolina more effective and transparent in evaluating how well public schools educate our students.”