FCHS students see 20-point swing between HSAP test subjects

First-time takers of the High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test at Fairfield Central High School saw a nearly 20 difference between English Language Arts (ELA) scores and Mathematics score in 2012, according to data released last week by the S.C. Department of Education.

Of the 205 students taking the ELA portion of the test in 2012, 85.9 percent met the HSAP standards. In Mathematics, however, where 204 students were tested, only 67.6 percent met those standards.

Females performed slightly better than males, with 91.3 percent meeting standards in ELA versus 80.4 percent of their male counterparts. In Mathematics, females outscored males 71.8 percent to 63.4 percent.

“Implementing a conceptual understanding will be a focus of our curriculum in the coming year,” said J.R. Green, Superintendent of Fairfield County Schools. “Understanding a concept on the surface level used to be enough. Now, students need to be able to apply that knowledge.

“Number one, we need to make sure our instruction delves a little deeper,” Green said. “And number two, we need to make sure our assessments mirror those that students will receive later on in the year.”

Statewide, the percentage of first-time test takes passing the high school exit exam increased to 80.1 percent, an increase of 0.7 percent over last year. This is the second time the HSAP passage rate has been above 80 percent since 2004. The mean scale score increased in mathematics for every student subgroup except one, but the mean scale score for English-Language Arts declined in every student subgroup.

“English and mathematics are the foundational subjects in education,” said State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais. “On the state’s high school exit exam, most student groups increased proficiency in mathematics but every student group declined in English. Students must master skills in both subjects to be successful in their lives after high school. To improve in both areas will require a personalized and customized education in grades K-8 so students are prepared for rigorous high school courses.”

Zais also raised issue with the structure of the state’s assessment and accountability system. Students usually take End-of-Course assessments in algebra and English in ninth grade, only to take HSAP in 10th grade to fulfill the state’s high school exit examination requirement. The End-of-Course Examination Program (EOCEP) results will be released in September after summer administration results have been received. Both HSAP and EOCEP results are used for federal accountability purposes.

“Assessments are necessary to measure student achievement and school performance, but the current system is duplicative,” said Zais. “Our state’s accountability system must be modernized to provide a single state and federal report that provides clear, meaningful data to the public and helps teachers improve instruction in the classroom.”

Achievement gaps (differences in mean scale score) decreased from 2011 to 2012 between white and black students on HSAP English-Language Arts (ELA) but increased for mathematics. The achievement gap between white and Hispanic students decreased for mathematics but increased for ELA. The achievement gap between students who pay full price and students who receive free/reduced meals decreased in ELA. In mathematics, the achievement gap increased even though both groups saw gains in their average scale scores.

Public school students must pass both the HSAP ELA and mathematics tests to meet the state’s exit examination requirement for a diploma. The HSAP also satisfies the federal requirement to assess achievement in ELA and mathematics in high school. The HSAP is initially administered to students in their second year of high school. Students have additional opportunities to retake any tests not passed. Students must meet the state standard of a Level 2 score or higher in order to meet the diploma requirement. Students must score Level 3 or higher to meet proficiency standards for federal accountability.