Riverview Charter School students aren't making gains on standardized tests at the same rate as students at other Beaufort schools, recent results indicate.
On this, everyone seems to agree.
However, Riverview students outperformed their peers to begin with, so gains are more difficult to make, officials with the district's only charter school say.
Not all district officials buy that argument.
At a May 29 school board meeting, district instructional services chief Sean Alford presented a breakdown by school of the 2011-12 Measures of Academic Performance results. He told Board of Education members that Riverview, which serves kindergarten through seventh grades, has not kept pace with the average growth of students districtwide in 11 of 16 measurements.
"The question comes down to, 'How have I moved every individual student regardless of where they started?' " Alford said. "That, to me, is the biggest area of challenge for a school like Riverview."
The MAP test is given to Beaufort County public-school students in kindergarten through eighth grade at the start, middle and end of each school year, except at Riverview, where students are tested at the beginning and end of each year. The test measures reading and math skills and is used to help teachers identify students' weaknesses and tailor instruction to address them.
Overall, Beaufort County students are making gains on the exam, which has been given to students three times per year for at least three years, Alford said. In 14 out of 16 categories, students' average growth -- the difference between their score at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year -- is higher than the national average of growth.
But Riverview students aren't keeping pace with the growth seen at other schools.
In a meeting last week, Alford urged Riverview administrators to test students three times a year, as the rest of the district does.Alford said adding the extra exam would give teachers a half-time break to reassess and get students back on track. He has recommended the move several times in the past two years, he said.
Charter schools are public schools that have been exempted from many of the administrative rules other public schools must follow. Riverview director Alison Thomas has said the school wants to keep standardized testing to a minimum to maximize instructional time.
A closer look at the numbers, Thomas argues, demonstrates that whatever their rate of progress, Riverview students still outperform the district averages. They have the best beginning average score in eight of 16 categories, and the students' year-end average score is consistently among the top in the district.
Riverview also exceeds the national average for growth 75 percent of the time.
Thomas' argument holds true for other high-performing schools in the district. The top school in each category fell short of the district's average growth 57 percent of the time, according to district figures.
"Where they start greatly impacts how many points they should be growing," Thomas said of student scores.