New Study Shows South Carolina Gains on Test Scores but Mixed Results on Achievement Gaps

October 4, 2009

CHARLESTON, SC – October 4, 3009 –  A new national research reports shows that student achievement in South Carolina has improved in recent years, but results on achievement gaps remain mixed.

The 50-state study by the independent Center on Education Policy looked at elementary-grade PACT scores from 2002 to 2008 and at High School Assessment Program scores from 2004 to 2008.  CEP found that student scores had improved at all achievement levels, but that achievement gaps for minority and low-income students had narrowed only in high schools.  Gaps remained mixed in middle schools and widened in elementary schools.

The CEP report is the second study this year to show mixed results for South Carolina schools in addressing achievement gaps.  A U.S. Department of Education report in July looked at scores on the federally mandated National Assessment of Educational Progress and found that mathematics and reading test scores had improved for both minority and nonminority students.  Scoring gaps between the two groups had narrowed in math but not in reading.

Both studies said that achievement gaps remain a significant issue for all states.

“The good news for South Carolina is that both reports show higher student achievement,” said State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex.  “But when scores for both groups are improving, scores for minority students have to improve at an even faster rate in order to narrow these gaps.” 

Rex said the South Carolina Department of Education’s Palmetto Priority Schools program, an intensive effort to assist more than 40 low-achieving schools that serve high-poverty communities (average poverty levels of about 95 percent), holds promise as a way to focus resources on narrowing achievement gaps.