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The percentage of Lancaster County students meeting state standards increased in most subject areas last year, according to Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) and High School Assessment Program (HSAP) data released last week.
Now in its fourth year, the end of year PASS test is administered to third- through eighth-graders.
The test covers five subject areas: writing, English language arts (ELA), math, science and social studies. The writing portion of the test is limited to fifth- and eighth-graders.
Meant to measure students’ performance in meeting grade-level standards, the test is scored according to three levels: Exemplary and Met, meaning students have exceeded or met grade-level standards, and Not Met, meaning the student did not meet grade-level standards.
While individual county schools, grade levels, subject areas and demographics presented a mixed bag of results, county students overall demonstrated an increase in performance in all subject areas except writing.
According to the data, 68 percent of Lancaster County fifth- and eighth-graders met or exceeded state standards in writing, which is down almost 4 percent from last year.
Lancaster County School District elementary and middle school students showed the largest performance improvement in science, with 67.5 percent meeting or exceeding standards, up nearly 3.5 percent from last year.
The district’s students also showed an increase in proficiency in social studies with 70.3 percent of students demonstrating proficiency, an increase of 2.3 percent.
Student performance increased in the two “foundational” subjects of math and English as well, though less than .25 percent in both subjects.
In math, 74.56 percent of the district’s students met or exceeded grade-level expectations, while 72.23 percent of students met or exceeded state math standards.
Overall, the best performance was turned in by the county’s fourth-grade students, with 81.9 percent meeting or exceeding grade-level standards in math. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the lowest-performing grade/subject area was in third grade science with 56.1 percent of students meeting grade-level state standards.
The HSAP is a state-mandated exit exam focusing on English and math.
Passing the test is a requirement for high school graduation, with students first taking the test in the 10th grade. Students are allowed to retake sections of the test in the 11th and 12th grades if they do not meet standards that first year.
The information is used, in part, to determine state, district and school progress toward meeting federal education accountability standards.
In 2011, 803 students took the English portion of the test with 801 students taking the math portion of the test. The data released last week did not provide specific first-time passage rates, graduation rates or information on the district’s performance in closing the achievement gap.
According to the data, HSAP tests results in Lancaster County high schools were mixed, with 87.4 percent of students passing the English portion of the test, up 1.2 percent over 2010.
The first-time passage rate in math went the other way with a passage rate of 80.4 percent, down 1.4 percent from last year.
On the state level, the mean scale score increased in math for every student group except one, while the mean scale score for English declined in every student subgroup.
“English and mathematics are the foundational subjects in education,” said state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais. “On the state’s high school exit exam, most student groups increased proficiency in mathematics, but every student group declined in English.
“Students must master skills in both subjects to be successful in their lives after high school,” Zais said. “To improve in both areas will require a personalized and customized education in grades K-8 so students are prepared for rigorous high school courses.”
The PASS/HSAP data released last week accompanied the S.C. Department of Education’s new method of reporting federal accountability standards.
Under the new system, which replaces the former method of reporting progress under No Child Left Behind with a letter grade, Lancaster County School District earned a score of 86.9 for an overall B grade.
To see Lancaster County School District’s HSAP results, visit http://ed.sc.gov. Click on “HSAP” under the Research Portal, then “2012” for state results.
The Lancaster County link is at the bottom of the page. LCSD high school results are at the bottom of the Lancaster County page.
For PASS scores, click on 2012 under the research portal. The Lancaster County schools link is at the bottom of the page.
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151