11th-graders outperform state peers on first statewide ACT exams

Beaufort County 11th-graders outperformed their peers across South Carolina on the first statewide administration of the ACT college entrance exam, according to data recently released by the South Carolina Department of Education.

District 11th-graders exceeded state averages in all four subject areas measured by the ACT. Only 15 of South Carolina’s 87 school districts achieved that level of success.

District students in grades 3-8, meanwhile, outperformed the state in math but fell just short in English language arts on South Carolina’s first administration of ACT Aspire exams.

SCPASS exams taken by fourth- through eighth-graders were the only tests administered last spring that South Carolina students had taken in previous years. Beaufort County scores on SCPASS social studies exams generally improved from 2014 to 2015, while science scores generally decreased.

“Our district’s first ACT results, and our ACT Aspire results in mathematics, are definitely encouraging,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss. “But we have a lot of work ahead of us. We won’t be satisfied until our students are scoring right up there with the state’s highest performers.”

The diverse mix of statewide assessments last spring occurred as the state worked to implement new academic standards for all grades. State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said the exams reflect more rigorous academic standards and expectations. She added that adopting rigorous standards and accompanying assessments would require an adjustment by students, parents and teachers as educators and students transition to a more challenging academic environment.

Moss noted that while the new exams don’t provide the long-term trend data required to measure improvement over time, he was confident that the steady and sometimes dramatic increases in Beaufort County student achievement seen in recent years would continue.

“Our teachers and administrators have been working very hard, and certainly our students have, too,” Moss said. “Our scores have been trending upward for the last few years, so our challenge is to keep that positive momentum going.”

Because the 2015 ACT and ACT Aspire exam administrations were the states first for 11th-graders, they can’t be compared to results from the High School Assessment Program, or HSAP. That exam was retired by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2014.

Similar action by the General Assembly replaced statewide SCPASS testing in mathematics and English Language Arts with ACT Aspire exams.

“It is important to note that Aspire and ACT were administered for the first time in our state,” Spearman said. “District staff, principals, teachers and parents must all work together to ensure our students are college- and career-ready, and I have great confidence that we’re headed in the right direction.”

ACT and ACT Aspire results for 2015 could possibly be the only results from those tests to be released. New South Carolina math and English language arts academic standards were adopted by the State Board of Education earlier this year, and the Education Department is currently selecting new exams that may, or may not, include the ACT and ACT Aspire.

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