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Schools: Test results mixed as standards get tougher

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Students in the Waccamaw schools had mixed results on the state’s standardized tests this spring as the state moved toward the Common Core education standards and a more rigorous curriculum, according to results released by the state Department of Education last week.

The Palmetto Assessment of State Standards is given to students in grades three through eight in five subjects: writing, reading, math, social studies and science. Reading and math tests changed as the state blended its former standards with those of the Common Core, created by a consortium of states to allow comparisons between them.

The state began implementing Common Core standards in 2011 and they apply in all grades this year, but the legislature passed a bill this year requiring new state standards and assessments. The standards have drawn opposition from conservatives as federal interference in education and from a range of groups that question their effectiveness. Supporters argue they are more rigorous and will better prepare students for college and careers.

“We certainly noted that the rigorous curriculum brought a need for blended learning for students,” said Patti Hammel, the director of student performance for the Georgetown County School District.

Among the district’s sixth-graders, the number who met or exceeded the standards grew in all areas on this spring’s PASS tests compared to 2013. But over a quarter of those students didn’t meet the standards in reading, writing or math. Science and social studies results are harder to compare because in some grades only half the students are tested.

In the Waccamaw schools, the number of students who met or exceeded the standards in writing rose in grades three (83.3 percent), four (89.8) and five (90.9). Reading results improved in grades five (92.1 percent) and eight (83.6). Math results improved in grades three (82.5 percent) and eight (78.7).

In grades four and eight, where all students were tested in science and social studies, Waccamaw students increased in all but eighth-grade social studies. Across the district, results improved in both areas in grade four, but fell in grade eight. Eighth-grade science had the lowest number of students meeting any of the standards, 58.4 percent. At Waccamaw Middle, 77.9 percent met or exceeded the standards.

Hammel noted that the district added two science coaches last year. This year the district has added reading coaches through a state-funded initiative.

“Georgetown County schools mirrored the state in areas of growth and areas which will be strengthened by the Read to Succeed legislation as well additional reading coaches in all our elementary schools,” she said.

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