Beaufort County School District students increased their scores on several key standardized assessments including the state's high school exit exam, according to results released by the S.C. Department of Education Thursday.
Almost 76 percent of students passed both the English and math sections of the High School Assessment Program the first time they took the exams, which is usually in their second year of high school. That's up from 74 percent in 2010 and 72 percent in 2009.
The HSAP test is both an exit exam required for a South Carolina public high school diploma and a federally mandated testing program to measure progress. Students who do not pass can take the test again.
District scores on four out of five end-of-course exams are up, too.
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End-of-course exams are given at the end of hallmark courses such as algebra, English, biology, physical science and U.S. history and count for 20 percent of a student's grade.
The district average scores increased over 2010 numbers on the algebra, English and U.S. history exams. The biology exam was not given in 2010.
The average score on the physical science exam dropped slightly, from 71.9 out of 100 to 70.8.
Hilton Head Island High School students' scores topped their district peers on four of the five end-of-course exams and the HSAP. Principal Amanda O'Nan said the scores, which also top state averages, could be explained by a mentoring program the school implemented.
O'Nan said each of her teachers has works with a student who has struggled on the HSAP. The teachers tutor the students and coach them all the way to test day, she said.
"They're the kid's biggest cheerleader," O'Nan said. "The teachers are extremely dedicated and not just going through the motions. They're making sure every single kid is brought up to par."
District scores on the both exams still lag behind state averages. Average scores on four out of five end-of-course exam are less than one point behind state averages.
Beaufort County students' average score on the new biology exam was 78, which bested the state average of 77.6.
At the district level, about 87.8 percent of students passed the HSAP English exam. Statewide, 88.6 percent of students passed.
On the HSAP math test, 77.7 percent of Beaufort County students passed. Statewide, 81.2 percent passed.
The district's scores have climbed since 2009.
"We're not where we need to be in terms of student achievement, but we'll get there if we can sustain these improvements year in and year out," Superintendent Valerie Truesdale said in a news release. "We have to keep pushing forward."
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Related content:County test scores gain on state, but still lag; Oct. 5, 2010