Beaufort County 11th graders outperformed the state on two key statewide exams last year, according to data released Thursday by the South Carolina Department of Education.
The announcement covers two exams that all South Carolina juniors are required to take: the ACT college entrance exam and the WorkKeys exam that allows students to earn certificates that can be used to qualify for jobs. The 2016 scores marked the second year of data for both exams.
In the ACT, Beaufort County juniors had an average composite score of 18.3, compared to the state average of 18.2, ranking them 17th among South Carolina’s 82 school districts. In 2015, the Beaufort County School District’s juniors also scored an average 18.2 on the test.
Students can choose to take the ACT as seniors to improve their scores. In August, the 2016 Condition of College and Career Readiness Report showed that the district’s 2016 graduating class scored an average 18.7, outperforming the state by 0.2 points.
Overall, last year’s Beaufort County graduating class saw a drop in its average composite score, from 20.7 in 2015, which is right in line with the average decrease of 1.8 points associated with mandatory participation in the test, according to the 2016 Condition of College and Career Readiness Report.
“It’s encouraging to see our students again score above the state average, but we still have a lot of work to do,” superintendent Jeff Moss said in a news release. “We want our students to be among South Carolina’s top performers and among the nation’s top performers. We also want to maintain the district’s positive momentum in student achievement. Our students and educators are working hard to do that.”
The state also requires all junior to take WorkKeys exams each spring. Increasing numbers of businesses require job applicants to have WorkKeys certificates, which come in four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Among Beaufort County 11th graders, 87.6 percent scored high enough to earn a certificate, compared to 86.8 percent of 11th-graders statewide. That marked a slight decrease from the first year of WorkKeys testing, which saw 90.2 percent of district 11th graders score high enough to earn a certificate compared to 87.9 percent statewide.
“To have nearly nine out of 10 students qualify for a WorkKeys certificate is significant,” Moss said. “WorkKeys is basically a prescreening tool for job applications. It works for businesses because it’s a nationwide measuring stick for job applicants’ knowledge and skills.”