New SC READY results show improvements in Lowcountry schools

SC Dept. of Education releases SC READY results for 2022-2023 school year
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 5:06 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2023 at 10:00 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Education released its SC READY assessment results for the 2022-2023 school year.

Test scores from the South Carolina College and Career-Ready Assessments, the annual test for students in third through eighth grade, measure the growth in English Language Arts and math.

“Reading is the foundation of all other learning. For the first time in recent history, at least half of our students in each grade level tested as proficient in English Language Arts,” State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver said in a press release. “The big investment South Carolina is making to ensure that every K-3 teacher is empowered with the tools they need to effectively teach reading, coupled with the excitement I’ve heard from teachers participating in this LETRS professional development, makes these results particularly exciting to see. I am confident we’ve only scratched the surface of the progress we’re going to see in this vital area.”

RELATED: ‘Instructional loss’: New state test scores show impact of COVID-19 in schools

Charleston County School District

The state’s annual test for gauging student achievement shows a positive trendline in the Charleston County School District with improvement across much of the board. However, a closer look into the details reveals a big problem that continues to plague district leaders.

Students in all grades showed positive growth in English Language Arts (ELA) with the largest increase coming in sixth grade. At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, 52.6% of students were meeting expectations. That number jumped 10 points to 62.6 percent last year.

Math is a similar story with all grades except 8th grade and 4th grade seeing positive growth. Results from students in the fifth grade saw the largest climb, going from 53.3% of students meeting expectations in math in 2022 to 59.9% of students meeting expectations in 2023.

Overall, the number of students meeting expectations in reading grew from 7.3% to 60.5%, well above the state’s average of 53.7%.

“We are through the roof excited about this historic achievement,” said Michelle Simmons, interim chief academic officer, “This is the first time since the implementation of SC Ready that we have reached this particular milestone in terms of the number of scholars who are meeting or exceeding state standards on state tests.”

But the district’s victory lap is overshadowed by the same glaring problems officials have been trying to solve since it was desegregated in 1963. Black students continue to fall well below their white and Asian counterparts and it’s not even close.

In the worst case, only 9.2% of black students in seventh grade are meeting expectations in math. Meanwhile, 69.3% of white students in the same category are meeting expectations. Hispanic students are closing the achievement gap at a faster rate with 24% of Hispanic students meeting expectations in seventh grade math.

“There’s an existing achievement gap that is not new. It didn’t happen yesterday. So this is decades in the making. What we own and what we are excited about at the same time is that we are starting to make progress,” Simmons said.

It’s not entirely a minority issue. Asian students continue to perform higher than any other demographic with 84.6% of students meeting expectations in seventh grade math. They are similarly outperforming other students in English as well.

While the numbers are low, they are generally getting better for both Black and Hispanic students. On average and across all grades that were tested, math scores for black students have increased from 17.2% of students meeting expectations in 2022 to 18.3% last year. Similarly, reading scores have increased from 23% of Black students meeting expectations to 30.8 percent in 2023.

Growth is also being seen in Hispanic students with 27.5% meeting expectations in math in 2022 to 29.6% in 2023. Reading scores from year to year went from 29.1% to 36.7% for Hispanic students.

“This is a banner year for CCSD. We are excited. We are pleased and we are proud, but we are not finished. Our intention and our goal is to continue to get better and to show continuous improvement every year,” Simmons said.

You can view the full report here.

Dorchester School District Two

Compared to state averages and the district’s scores from last year, Dorchester School District Two improved in most areas, but some grades’ scores went down in the 2022-2023 school year.

The district saw the biggest gains in their reading scores, with the number of students meeting or exceeding expectations jumping by an average of 8% compared to last year.

Notably, fourth grade reading scores for Black or African American students jumped 13%. Fifth grade reading scores for Hispanics went up by 14% compared to last year.

All of the district’s reading and Math scores were above state averages this year, except for sixth grade Math. That class scored 3% lower than the state average, with Hispanics in the class scoring just below 5% than the state average.

Districtwide Math scores increased for all grades except sixth and eighth grade. Sixth grade test scores went down 1.3% across all students, while eighth grade scores went down by 0.5% across all students.

Hispanics are one of the fastest-growing groups in the district, with over 1,000 more students enrolled in classes compared to five years ago.

Data shows that compared to last year, Hispanic test scores dropped slightly in third grade for both reading and Math. Scores also dropped for sixth grade and seventh grade Math compared to last year.

While the district’s eighth grade Math scores went down for all students, Hispanics scored 1.2% better in 2023 than they did in 2022.

District officials said this year’s scores are some of the highest they have seen since the test began in 2016.

They also said their scores show that the district is rebounding from learning loss suffered during the pandemic.

Berkeley County School District

When checking with the Berkeley County School District and the scores coming in there, nothing jumps out as being of high concern. Even in the two grade levels that showed a drop in scores in math, fifth and seventh grades, the drop was very slight. Berkeley County students improved in most categories and outperformed statewide scores in some areas.

The district increased by 6.1% in the “meet and exceeds” expectations category in reading from last year to this year, with every grade level showing an increase in achievement, according to the district.

In math, the district saw growth in third, fourth, sixth and eighth grades, with fifth and seventh grades showing a slight drop.

When comparing the numbers for math from the 2021-2022 school year compared to the 2022-2023 year, the percentage of students in third grade showing improvement is up 2.2%, fourth grade is up 2%, fifth grade is down 1%, sixth grade is up 1.4%, seventh grade is down 1.5% and eighth grade is up .6%. Again, these scores are for the “meets or exceeds” expectations category, essentially what percentage of students are at grade level or above.

The average of all of these scores is about .6%. Statewide, that percentage is more than double at 1.7% of students showing improvement.

Spokesperson for the district, Katie Tanner, addressed these numbers saying, “BCSD hired a secondary math coordinator this year who will work in collaboration with our elementary math coordinator to prioritize the developmentally appropriate instructional strategies in math for all grade levels.”

She goes on to say, “While we have areas of growth to celebrate, we will not be satisfied with our progress until all students are achieving at high levels. It is clear that we must stay the course with our focus on teaching and learning.”

Despite the data showing lower improvement than the statewide average in math, Berkeley County students mostly outperformed their colleagues across the state in English Language Arts (ELA). You can find those numbers by finding the full report here.