The percentage of Beaufort County School District students who meet or exceed standards on a key state test has increased across all subject areas this year, and county pass rates are now higher than state rates in writing, English and math.
Despite those gains, however, officials see areas of concern, which superintendent Valerie Truesdale said the district is moving to address.
The Palmetto Assessment of State Standards is given to students in grades three through eight in five subjects: writing, English, math, science and social studies.
In 2009, when the test was first administered, county pass rates lagged statewide rates in all five areas. For example, 67.2 percent of county students met or exceeded math expectations for their grade levels that year, compared to 69.9 percent of students statewide.
Results from the 2011 test, released Friday by the S.C. Department of Education, show those figures have reversed: 74.5 percent of county students passed the math test, compared to 72.9 percent statewide.
Pass rates in writing and English have made similar reversals.
County students still lag the state in science and social studies, but Truesdale said the three years of PASS data now available demonstrate Beaufort County is on an upward trend.
"What it's showing is that we're closing the gap with the state average," she said.
Truesdale credited math, science and literacy coaches and a focus on data for the improvements.
There are, however, data points in the 2011 test that concern district officials.
In social studies, countywide scores edged upward and narrowed the gap with state scores. But last year, fifth, seventh and eighth graders exceeded state pass rates in the subject. This year, no grade topped the statewide rate.
The problem, Truesdale said, is reading weakness.
Though county pass rates on the English test are nearly a percentage higher than the rate statewide, she said social studies scores show students are struggling to understand difficult material and to connect causes and effects.
"We're doing better in reading, but the deep comprehension -- we've got to work on it," Truesdale said. "One of the biggest strategies we have this year is that our social studies teachers are going to be focused on teaching reading and writing in social studies."
Other areas of note from the 2011 results:
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.