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Schools: Timely results give test a boost

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

The percentage of Waccamaw Neck students with passing scores on the state’s standardized test continue to stay above the state and district average.

And with scores in the second year of the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards in the hands of teachers at the start of the school year, officials say they will be better able to improve scores this year.

The test measures how well students in grades three through eight meet state standards in English, math, science, social studies and writing. Early data is especially helpful since federal education requirements continue to increase. By 2014 all students, even those with learning disabilities or language barriers, must meet English and math standards.

At Waccamaw Elementary, third-graders are on their way to meeting the 2014 goal with their English language arts scores. About 89 percent of the students met standards this year compared to 82 percent in 2009, but the school slipped in its writing and social studies scores when about 77 percent met standards in writing compared to about 84 percent in 2009 and 83 percent met social studies standards compared to 90 percent in 2009.

Vervatine Reid, the school principal, said third-grade teachers will continue to work together to prepare students for the test, targeting students who many need more help than others in order to improve those scores.

Waccamaw Intermediate School students improved in all areas, especially writing and math, but they also show that there is still work to be done, principal Tim Carnahan said.

Fourth-graders had the highest pass average at 94 percent. In fifth-grade, 83 percent met or exceeded the math standards, and in sixth, about 89 percent met or exceeded the standards. Carnahan credited the sixth-grade’s Everyday math curriculum with students’ progress.

Science scores were not as good as they could be, he admitted.

“It seems to be our area of most need,” he said. “We did have a science coach last year, but I really think we run out of time in a day. You can’t ask kids to go any longer.”

Waccamaw Middle School students showed progress with their writing, principal Bill Dwyer said.

About 82 percent of eighth-graders met state standards compared to 81 percent last year.

Seventh-grade writing scores fell from 82.1 percent to 80 percent, along with math, English, social studies and science scores for both seventh- and eighth-graders.

In all categories, about 20 percent of students didn’t meet standards, Dwyer said. “But we’ll push them to do better.”

“We’ve got things in place with math and English language arts enrichment,” Dwyer said.

That means teachers will stay after school to work with struggling students or try to spend extra time during the day on those subjects, and if additional funds come from the $143 million Congress approved to fund teacher salaries in South Carolina, Patti Hammel, the district’s executive director for student performance, said additional teachers may go into middle schools to help meet those needs.

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