The Education Accountability Act (EAA) of 1998 placed South Carolina in the mainstream of education accountability reform. The EAA required the State Board of Education to establish specific standards in math, English/language arts, science, and social studies. These standards were to provide the basis for student assessment in grades three through eight as well as a high school exit exam. The legislation also called for the development of end-of-course exams in certain high school courses. The purpose of these tests was to hold students and schools accountable for learning. Students who scored below the standard were to have educational plans developed for them and, based on further performance, were required to go to summer school, be placed on academic probation, or face retention. Student achievement was also to be used to evaluate each public school. Schools were to be graded annually on their students’ absolute performance against the standards and their students’ rate of improvement.
Beginning in 2001, school and district “report cards,” indicating whether the local schools were rated as excellent, good, average, below average, or unsatisfactory, were sent to parents and published in local newspapers. In anticipation of low-scoring schools and districts, the legislation provided for various intervention strategies, including improvement plans, grants for low-performing schools, and on-site specialists who would help teachers improve student scores. The legislation also called for class-size reduction for unsatisfactory schools. In cases of continued academic failure, the State Board of Education was granted authority to replace school principals, replace district superintendents, or assume management of the district. To recognize high-scoring schools, the legislation established the Palmetto Gold and Silver Awards Program to reward schools for academic achievement. An Education Oversight Committee (EOC), composed of a representative of the governor’s office, representatives from the state legislature, educators, and business-people, was created to monitor and evaluate implementation of the EAA.