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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Revising EAA Becomes Law

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Legislation replacing PACT tests, revising 1998 accountability system becomes law

COLUMBIA Legislation that will replace PACT in 2009 while making
significant changes to South Carolinas overall student assessment and
school accountability systems became law today when Governor Mark
Sanford allowed it to pass without his signature.

The new legislation makes the first significant changes to South
Carolinas Education Accountability Act since it was approved by the
General Assembly 10 years ago.  That law mandated annual testing for
380,000 students in grades 3-8 and the publishing of annual school
report cards.
These changes are what teachers and parents have been asking for,
said State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex.  They make our
accountability system more practical for educators, more effective for
schools and more useful to parents.

Legislative debate on the bill began with sometimes heated partisan
rhetoric but ended with both Republicans and Democrats celebrating the

It was encouraging to see how the tone of the debate changed as we
went along how the discussions became very positive and
constructive, Rex said.  I hope we can maintain that spirit of
cooperation as we tackle the issue of equitable school funding next

The changes to the law are based on recommendations from two statewide task forces appointed by Rex last summer one for testing and one for accountability.  Those groups, which met numerous times over the late summer and fall, included representatives from local districts and schools, teacher and school administrator organizations, the South
Carolina School Boards Association, the General Assembly, the Education
Oversight Committee, the State Board of Education, business groups, and colleges and universities.

The new law:
��Eliminates PACT and replaces it in 2009 with new end-of-year
accountability tests that feature essay exams in March and more
easily scored multiple-choice exams in May.  Schools will get final
results within a few weeks of the May tests, compared to late July with
��Revises the content of annual school report cards to make it
more understandable and useful for parents, while simultaneously making certain that any revisions are in full compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
��Supports formative assessments in English language arts
and mathematics.  These tests will provide teachers with immediate
feedback on individual students strengths and weaknesses and allow
them to customize instruction based on those needs.
��Eliminates burdensome paperwork requirements for teachers.
��Brings South Carolinas student performance targets into
alignment with other states.  Changes student performance indicators on
state standardized tests from four levels to three (exemplary, met and
not met).
��Reviews the states school accountability system every five
years to be certain that its working efficiently and effectively.
��Deletes language in the EAA that had become outdated, and also
incorporates into the law a number of add-ons that had been
inserted each year through budget provisos.

Rex thanked the legislators who helped to fashion the bill,
particularly the six conferees who worked quickly to hash out the
different versions of the bill that emerged from the House and Senate.
The conferees were senators Wes Hayes (chair), Nikki Setzler and Linda
Short and House members Bill Whitmire (vice chair), Eric Beddingfield
and Jimmy Neal.

Rex also thanked Senate Education Committee Chairman John Courson and House Education and Public Works Committee Chairman Bob Walker for their leadership in shepherding the legislation through their respective chambers.

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