County test scores gain on state, but still lag

Beaufort County School District scores on statewide end-of-course exams improved this year in three of four subjects, but local scores still trail state averages on all four exams, according to results released Tuesday by the S.C. Department of Education.

"While we are not where we need to be yet, we are encouraged by the positive trends in the district's five high schools," superintendent Valerie Truesdale said in a news release.

South Carolina introduced statewide end-of-course testing six years ago. The same tests in four courses -- Algebra 1, English 1, Physical Science and U.S. History and the Constitution -- are administered to all students across the state.

Students typically take the exams in high school, but gifted students on an advanced academic track sometimes take them in middle school. Results count for 20 percent of each student's final grade in the courses.

The district improved its scores in algebra, English and physical science this year. It earned its highest average score of 79.2 -- a "C" -- on the algebra exam.

Under South Carolina's grading scale, a numerical score of 93 to 100 constitutes an A; a B is 85-92; a C is 77-84; and a D is 70-76. Scores of 69 or below are an F.

The district's average score on the U.S. History and the Constitution exam fell from 68.1 in 2009 to 67.5 this year. That exam, added two years ago, is the state's newest. Only 37 percent of district students passed it this year.

The percentage of district students passing the other three exams increased between 2008 and 2010, according to a school district news release.

For example, 55 percent of county students passed the physical science exam this year. In 2008, that number was just above 40 percent.

Statewide, scores also improved, according to a news release from the state Department of Education. State Superintendent Jim Rex said more students posted grades of A, B or C, and fewer students failed.

"We're not where we want to be by any stretch of the imagination, particularly with history and science scores," Rex said in a news release. "But it's encouraging for our high schools to see this kind of across-the-board improvement. The key will be sustaining that improvement over the long haul. We have to keep pushing."