Test scores among South Carolina middle school students improved in science, but dropped in other fields, according to the latest data released by state officials on Tuesday.
The state Department of Education released standardized testing data that showed an improvement in scores on the science section of the South Carolina Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (SCPASS) test.
While scores showed improvements in some grade levels, it also highlighted a disparity between the state’s top students and those underachieving. Overall students from elementary through middle school received a higher rate of “exemplary scores” than in 2015 however there was also an increase in the number of students in grades 4 through 6 who failed to meet the state’s basic standard. In other words, the top students appear to be scoring higher than before and the state’s average students are performing worse.
In the science section of the SCPASS test, only students in grades 7 and 8 showed improvement in both the number of exemplary scores as well as the number of students who passed the state standards.
In addition to science, the SCPASS measures students’ competency in the social sciences. In social studies, the number of exemplary scores dropped in every grade tested, however the number of students that met the basic requirements did rise for grades 4-7.
The SCPASS test measures the “continuum of knowledge and skill,” of students in the state. The test is graded on a curve and the scores are curved to determine a stratigraphy of scores from school to school. For example, no matter how high or low a score is on the test, the top score in the school will receive a 900 and the bottom score a 300. All the other scores in the school are then weighted based on those two scores. This allows for schools to compare their scores from year to year despite different test versions and new curriculums. An exemplary score means that the majority of scores were above the median score in the school.