By JEFFREY COLLINS
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Letter grades for nearly half of South Carolina's school districts dropped during the past school year, but education officials blame more ambitious performance goals rather than poorer achievement by students.
The state Education Department released the report card data Thursday. It shows that 39 of the state's 85 districts went down at least a letter grade this school year. Just eight districts improved by at least a letter grade. Three-quarters of all school districts got a C or better, while eight districts were given an F.
Of the state's nearly 1,100 schools, 21 went from an A to an F in one year. All school districts in the Tri-County area experienced drops in performance, according to the department.
Education officials say it's because they set higher goals for the 2012-13 school year compared to the year before.
Other data released Thursday showed 82% of South Carolina high school students passed the exit exam on the first try. It is the fourth straight year of improvement.
2013 letter grades for South Carolina schools: http://ed.sc.gov/data/esea/2013/
2013 standardized test results for grades 3-8: http://ed.sc.gov/data/pass/2013/
2013 high school graduation exam results: http://ed.sc.gov/data/hsap/hsap.cfm?year=2013