Parents, Educators Frustrated with Drop in Exit Exam Scores
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Neil Mellen
Thursday, November 24, 2009
Public officials and education policy experts are expressing dismay at the results of this year’s Exit Exam, a test administered to public high school students across South Carolina.
According to figures from the State Department of Education, only 76.1% of students passed both the English/Language Art and Math portions of the exam, down from 80.8% last school year.
DETAILS OF THE TEST
Passing the Exit Exam, also called the “High School Assessment Program” (HSAP), is required in order for students at public schools to receive a state-recognized diploma. The tests are initially administered in the students’ second year of high school, and students who do not post passing scores on their first attempts have additional opportunities to retake the parts they did not pass.
The fact that this so-called “Exit Exam” is administered to high school sophomores, rather than to outgoing seniors, has drawn criticism from some lawmakers and school watchdog groups. The test was also singled out by the nonpartisan Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) as one of the weakest high school exit exams in the nation, with standards at the same level as the 8th grade PACT test.
ROLE OF BUDGET CUTS
Officials at South Carolina’s State Department of Education hinted that the drop in test performance may be tied to the impact of local and state budget cuts. State Superintendent of Schools Jim Rex suggested that parents withhold judgment until next year, suggesting the drop in test scores may be a “random blip.”
Figures from State Budget and Control Board indicate that public schools spent over $8.4 billion last year, roughly $12,258.18 for each of 690,000 students enrolled. Despite the losses in local and state tax collections, total spending has grown nearly 15 percent in the last two years, up from $7.4 billion in 2006.
News of the drop in HSAP scores comes close on the heels of other disappointing announcements for public school parents. Earlier in November, the Rural School and Community Trust (RSCT) published figures indicating a fifty percent graduation rate at rural high schools in South Carolina. They found a forty percent on-time graduation rate for public schools serving areas of concentrated poverty.
In late October, the Southern Educational Resource Board (SREB) released a report on graduation rates, citing the fact that South Carolina ranks 50th in “promoting power,” a measure of the percentage of 9th grade students statewide who progress to 12th grade in three years.
“Parents are worried, and they ought to be,” explained Randy Page of the watchdog organization South Carolinians for Responsible Government. “Each and every child in South Carolina deserves access to great classrooms, tailored instruction, and a meaningful diploma. No one’s child should be a ‘random blip’.”