COLUMBIA, S.C. — “It's encouraging, but there's still a lot of work to be done,” said Derek Phillips of the South Carolina Department of Education.
The department has released standardized test results for last school year. Phillips says more students met or exceeded expectations in English, passing pre-pandemic levels.
Students grades three through eight take the READY test for math and English.
“We saw about a 7% increase across the board in grades three through eight for ELA,” Phillips said.
Nearly 54% met or exceeded expectations in English, up from 47% last year. 41% met or exceeded expectations in math, up from 39% last year but 4% less than pre-pandemic years.
“So with math, there's still a significant amount of work that needs to be done there,” Phillips said. “And then science scores were more primarily the same as last year, so we didn't really see much of a movement.”
Students grades four and six take the PASS test for science. 45% met or exceeded standards in science, compared to 46% last year and 43% before that.
Patrick Kelly from the Palmetto State Teachers Association says South Carolina's results mirror trends from national assessment data, and don’t surprise him.
“These are all the students that experienced instructional disruptions due to COVID,” Kelly said. “And what teachers can tell you and the data bears out is that reading is easier to learn when you’re having disrupted instruction. Because it's easier to read on your own, it's easier for a parent to assist. Math is a trickier thing.”
Kelly says standardized testing really only gives a snapshot of one moment in time rather than giving a full picture of how students are doing in school.
“What really alarms me the most about math is when I peel back the data and not look at all students in grades three through eight,” Kelly said. ”In the aggregate, when you look at the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations by grade level, our eighth grade students are really struggling in math. 40% of our eighth graders did not meet expectations in math. And that's a significant number, that's the highest of any grade level by far. Not terribly surprising, because those students would have been in fifth and sixth grade when COVID hit.”
Sherry East, president of the SC Educators Association, agrees that standardized testing scores show just one aspect of a student’s success.
She says the teacher shortage we’re experiencing may also be a reason for the small increases or stabilization in test scores.
“We’ve had this shortage for a while,” East said. “It’s just getting to the point where we’ve got international teachers teaching, we’ve got emergency at-home certification, folks that’ve not been trained in literacy or teaching in the classrooms right now.”
Phillips says going forward, one of their strategies is lightening the load for teachers and students.
“One of the big things right now that we are looking to do is reduce the amount of standards that are being taught across the board,” Phillips said.