Education officials say South Carolina’s newest test scores are disappointing, but somewhat expected.
South Carolina students scores in grades 3-8 declined in most subjects on the state-standardized Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) test compared to 2013. But state officials said those results were not surprising because schools are switching to new Common Core learning benchmarks in math and reading for 2014 and 2015.
Those transition showed, as tests scored either “Met” or “Exemplary” dropped in every grade for English Language Arts and declined in Mathematics for all grades but 3rd and 7th.
However, scores also dropped across the board in Science. Results were mixed in the Social Studies section, with grades 4-6 seeing improvement over last year, while the other three tested age groups regressed. Writing also broke even. Grades 3-5 saw significant improvement on the tests, but middle school students dropped slightly. However, a higher percentage of students scored “exemplary” in writing for each grade than in 2013.
State Education Superintendent Mick Zais said one positive takeaway was that the gap between disabled students and others appears to be declining.
“While we have not made substantial gains… we have narrowed 24 out of 30 achievement gaps between disabled students and those without a disability,” he said in a statement. “Across all five subject areas, in the majority of grades tested, the percentage of students who earned an Exemplary score increased. While we’re making progress slowly but surely, a greater focus on literacy is necessary for us to see further improvements.”
The decline in scores as schools transition to Common Core standards are being seen across the country, according to Education Oversight Commission spokeswoman Dana Yow. Yow said the new Common Core benchmarks differ from the state test, which could explain the drop.
2014 was the final year for PASS tests in English Language Arts and Math. South Carolina was originally planning to use a Common Core-based test through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as a replacement. But state legislators this year ordered a task force to choose a new assessment test as part of a move away from Common Core. A task force is trying to find a replacement. Zais, who withdrew the state from Smarter Balanced, said the group’s assessment test could still be used.