February 10, 2016

571 more South Carolinians qualify for GED thanks to test changes

A change in how the GED is scored this year means more than 500 South Carolinians have qualified to receive the high school equivalence diploma, according to state education officials.

The GED Testing Service announced a recalibration to the test passing score and the addition of two new performance levels. The changes lower the passing score for high school equivalency from 150 to 145. The GED program will also include two optional levels above high school equivalency to signify college readiness, and for some test-takers the opportunity to earn college credits. The company said the scoring changes are driven by a detailed analysis of educational outcomes of GED program graduates compared to high school graduates over the past 18 months.

The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) said 571 GED testers will be impacted. Each of them can now receive their South Carolina High School Equivalency Diploma. The GED Diplomas based on the new cut score will be dated December 31, 2015. It may take several weeks to perform the required technology updates in order for the new cut scores to be incorporated in the South Carolina Department of Education’s GED database. Many other GED testers may now be very close to passing the test.

These residents will have the opportunity to continue their education in postsecondary institutions and to increase the opportunity for employment.   Since the GED Testing program started in the early 1940s, over 220,000 South Carolina residents have earned a high school diploma via the GED testing program.

The South Carolina GED administrator said that the number of citizens who earned GED credentials during 2014 and 2015 will increase from 3,512 to 4,083 with the implementation of the new GED cut scores. During 2015, South Carolina’s pass rate on the GED test was 77 percent. With the inclusion of the additional GED passers, the revised pass rate should be higher.

The passing score of the GED test will continue to be used to measure high school equivalency and to award a state’s GED credential. The two additional performance levels will be called GED College Ready, used to signify readiness to enter credit-bearing college courses; and GED College Ready + Credit, which may qualify students for up to 10 hours of college credit.

Clemson task force recommends changes in how school presents its history

The task force recommended the school tell Clemson's historical narrative and its "imperfect craftsmen" (Image: Clemson University)

The task force recommended the school tell Clemson’s historical narrative and its “imperfect craftsmen” (Image: Clemson University)

A task force charged with looking at how Clemson University tells its history issued its final report Friday, proposing a new history center or museum among other changes.

The school’s board of trustees adopted the recommendations in a unanimous vote Friday. The study followed a push from some faculty and students for Clemson to address uncomfortable aspects of its heritage as a Southern university, particularly on racial issues. Many of those faculty have called for the name of former segregationist governor Ben Tillman to be removed from the school’s iconic and oldest building Tillman Hall.

While the recommendations did not recommend any name removals, task force chairman David Wilkins said the museum and new historical markers around campus will tell the “complete” and “unvarnished” story of the school’s 127-year history.

“We have a past that’s inspirational and also a past that is one you wish things could be changed on,” Wilkins told South Carolina Radio Network. “But it’s our history and we want to tell it.”

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Legislation seeks to improve workforce training in South Carolina

Legislation which tries to streamline workforce programs across South Carolina passed the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson (File)

Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson (File)

At a press conference right before the measure passed in a 106-5 vote, State Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, said the bill creates a new statewide Coordinating Council for Workforce Development that will work with various agencies and county workforce training programs to better organize jobs programs with the needs of companies.

“We’ve listened to the business community, we listened to the technical college system, we listened to the economic development folks,” White said. “And we tried to put something together.”

Gov. Nikki Haley hoped the new council will help ease some coordination problems currently hurting South Carolina’s workforce. Haley cited that there are about 124,000 people out of work in the state, but 60,000 job openings that are not being filled.

“This is us going to our businesses and saying what are the 60,000 jobs you can’t fill?” she told reporters in the press conference with White and state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman. “It is going to our technical colleges and saying we want you to partner with us to make sure that they can get skilled to get these jobs.”

The legislation would require the new council make recommendations to the state Board of Education on what basic skills and core competencies are needed for K-12 education as they relate to workforce training and education. The council, which will be part of the state Commerce Department, will also monitor the development of secondary curriculum which integrates career and technical and academic education. It also requires the council craft a 10-year comprehensive plan for workforce development.

White’s bill would also expand opportunities for high school students, allowing them to take college-level courses that count toward their diploma and a technical certificate or associate’s degree. It also provides grants to the state’s unemployed so they can train for a job offered in their area.

Only a few Republicans voted against the idea. State Rep. Jonathon Hill, R-Townville, worried it was expanding government to benefit large manufacturers at the expense of small business.

“This whole effort seems to be a big step in the direction of a centrally-planned economy,” Hill said, arguing the state would fail at trying to guess future job needs. “We cannot centrally-plan the economy of this state and hope to have a thriving economy long-term.”

The bill needs one more procedural vote, likely coming on Thursday, before it heads to the Senate.


SC House panel rejects raising high school dropout age

State Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg (File)

State Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg (File)

A House education panel on Wednesday voted against a proposal to raise South Carolina’s high school dropout age.

The House K-12 Education Subcommittee voted along party lines to end debate on a bill that would increase the minimum dropout age from 17 to 18. Republicans on the panel questioned if the requirement was enforceable and if it would actually improve student academics.

Democrats said it would help give educators and parents another year to change a teen’s mind. “It will allow parents to have some leverage in terms of working with the school system and in terms of getting the children to comply with attending school,” State Rep. Jerry Govan, who is also an Orangeburg County truancy officer, said during the meeting.

Govan said the bill could raise graduation rates, give students another year to reconsider quitting school, create a better educated and skilled workforce and eliminate the current “gap year” in which students are ineligible for many career training programs until they turn 18.

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SC State University seeks help as it tries to get off probation

SC State Interim President Franklin Evans (File)

SC State Interim President W. Franklin Evans (File)

Officials with SC State University are asking legislators to help forgive some of the school’s debt as it tries to get off probation this summer

The president and board of trustees for South Carolina’s only public historically-black college appealed to a House budget panel Tuesday. Specifically, SC State officials are asking legislators to forgive a three-year, $12 million loan granted by the General Assembly in 2014. That loan was meant to help the school pay more than $7 million in overdue bills to vendors.

At issue is the school’s accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has placed the Orangeburg college on probation for the past two years due to financial issues. SC State interim president W. Franklin Evans said two years is the limit, so SACS will either revoke the school’s accreditation or end probation when the time comes this summer.

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