Progress has been made in some areas, but we have a lot more work to do. That’s the message conveyed by Neil Robinson, Chairman of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee during a Monday press conference at the state House. Robinson says one of the highest predictors for individual student success is the ability to read proficiently. Robinson points out that the results of 2011 standardized tests shows that while some progress has been made, basic reading proficiency among students in the developmental grades have remained relatively flat.
“Data from the 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) assessment shows that 61 percent of south Carolina 4th graders scored basic and above, only 61 percent. 72 percent of 8th graders scored basic and above in 2011 which was up from 68 percent two years prior.”
Robinson points out that the 2011 results from the PASS (Palmetto Assessment of State Standards) test shows that only 80 percent of 3rd graders are reading at grade level, and that percentage slips to less than 70 percent among 8th graders. Robinson says what is especially disturbing is the achievement gap that persists between white and minority students.
“8th grade English language arts performance on PASS and the expanded achievement gap among students of various ethnic and socio-economic groups are of particular concern, and until we begin to address the persistent achievement gap between students we will never turn things around.”
The 2010 PASS results shows that among 3rd graders 88 percent of white students reading at grade level compared to 71 percent for African American student, and 74.5 percent for Latino students. Among 8th graders 74.5 percent of white students were reading at grade level, compared to 47 percent for African Americans, 58 percent for Latino students.
Robinson says students without a solid foundation in reading proficiency have a difficult time as they move up the grades and that continues to be indicating by the number of students who do not graduate on time.
“While the state’s graduation rate is slowly increasing, let’s be honest, one in five children will enter the 9th grade and will not graduate in four or even five years; that means the current system is failing one out of every five of our students.”
Robinson says the EOC’s 2020 vision campaign states that by 2020, 88.3 percent of student will graduate high school on time. Currently, 74. 9 percent of students are achieving that goal.
Robinson says while the state’s high school graduation rate is slowly increasing, over 40 percent who do graduate still need supplemental training in order to successfully handle the educational rigor of a technical school or two-year college.
“They’re graduating from high school in South Carolina and entering a two-year college and 41 percent need remediation. That cost the state $21 million. We know the work force of today demands skilled workers, while the demand for low-skill labor is weakening.”
Robinson says we must equip teachers with the training and tools they need to provide intervention to struggling readers at every grade level. Robinson adds that the EOC is committed to working with all stakeholders, including the business community to equip South Carolina’s students with the skills needed for the 21st century workplace.