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'Very, very concerned with the results': SC Department of Education releases school district report card

Data showed nearly every district in the Midlands fell below the state average in all subjects.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The 2020-21 school year consisted of remote learning, hybrid learning, social distancing and reduced social interaction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. State education leaders said looking at the latest school district report card, they are very concerned for students.

"I was not shocked at the results," said SC Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. "However, I am very, very concerned with the results."

On Tuesday, Spearman and other officials from the SC Department of Education held a briefing to share the latest data from the 2020 to 2021 school report card. The report took an overall look at student performance in a variety of academic achievement and performance on standardized testing during the pandemic. 

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Spearman said comparing all grade levels, the largest drop was in third graders by 11 points—averaging more than two to three months behind where learning should be. Deputy Superintendent David Mathis said different learning models is the cause for the drop. 

"Some were face-to-face, some were hybrid, some were virtual all year," Mathis said. "They were significantly impacted in those early years by those modalities in instruction. I think we saw that evidence in those results."

According to the department's Public Information Director, Derek Phillips, the report was compared to test scores from the 2018-2019 school year. 

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Data showed nearly every district in the Midlands fell below the state average in all subjects but Spearman said not every student in those districts performed poorly.

"There are some students who did very well, and there are some students who showed growth," Spearman said. "Someone asked a question of: 'Did everyone drop?' No; and you can look at that, and obviously for the average to be there, there's some students who did very well."

Although nearly every Midlands school district fell below the state average, Lexington-Richland District 5 and Lexington District 1 was the exception, performing higher than average.

The department said in order to bring scores back up, it's going to take some time to recover from this recent school year. Officials also said they are working with teachers to change the curriculum and provide online software to help teach students and help them succeed. 

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The Palmetto state is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in schools, and some districts temporarily moving back to virtual. Spearman said this was not the departments plan for this year. 

"It just saddens me," Spearman said. "I'm almost to the point of anger, that it's not happening like it should. I am extremely concerned that we are putting ourselves in situations where schools are having to close and go virtual. That's not what any of us wanted, it's not what local school folks wanted."

Spearman said she blames the resistance of getting vaccinated and people not wanting to following safety protocols, like wearing a mask.

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"Everyone needs to bite their pride," Spearman said. "Cooperate and follow these very simple procedures that would help us be able to help our students."

She also added that families need to work with the schools in order to provide the best education for students. 

"Please work together, we need to be focused on the acceleration of our learning and doing whatever it is that we can do to make sure our students can be in school safely."

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