For a second consecutive year, Beaufort County School District’s 11th-grade students outperformed the state on a mandatory statewide exam known as WorkKeys, according to South Carolina Department of Education data released Monday. The district’s scores, however, were down slightly from the last two years.
About 1,300 district students took the exam last spring, 84.9 percent of whom scored high enough to earn a certificate. In 2016, 87.6 percent of students qualified. In 2015, 90.2 percent qualified.
WorkKeys certificates are awarded at four levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee adopted a score of silver or better last month as a measure of career-readiness, a Beaufort County School District news release said.
Asked to address the decline in scores from previous years, district spokesman Jim Foster pointed to a possible adjustment to online testing in the last two years. In 2015, students took the exam with a paper and pencil, which students are accustomed to doing, he said.
He also noted an increase in the district’s poverty levels.
“There’s no way to know with certainty what the causes might be,” Foster wrote in an email. “Three years is not much to work with in terms of analyzing trends.”
The decline in scores from 2015 to 2017 is also seen statewide, with 84 percent of students earning a certificate last spring, down from last year’s 86.8 percent and 2015’s 87.9 percent.
S.C. Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown cited the same reasons as Foster — adjustments to online testing and increasing levels of poverty — for the statewide decrease.
An increasing number of businesses require job applicants to have a WorkKeys certificate, according to the release.
“It’s a skills and knowledge measurement system that’s consistent nationwide,” superintendent Jeff Moss said in the release. “…Businesses can rely on it no matter where they’re located. And it works for our high school students, too, because it lets them know what they need to concentrate on if they hope to land good-paying jobs.”
The district is working with local business and industry partners to expand and enhance work-based experiences for students, Moss said in the release.
The WorkKeys exam includes three 45-minute tests: Applied Mathematics, Locating Information and Reading for Information.