Depending on who you ask, the Beaufort County School District is either a top-performer in the state of South Carolina or a collection of mediocre schools producing graduates ill-prepared for college and work.
The quality of the district has been debated in recent weeks by school district officials and their harshest critics, members of the community group Citizens About Responsible Education.
The argument peaked last week when CARE distributed a flier that called the school district “abysmal” and “unimpressive” compared to districts nationwide. Superintendent Jeff Moss responded in turn with an open letter defending the district’s progress and statewide standing.
Several board members — chairwoman Mary Cordray and members Bill Payne and Earl Campbell — echoed Moss at their regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday, denigrating CARE for what they called attacks on the district’s students, parents and teachers. When a third member, JoAnn Orischak, spoke up in the group’s defense, Cordray tried to cut her off.
“Are you correcting an error or are you speaking on behalf of a group?” Cordray asked as Orischak said that CARE had never voiced negativity about the district’s teachers.
“You asked if there were any comments or additions to what you said,” Orischak responded. “Then let me call this a correction. I’m correcting you. I’m correcting you, madam chair.”
Moss, however, used a moment of his time during Tuesday’s meeting to heed CARE’s request for a broader comparison of the district’s academic performance. He briefly presented the Beaufort County school board with some highlights of the district’s national standing in four different assessments, the SATs, ACTs, ACT WorkKeys, and the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress.
Following is our breakdown of each, as well as a fourth assessment he did not present — AP exam results — for Beaufort County public schools, the state and the nation.
See for yourself how the district is competing:
What was the average score on the SAT college entrance exam in 2015?
▪ Beaufort County public schools: 1,422, down from 1,424 in 2014 and up from 1,416 in 2010.
▪ South Carolina: 1,428, down from 1,429 in 2014 and 1,447 in 2010.
▪ Nation:1,490, down from 1,497 in 2014 and 1,506 in 2010.
Notes: Average SAT scores tend to slip as the number of students taking the college-admissions test increases. Different states also participate in the SATs at different rates, and some of the states with the lowest participation have the best overall scores.
In North Dakota, for example, only 2.3 percent of students took the SAT in 2014, but 83 percent of those test-takers met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, compared to 42.6 percent nationally.
In South Carolina, 65 percent of students took the test in 2014, and 35.1 percent of those test-takers met the benchmark.
In summary: Beaufort County schools made progress, but not on par with state; national comparison unreliable
What was the average score on the ACT college entrance exam in 2015?
▪ Beaufort County public schools: 20.7, up from 20.6 in 2014 and 20.1 in 2011
▪ South Carolina: 20.4, unchanged from 2014
▪ National: 21, largely unchanged over past 10 years.
Notes: Despite increased participation, national scores have hovered between 21.1 and 20.9 since 2004.
In summary: Beaufort County schools outperform state, near national average
How many 11th graders who took these three 45-minute tests scored high enough to earn certificates at the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum levels, which can be used to qualify for a variety of technical jobs, in 2015?
▪ Beaufort County public schools: 90 percent earned a certificate; 69 percent earned a Silver or higher.
▪ South Carolina: 89 percent earned a certificate; 63 percent earned a Silver or higher.
▪ Nation: 89 percent of test-takers between 2010 and 2014 earned a certificate; 68 percent earned a Silver or higher.
Notes: South Carolina schools administered the WorkKeys assessment statewide for the first time in 2015, so there is no comparable data for past years. ACT could not provide national data on 2015 WorkKeys testing Wednesday.
In summary: Beaufort County schools outperform state, nation
Compass Learning/Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress
How many grade levels met the association’s normative averages in math and reading, after taking the NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress assessments in 2016?
▪ Beaufort County public schools: Seven of nine grade levels met the average in math, up from five of nine the previous year. Five of nine grade levels met the average in reading, up from three of nine the previous year.
Notes: The NWEA’s normative averages come from test record pools of 10.2 million students attending more than 23,500 public schools spread across 6,000 districts in 49 states.
In summary: No comparisons available; Beaufort County schools improved in 2016
What percentage of AP exam test takers scored 3 or better on a test’s five-point scale, qualifying them for college credit, in 2015?
▪ Beaufort County public schools: 50 percent, up from 48 percent in 2010
▪ South Carolina: 57 percent, unchanged from 2010
▪ Nation: 60.5 percent, up from 59.6 percent in 2010.
Notes: Participation in AP testing also varies state by state. In South Carolina, 19.2 percent of public high school 11th- and 12th-graders took at least one AP exam in 2014, up from 12.1 percent a decade earlier.
In summary: Beaufort County schools trail behind state, nation