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Diplomas on time: Report cards show on-time graduation rate up again in South Carolina

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina — South Carolina's on-time high school graduation rate is at an all-time high with more than 80 percent of students graduating within four years, new report cards released on Friday show.

Data from the state Department of Education also shows 49 of the state's 82 school districts achieved ratings of either "good" or "excellent," down one from last year.

In all 42 school districts were rated as "excellent," compared to only one back in 2009. Three districts are considered "at risk."

The data shows that 80.1 percent of the state's high school seniors graduated on time, the fifth straight year the number has improved. A year ago the figure was 77.5 percent.

The report cards are based on student achievement and other factors and graduation rate accounts for 40 percent of a school district's rating.

"Districts have done a good job of graduating students," said Dana Yow, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee. "They have done a really good job of focusing on that end result."

The committee is an independent, nonpartisan group of educators, business people and elected officials that measures the progress of the state's education system.

Friday was the 14th year the state report cards have been issued.

They won't be issued for the next two years as the state moves to a system combining state and federal report cards. Federal school ratings were issued earlier this fall.

Outgoing state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said he is pleased about the progress students have made during the last year.

"However, having separate federal and state report cards has been confusing, with each having different performance measures," he said in a statement. "Moving to one accountability system and just one annual report card will make it easier for everyone to understand how their school district and school is performing."

He called on the committee to develop a report card weighted more heavily toward the federal report card that "holds schools to a higher performance standard and assigns grades that convey a clear message."

Melanie Barton, the executive director of the Education Oversight Committee, said new report cards need to grade schools on more than graduation rates and snapshots of student test performance.

She said they must account for skills like the ability to collaborate with others and having the persistence to get a job done. Those are skills, she said, many employers find lacking in graduates.

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