District test scores mirror state

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Beaufort County students saw slight declines in performance on South Carolina PASS tests and high school exit exams for 2013-14, the first declines following several years of improvement. Scoring decreased statewide at rates higher than in Beaufort County, according to data officially released today by the South Carolina Department of Education.

“Educators generally look at long-term trend data rather than year-to-year fluctuations,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.  “Over the last few years, our student performance has improved significantly, and our challenge now is to analyze these new data and look for places where we can target our efforts and stay on an upward track.”

Moss said that some of the statewide declines in PASS performance this year were expected because two of the tests — Mathematics and Reading and Research — were different from last year’s assessments and included material that educators considered to be more rigorous. Lower exit exam scores also were expected because first-time test takers, mostly 10th graders, knew before taking the tests that the General Assembly was eliminating the state law that required students to pass the exit exam before earning high school diplomas.

PASS highlights

South Carolina and federal laws require end-of-year accountability tests based on state academic standards. PASS (Palmetto Assessment of State Standards) tests students in grades 3-8 in five subjects: English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and writing.

PASS has three scoring levels, and students are said to have met the state standard if they score at either of the top two levels:

• Exemplary: The student demonstrated exemplary performance in meeting the grade-level standard.

• Met: The student met the grade-level standard.

• Not met: The student did not meet the grade-level standard.

For 2014, Beaufort County’s percentages of third through eighth-grade students meeting the state standard — a score of Basic on the three PASS scoring levels — improved in 18 of 30 combinations of grade levels and subjects tested, compared to 18 of 26 in 2013 (Writing exams were given in only two grades last year but in six grades this year).  Statewide, PASS performance improved in eight of 30 grade levels and subjects tested.

The numbers of Beaufort County students scoring in the highest category (Exemplary) increased in 22 out of 30 subject-grade configurations (six grades each in Writing, Math, English Language Arts, Science and Social Studies). The numbers of students scoring in the lowest category (Not Met) increased in 19 out of 30 subject-grade configurations.

HSAP (high school exit exam) highlights

HSAP (High School Assessment Program) testing serves as both a state-mandated exit exam required for a South Carolina high school diploma and a federally mandated assessment program to measure high school progress.

Public school students must pass both the English language arts and mathematics sections of HSAP to meet the state’s exit examination requirement for a diploma.  The tests are initially administered in students’ second year of high school, and students who don’t pass both sections on their first attempts have additional opportunities to retake the tests they have not passed.

During their initial attempt last spring, 81.2 percent of Beaufort County test-takers passed both sections of the exit exam.  That represented a 3 percentage point decrease from 2013’s passing rate of 84.2 but still 9.5 percentage points higher than five years ago.

Beaufort County’s 81.2 percent passing rate surpassed the state average (77.4 percent).  As a whole, South Carolina’s percent-passing rate dropped 4.6 percentage points, from 82 to 77.4.

Among individual high schools, Battery Creek High had a 67.1 percent passing rate in 2013 (down from 80.1), Beaufort High was 82 percent (down from 85.5 percent), Bluffton High was 89.8 percent (down from 89.9), Hilton Head High was 86.9 percent (up from 85.2 percent) and Whale Branch Early College High School was 66.2 percent (down from 75 percent).