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End of course exam results mixed for local students

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By Reece Murphy

Reece Murphy
rmurphy@thelancasternews.com
End of course exam results were mixed for Lancaster County students for the 2012-13 school year, with performance gains in some areas and slight decreases in others.
South Carolina End of Course Exam Program (EOCEP) began nine years ago as a way to gauge students’ performance on “gateway” or “benchmark” courses: algebra 1/mathematics for the technologies 2; biology 1/applied biology 2; English 1; and U.S. History and the Constitution.
The tests count as 20 percent of the students’ grades in the respective classes, most of which are taken during students’ freshman year.
Advanced middle school students taking algebra 1/mathematics for technologies 2 for high school credit also take that portion of the test.
Test results are used, along with other data, to determine Absolute Ratings and Growth Ratings on school and district report cards.
According to data released this week by the S.C. Department of Education, the passage rate for Lancaster County high school students rose on the English 1 and U.S. History and the Constitution tests, but slipped slightly on the math and biology tests.
Overall, Lancaster County School District high school students performed best on the English 1 test with an average grade of 77, the same as last year. A total of 893 students took the test.
In all, 75.6 percent of the 893 students who took the test passed it, a passage rate 6.1 percent higher than 2012’s.
Lancaster County students showed the highest performance gains on the U.S. History and the Constitution end of course test.
Though the passage rate remained low at 49.3 percent, the rate was still 12.3 percent higher than 2012’s mere 37 percent passage rate.
The average score for the 768 students who took the test rose 2.6 points to 70.5.
A total of 1,285 high school students took the Algebra 1/mathematics for the technologies 2 test, for a passage rate of 72 percent, down 3.5 percent from 2012. The average score was 76.9, down slightly from 2012 by 1.2 points.
The average score on the Biology 1/applied biology 2 test was 76.8, less than a half a point lower than 2012’s average 77. A total of 993 students took the test resulting in a passage rate of 69.5 percent, down .5 percent from the year before.
Performance in the Algebra/math for technology test was much higher among the  advanced students taking the test in the eighth grade.
At Buford Middle School, 100 percent of the 54 students taking the test passed, as did 98.8 percent of the students taking it at Andrew Jackson Middle.
At Indian Land Middle, 96.3 percent of the students taking the test passed it as did 95.5 percent of the students taking it at South Middle and 87.4 percent of the students at A.R. Rucker.
LCSD Director of Secondary Education Dr. Jonathan Phipps he and others in the district were pleased to see the areas of improvement and are in the process of analyzing the data to identify ways to improve performance all around.
Phipps said in the past two years, district educators have been nearly overwhelmed trying to ensure students meet the standards reflected on the EOCEP tests and new Common Core Standards in English and math toward which the state is moving next year.
He said the district results on the U.S. History and the Constitution portion of the test represent a perennial problem of having to cram more than 250 years of American history, from the American Revolution to present day, into one semester.
This year, he said, the district has taken several steps to improve students’ performance on the test including following the cue of other school districts by allowing schools to split the U.S. History/Constitution class into two semesters.
“A lot of schools around the state are doing that and having success with it,” Phipps said. “We started that this school year and I’m really anxious to see if that helps.
“It’s been an absolute powder keg of pressure at the high school level with folks making sure they’re teaching what they need for current standards and future testing we need to be aware of (for common core),” Phipps said. “My overall impression is that we’re happy for the positive gains, but it certainly gives us a road map to areas we need to focus on in the future to make improvements.”
Detailed demographic results for the district, and individual school data are posted at http://ed.sc.gov/data/eocep.
State results
On the state level, passage rates for all subject areas increased slightly while average scores for English and algebra declined.
The passage rate in algebra 1 was highest overall among state public school students at 82.8 percent, up 1.1 percent from 2012. The average score, however, fell by .4 points to 80.6.
The passage rate for biology 1 was 78.2, up 1.9 percent from 2012. The average score of 81.3 points was .5 points higher that the year before.
The passage rage for English 1 rose 3.2 percent to 77.2 with an average score of 77.9, down .3 from 2012.
The state passage rate from U.S. History and the Constitution was 60.6, up 7.8 points from the year before. The average score was 72.7, up 1.5 points from 2012.
“The credit for the gains in passage rates goes to our students, parents, and teachers,” said S.C. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais. “The end-of-course assessments provide schools with valuable information on how well students are learning the material in their courses.”

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151