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PASS scores exceed state averages

Posted: July 22, 2011 4:32 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) students exceeded state averages in math, English language arts and writing, according to state Palmetto Assessment of State Standards results released Friday morning.

Each year, third- through eighth-graders statewide take the PASS exam -- the state’s end-of-the-year accountability test -- which includes scores in writing, English language arts (ELA) reading and research, mathematics, science and social studies. Kershaw County’s third-, sixth- and eighth-graders outperformed state averages in all subjects. In some areas, students yielded better scores than they did last year.

“I felt really good about our scores. When you compare our district with other districts with demographics similar to ours, we’re either right with them or ahead of them,” said KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan, adding that he was especially pleased with the school district’s performance in a time of decreased resources. “And this is the first time that we’ve ever exceeded the state averages in ELA and math in all grades.”

The highest percentage of local students passing per subject varied per grade level.

Eighty percent of local fifth-graders passed the writing test, in comparison with a 74 percent passing rate the previous year and a current statewide average of 77.4 percent. In an effort to save money, only fifth- and eighth-graders took a writing exam during the 2010-11 academic year.

Eighty-one percent of KCSD third-graders met third-grade ELA standards, making them the highest-performing grade of KCSD students with the highest passing percentage in ELA. Local fourth-graders had the most passing percentage in math with 80.1 percent.

Additionally, an estimated 74.7 percent of rising ninth-graders met eighth-grade ELA standards, in comparison with the statewide average of 67.8 percent. During the 2009-10 academic year, 69.9 percent of rising ninth-grade students in Kershaw County met eighth-grade ELA standards.

On the PASS exam, students can score in three categories: Met, Not Met and Exemplary, which means that a student has more than exceeded the requirements.

The highest percentage of students scoring “exemplary” also varied across the subjects.

For writing, 39 percent of the fifth-graders scored exemplary while nearly 56 percent of third-graders scored exemplary in ELA. In math, 43 percent of third-graders scored exemplary while nearly 47 percent of eighth-graders scored exemplary in science. Nearly 42 percent of eighth-graders scored exemplary in social studies.

While KCSD outperformed state averages in meeting standards in 22 of 26 categories, fourth- and fifth-graders missed the statewide average in social studies by one percentage point. Seventh-grade students missed the statewide average in social studies by .7 of a point and fifth-graders missed the statewide average in science by two percentage points.

And while achievement gaps still persist between the school district’s black and white students, the performance of African American students in some subjects and grades have also increased.

The percentage of eighth-grade African-American students who passed the ELA portion of the test spiked eight percentage points, and the percentage of sixth-grade African American students who passed the science portion of the test increased by nine percent.

Morgan said local support programs, such as those currently offered through the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant that target at-risk students, will help to narrow the achievement gap in the future. After-school programs have made a big impact, he said, and many of these programs focus on things teachers work on during the day.

 “These kids are going into the school year having moved ahead during the summertime,” Morgan said, referring to several of the summer programs that are being offered right now. “I’m just amazed at how some of these support programs have worked together.

“This was a home, school and community effort.”

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