The South Carolina Department of Education recently released the results of 2018 statewide assessments for high school End-of-Course and Ready to Work (R2W) exams, and Beaufort County students improved their performance and exceeded state averages on End-of-Course exams and also exceeded state averages on R2W exams.
South Carolina students’ scores on high school end-of-course exams count for 20 percent of final grades in Algebra 1, English 1, Biology and U.S. History and Constitution. Beaufort County School District students’ 2018 average scores improved on three of those four tests over the previous year. Scoring on Biology End-of-Course exams was realigned this year with new state academic standards, so those scores could not be compared with last year’s results.
For the second straight year, the percentages of Beaufort County School District students with passing scores surpassed the state in all four subject areas.
Here’s a look at average scores on individual End-of-Course exams for 2018.
- Algebra I – The percentage passing increased to 79.6 compared to 77.5 last year (state passing percentage for 2018 was 68).
- English I – The percentage passing increased to 84.8 compared to 81.4 last year (state passing percentage for 2018 was 80.8).
- Biology – The district’s percentage passing was 72.6 compared to the state’s passing percentage of 67.4). Biology scoring was rescaled in 2018, so exam scores could not be compared with 2017.
- U.S. History and Constitution – The percentage passing increased to 75.5 compared to 73.4 in 2017 (state passing percentage for 2018 was 71.1).
“We’re always encouraged when our students improve, and that was the case this year on End-of-Course Exams,” said Bonnie Almond, the school district’s Chief Instructional Services Officer. “But we don’t want to downplay the challenges we face. All of us – educators and students alike – have a lot of hard work ahead before we attain the achievement levels we want to see. I’m confident that we’ll get there together.”
South Carolina also requires all 11th-graders to take exams each spring that let them earn qualifying scores for “portable” certificates that students can use to qualify for good-paying jobs anywhere in the nation.
More than 51,000 South Carolina 11th-graders – and 1,475 11th-graders in the Beaufort County School District – took 2018 R2W exams to qualify for Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum certificates. In Beaufort County, 64.3 percent of 11th-graders earned Silver or higher (compared to 63.3 percent statewide), indicating they already have the skills necessary for two-thirds of profiled jobs; 7.1 percent scored Gold (compared to 6.8 percent statewide), indicating they are already equipped with the skills for 90 percent of jobs; and 2.3 percent scored at the Platinum level (compared to 2.5 percent statewide), indicating they are ready for virtually any job in the workforce.
District Career and Technology Education Director Karen Gilbert said many businesses across the nation now use Ready-to-Work certificates as prescreening tools for job applicants. She added that many employers recognize, recommend or require certificates as part of their hiring criteria. In South Carolina alone, more than 250 employers recognize the certificates.
“A business can use this skills assessment system no matter where it’s located,” Gilbert said. “It’s also a plus for our students because they can pinpoint the skills they need to build if they hope to land good-paying jobs.”
R2W exams measure Applied Mathematics (problem-solving skills ranging from basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication and division to multiple math functions like calculating percentage discounts); Reading for Information (comprehension and reasoning skills when using written text on the job, including memos, letters, directions, signs, notices, bulletins, policies and regulations); and Locating Information (comprehension and application of workplace graphics such as charts, graphs, tables, forms, flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, maps and instrument gauges).
In addition, R2W exams measure “Soft Skills” such as resolving conflict, solving problems, setting goals and making decisions. The assessment items require students to choose two answers for each question – the “best” and “worst” answers for handling each situation.
The Department of Education reported the percentages of 11th-graders passing the “Soft Skills” section. In Beaufort County, 76.1 percent of 11th-graders passed that section of the exam compared to 76.9 percent statewide.
The mismatch between the skills required for most jobs and the skills of the U.S. workforce is having a significant impact on productivity and revenue across all businesses and industries. Employers need reliable ways to measure foundational skills to ensure that they are hiring the most qualified, trainable candidates.