The South Carolina Department of Education released some encouraging news for the state’s public schools. The results from the latest PASS (Palmetto Assessment of the State Standards) show that the percentage of public school students meeting or exceeding state standards increased in a majority of subjects in four of six grades tested, in the third through eighth grades.
In the second year of the PASS test, students scored better on writing in all but the seventh grade. In English language arts, grades improved except in fifth and eighth grades. Science scores improved in grades four, seven and eight. Mathematics scores increased in grades three and eight and held steady in grade six.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Jim Rex says one reason for the higher scores is the fact that this is the second year the test has been administered and teachers have used the information from the initial test to provide more effective instruction for their students.
In writing, fifth-graders had the highest passing percentage of students meeting the standard or showing exemplary performance – 74.5 percent. The seventh grade passing score was lowest at 69.7 percent. In English language arts, third-graders scored 80.7 percent. Grade eight was lowest at 63.7 percent. In mathematics, grade four had the best passing rate at 76.7 percent. Grade eight was lowest at 63.4 percent.
Deputy Superintendent Valerie Harrison says one reason for improvement in the PASS test results is the effective use of instructional aids by teachers. Gains were also shown by African-American students, students with limited English proficiency and students enrolled in free or reduced-price school food programs in most grades and subjects.
Harrison says increased efforts must be made for students to improve in the subjects of social studies and science. He says improvement levels in these subjects is due partly to time constraints. Harrison is hopeful that the implementation of several new teaching aids aimed toward science and soial studies during the next school year will help the achievement levels in those subjects.
Rex says improvements in the PASS test from year one to year two are encouraging considering that an estimated 70 percent of state public school children are at or below the poverty line. Approximately $750 million has been removed from the K-12 education budget the past two years, and 4,000 teachers have been eliminated from the public school system. Rex says despite those cuts he sees public schools continuing their steady rise as more innovative methods of instruction and leadership are implemented.
Rex cautions that the achievement gap is still evident among several demographic strata including among white and African American students. Rex says students in low-performing schools in poor and rural areas are still having a difficult time improving achievement levels for various reasons.