South Carolina students’ end-of-course test scores rise, but racial gaps widen

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South Carolina students improved their scores in all subjects on their end-of-course exams last year, but the gap in performance between white and black students mostly widened.

The average scores among black students were at least a full letter grade lower than the average scores among white students in every subject tested during the 2014-2015 school year, according to results released today by the South Carolina Department of Education.

The gap was widest on the Biology 1/Applied Biology 2 exam, where the average score for black students was a 75, which is equal to “D.” For white students, the average score on the same test was an 87.1, or a “B.” Nearly 64 percent of white students received an “A” or a “B” on the exam, compared to just 28 percent of black students.

In every subject but Algebra 1/Math for the Technologies 2, the difference between white and black student scores increased from the previous school year.

“What we’re seeing is a continuation of a trend in which basically low-income students or black and Hispanic students are showing little or no gains and white students, at least from the data we saw a year ago, are improving at a faster rate,” said John Read, chief executive officer of the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative, which studies education outcomes in Lowcountry school districts.

The End-of-Course Examination Program tests students in four high school core courses: Algebra 1/Mathematics for the Technologies 2, Biology 1/Applied Biology 2, English 1 and U.S. History and the Constitution. The results count for 20 percent of each student’s final grade in each course. They’re also used in calculating each middle and high school’s ratings on state report cards. The minimum passing score is 70.

Average scores also improved in every subject in Charleston County School District and Dorchester District 4. In both Dorchester District 2 and Berkeley County, scores dipped slightly in math and biology, but inched upward in English 1 and U.S. History and the Constitution.

Overall, students in Charleston County, Dorchester District 2 and Berkeley County outperformed the state as a whole — with the exception of students on the Algebra 1/Math for the Technologies 2 exam in Berkeley County, where their average score was about one point lower than the state average.

Charleston County had the highest scores across the board among Lowcountry school districts, but the widest achievement gaps between white and black students. In biology, for instance, the average score among black students in CCSD was 79.1 while the average score among white students was 94.3. And more than 72 percent of white students in CCSD received an A on the exam compared to just 18.1 percent of black students.

“Standardized tests are but one of the measures CCSD uses to gauge the readiness of our students for academically and professionally rigorous work,” CCSD Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait said in a statement. “While we are happy to see improvements in our scores, we know there is much left to do to ensure our students are college and career ready.”

Reach Deanna Pan at (843) 937-5764.