COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said she’s confident legislation enacted to raise academic standards across the state is working, despite third-graders underperforming on the assessment in the Midlands.
According to data from the Department of Education, all but two major school districts in the Midlands saw more third-graders fail the test than pass. The exceptions, Lexington School District One and Lexington Richland School District Five, saw 58 percent and 56 percent of third graders pass the assessment, respectively.
“I wish the scores had been higher, but I think we’re making progress,” Spearman said. “I know that our teachers in South Carolina are better prepared to teach reading than they were before the legislation and I believe that our students are getting better instruction in the classroom.”
Spearman’s administration inherited the legislation in 2015. Since then, she said implementation has been chaotic. Test vendors have changed several times as have the standards making it difficult for the state to gauge consistent results.
The 2017-2018 school year was the first year students who did not pass the test were eligible for retention. Only students who scored in the lowest tier are reviewed for possible retention.
“We have raised the bar and our students are not prepared so we’ve got to work harder to get them at that level of excellent and exceeding,” Spearman said.
Lexington School District One Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said, while the numbers are encouraging, there’s more work to be done.
“I think it’s a starting point," he said. "My issue is I’m not going to be satisfied until 100 percent of our students are reading where they’re supposed to be at grade level.”
Investing in professional development for teachers, along with using newly implemented reading coaches, have yielded dividends for the district, according to Little.
“We’ve even created model classrooms,” he said. “We’ve identified 11 classrooms in our district where teachers can sign up and go see a master teacher at work with these reading and writing units of study.”
Both Little and Spearman said the legislation isn’t perfect and as time has gone on, adjustments and more flexibility is needed for districts statewide to be successful. Spearman plans to take recommendations to the state legislature when it returns to session.