88 percent of S.C. 11th-graders earn work-skills certificate

About 88 percent of South Carolina’s 11th-graders scored high enough on a work-skills test last spring to receive certificates they can take to employers.

Scores released Tuesday by the state’s education agencies establish a baseline. Last spring was the first time all 11th-graders took ACT’s WorkKeys, which awards career readiness certificates in four levels of proficiency.

A quarter of test-takers statewide earned a bronze certificate. ACT spokesman Ed Colby said that means those students have skills matching 17 percent of jobs in the WorkKeys’ national database. Less than 1 percent earned a platinum certificate, meaning they’re qualified for 99 percent of the jobs. Forty percent earned silver certificates, while 22 percent earned gold.

In Charleston County schools, 87 percent of students received a certificate based on their test performance. More than 20 percent of those students earned a bronze certificate and nearly 36 percent earned silver. More than 29 percent earned gold and 1.5 percent earned platinum.

Scores were highest at top-ranked Academic Magnet High School, where all 158 students tested earned a certificate. At Lincoln Middle-High School in McClellanville, more than half of the students who took the WorkKeys exam did not earn a certificate at all.

Colby said a student who does not earn a certificate likely hasn’t acquired the workplace skills needed for success in the majority of jobs in the WorkKeys’ database.

Students in Berkeley and Dorchester counties performed slightly better than the state average. In Dorchester Districts 2 and 4, more than 90 percent of students who took the WorkKeys exam received a certificate. In Berkeley County, more than 89 percent of students received a certificate.

A law passed last year replaced the high school exit exam with WorkKeys and the ACT college-readiness test.

Deanna Pan of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.