Students show improvements in English, physical science

COLUMBIA – Student scores improved last year on state end-of-course exams in English and physical science, according to results released today by the South Carolina Department of Education. Scores on Algebra tests decreased slightly.

State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said that while he was encouraged at the improvements, overall scores are too low.

Last year Rex directed the agency’s subject-area specialists and testing experts to recommend ways that the Education Department could better assist local schools, particularly small schools in rural areas that have limited resources.

Staff from the agency’s Division of Standards and Learning developed English, physical science and algebra curricula that include resource guides, instructional strategies andassessment strategies that are aligned to the state’s academic standards. And, more than 600 middle and high school teachers have beentrained on the new curriculum guides.

The Education Department, in partnership with the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas, is piloting the South Carolina Algebra Project in middle and high schools across the state.

Participating schools use a special curriculum developed by the Dana Center, and the Education Department is providing ongoing training for classroom teachers.

High school students have long taken traditional final exams in many courses. But South Carolina’s introduction of the statewide End-of-Course Examination Program, mandated by the Education Accountability Act of 1998, marked the first time that astandards-based, uniform test was administered to all students in the same courses. Algebra 1 testing began in the 2003-2004 school year, while English 1 and physical science were added a year later.

Results count for 20 percent of each student’s final course grade. (Studentsenrolled in an Algebra I and Mathematics for the Technologies II takethe Algebra I end-of-course exam; content standards are the same.)

For 2007-08, grade distribution for English was 11.9 percent A, 15.6percent B, 23.6 percent C, 17.3 percent D and 31.6 percent F. Gradedistribution for algebra was 14.5 percent A, 16.8 percent B, 22.9percent C, 24.1 percent D and 21.7 percent F. Grade distribution forphysical science was 9.3 percent A, 10.6 percent B, 16.9 percent C, 18.2percent D and 45 percent F.

Under South Carolina’s uniform grading scale, an A is 93-100; a B is85-92; a C is 77-84; and a D is 70-76. Anything 69 or below is an F.

-- From Staff Reports