The 2020-2021 school year was unprecedented both in South Carolina and across our nation as a result of the continued impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has plagued our nation’s school system since March of 2020. COVID-19 required schools and districts to be flexible in offering both in-person and virtual learning based on parental preference and school and community disease transmission. At times, schools and districts were forced to close temporarily due to outbreaks amongst students and staff, disrupting both teaching and learning. Families lost loved ones and schools were looked to not only for education but also mental health services and other needed wraparound supports.
South Carolina students, families, and educators showed perseverance and ingenuity in combating the virus and ensuring students received the highest quality instruction and support possible in ever evolving conditions. The South Carolina Department of Education and State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman sought to support students, parents, and educators with maximum flexibility to meet the needs of their local communities throughout the school year. This included seeking relief from a variety of state and federal requirements that placed undue burdens on school populations.
On March 26, 2021, the United States Department of Education approved South Carolina's request to waive accountability ratings and certain reporting requirements in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for the 2020-2021 school year. However, the United States Department of Education did not waive the requirements for administering state assessments as was done at the onset of the pandemic in Spring 2020. States were permitted to allow families of students learning virtually to forgo assessments if they felt it was unsafe to enter school buildings for the sole purpose of taking a test. We caution against comparing this year’s assessment results to those from previous years as testing limitations and incomplete data have led to some results not being representative of the make-up of the state, districts, or individual school populations.
You will continue to find important information about safety, finance, and the classroom environment that play equally important parts in ensuring that a school is a safe environment that fosters learning for all students.
The South Carolina Department of Education hopes that parents, communities, and school leaders will use these report cards as a tool to engage in important conversations about the previous year's challenges and the work that must be done collectively to ensure students complete unfinished learning and arise out of the pandemic stronger than before.