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SC test scores in English surpass pre-pandemic levels, but math scores still recovering

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South Carolina students showed big improvement in English on the latest state tests, surpassing even pre-pandemic levels of proficiency. Provided

The latest South Carolina state test results show student English proficiency has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, but they still have much further to go in math.

The S.C. Department of Education on Sept. 6 released results for the S.C. Palmetto Assessment of State Standards which judges science and social studies proficiencies, and the S.C. College- and Career-Ready Assessments, which judge English Language Arts and Math proficiency, for the 2021-22 school year.

“Today’s results confirm the impacts and disruptions caused by the pandemic and the fact that we must continue to support students and educators as we recover,” S.C. Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said in a press release.

Results show that students improved from the past school year, but their academic proficiencies vary when compared with pre-pandemic levels.

The tests were not administered in 2019-20 because of COVID-19, and the social studies SCPASS test was not administered in 2021-22.

Results from the SC READY assessments, which are administered to South Carolina’s students in the third through eighth grade, show that of the 347,962 students tested, nearly 47 percent met or exceeded expectations in English during the 2021-22 school year.

The percent had dropped during the 2020-21 school year to 42 percent — in 2018-19, 45 percent of students met or exceeded expectations.

However, students’ math proficiencies were not so promising.

Only 39 percent of South Carolina students met or exceeded expectations during the 2021-22 school year. It’s an increase from 37 percent during the 2020-21 school year, but a far cry from the 45 percent proficiency shown in 2018-19.

The SCPASS science assessment was administered to the 113,880 South Carolina students in the fourth, sixth and eighth grades. Only 46 percent of those students met or exceeded state standards in science this past year, though they improved from 43 percent in 2020-21.

Before the pandemic interrupted their studies, 49 percent of students met or exceeded expectations during the 2018-19 school year.

“We are alarmed and very concerned about the regression we see in areas like math, while encouraged by what we see in ELA,” Spearman said. “Much more will need to be done to reach our high standards and goals for the students of South Carolina, and it will take the combined efforts of educators, parents, and other stakeholders as we move forward.”

The drop mirrors national scores and shows how deeply COVID impacted student learning. On Sept. 1, National Assessment of Educational Progress results showed that 9-year-olds lost major progress in math, and reading fell by levels unseen in three decades.

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During the pandemic, federal COVID relief money has been used to fund initiatives like the Language Essentials for Teachers for Reading and Spelling professional learning program, free online tutoring through a partnership with the South Carolina State Library and a new digital library with resources for South Carolina teachers.

But Spearman said it will take more partnerships to return student academic achievement to pre-pandemic levels.

“We are not painting a rosy picture and will look to implement meaningful actions, knowing that we have work to do in areas like math and bridging achievement gaps,” Spearman said. “However, we also want to pause to thank our educators for the growth we already see and work that we know they will do to address the challenges we have ahead.”

Largest 5 districts

Charleston students outperformed the state average in all of the state tests in science, English and math, and showed improvement from last year.

“These are very encouraging results and I am grateful to our teachers, leaders, and families for their work supporting our students,” said Charleston Superintendent Donald Kennedy in a press release. “Although these gains are promising as we kick off the new school year, we still have much work to do in our efforts to ensure that we establish high expectations collaboratively by engaging with families and communities.”

In English, 53.2 percent of CCSD students met or exceeded expectations on the ELA test, and the district’s score is also up four points from 2020-21.

In math, CCSD students were almost 10 points higher than the state average, at 48.9 percent meeting or exceeding expectations this past school year. The overall score is two points higher than last year.

And in science, 51.7 percent of CCSD students met or exceeded expectations, another four-point jump from last year.

In Greenville, 56.1 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the SCPASS science test, 54.5 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the SCREADY English Language Arts assessment and 48.7 percent met or exceeded expectations on the SCREADY math assessment.

In Horry County, 53.3 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the SCPASS science test, while 52.2 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the SCREADY English Language Arts assessments and 46.7 percent met or exceeded expectations in math.

Those numbers were lower in Berkeley County, where 42.1 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the SCPASS science test, 43.9 percent met or exceeded expectations on the SCREADY English Language Arts Assessment and 31.2 percent on the math assessment.

In Richland 2, 49.8 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the SCPASS science test, 49.6 percent met or exceeded expectations on the SCREADY English Language Arts assessment and 40.6 percent on the math assessment.

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Reach Devna Bose at 843-830-4027. Follow her on Twitter @devnabose.

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Devna Bose covers Charleston County schools for The Post and Courier’s Education Lab. A Mississippi native, she previously reported on race and social justice issues in Charlotte.

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