Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2009-2010 South Carolina used the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) to measure achievement in English/language arts, mathematics, social studies and science in grades 3 through 8. The South Carolina High School Assessment Program (HSAP) was given to students in the second year after their initial enrollment in ninth grade in English/language arts and mathematics. High school students must pass the HSAP in order to receive a diploma. South Carolina also administered the End-of-Course Examination Program (EOCEP) in algebra 1/mathematics for the technologies 2, English 1, physical science and U.S. history and the Constitution upon completion of each course. The PASS, HSAP and EOCEP are all standards-based tests which measure specific skills defined by the state of South Carolina.

How are the tests scored?

PASS results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are assigned one of three levels of proficiency: not met, met, or exemplary. Students who score met and exemplary  are considered to be meeting state standards.

High school students taking the HSAP are assigned one of four achievement levels: 1, 2, 3 and 4. Students must receive a score of 2 or higher in each subject in order to meet state standards and pass the test. The goal is for all students to score at or above the state standard.

For EOCEP exams, students receive a letter grade of A through F.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

Only PASS and HSAP results are included on GreatSchools profiles. For each subject on the PASS, the combined percentage of students scoring at met, and exemplary levels is displayed. For the HSAP, the combined percentage of students receiving a score of level 2, 3 and 4 is displayed.

GreatSchools also displays subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. The subgroups are identified by the South Carolina Department of Education; if there are fewer than 10 students in a particular group in a school, data is not reported for that group.

Why do the tests matter?

South Carolina test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. State law permits school districts to retain students if they fail to meet standards on the PASS tests for three consecutive years. However, school districts are required to consider other factors in addition to PASS scores when considering promotion from one grade to another. Test results are especially important for high school students, who must pass the HSAP to graduate. Students who do not pass HSAP the first time have multiple opportunities to retake the tests. EOCEP exams are important because they make up 20 percent of the students’ final course grade.

Test results are important for schools in South Carolina because the state uses them to identify strengths as well as areas for improvement. In addition, South Carolina uses PASS results to rate schools in one of five academic performance categories: excellent, good, average, below average and unsatisfactory.

It is important to be aware of both your child’s score on the assessments and the overall score for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact the teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child’s learning at home. If the school’s overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you as a parent can do to help.

A few parting words

Although test results can be an indicator of what’s happening in the classroom, they don’t tell you everything about the quality of a particular school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.

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