UNION COUNTY — The Union County School District saw improvement in 2016 in the results of a testing program that measures student readiness for college.
In an address to the Union County Board of School Trustees at the board’s Sept. 26 meeting, Chief Academic Officer Cindy Langley presented trustees with a report on the results of the 2016 ACT and ACT WorkKeys for Juniors testing program.
“A major state and district goal is to ensure that our students are college and career-ready,” Langley said. “The tool the state has chosen to measure college readiness is the ACT, which was administered to all 11th grade students in the spring of 2016. This is the second state administration for 11th grade students.”
Langley said that the ACT “is a test of curriculum-based and classroom-based achievement. Students receive both an average score on each subtest they take as well as a benchmark score. Students who score at or above the designated benchmark on each subtest have a 50 percent chance of making a B in the corresponding college course and a 75 percent chance of making a C in that course.”
Under ACT, Langley said students “received scores in English, Math, Reading, and Science and Writing; however, there is not a benchmark or corresponding college course for Writing. The benchmark for English is 18 and the corresponding course is English 101; the math benchmark is 22 and the corresponding college course is Algebra 1; the Reading benchmark is 22 and the corresponding college course is a social science course; the Science benchmark is 23 and the corresponding college course is Biology 101. The ACT uses a 36-point scale in each of those areas.”
Langley said that overall student performance on the ACT in 2016 showed improvement over 2015.
“The mean score of Union County High School juniors on the English tests rose from 14.6 percent to 15 percent; however, the percent meeting the college benchmark of 18 decreased with 23.3 percent meeting the benchmark compared to 29.6 percent the previous year,” Langley said. Statewide the mean score for English rose from 16.5 percent to 16.7 percent; the percent meeting the benchmark statewide rose from 38.7 percent to 39.5 percent. ACT considers any change of three-tenths of a point in the mean score to be statistically significant; one-tenth of an ACT point is comparable to four points on the SAT, another exam that measures college readiness.”
“The percent of UCHS juniors meeting the benchmark in Math rose from 12.4 percent to 13.0 percent and the mean rose from 16.6 percent to 17 percent,” Langley said. “Statewide the mean score for Math rose from 18.1 percent to 18.4 percent; the percent meeting the benchmark statewide rose from 21.6 percent to 39.5 percent.
“The courses that a student takes prior to taking the ACT impact a student’s readiness for each subtest, especially in math,” she said. “School administration and teachers will review math progressions to ensure that we are providing instruction in the designated areas to as many students as possible prior to their taking the ACT in their junior year.”
“The percent of UCHS students meeting the benchmark in Reading rose from 18.3 percent to 21percent with the average score increasing from 16.7 percent to 17.2 percent,” Langley said. “Statewide the mean score for Reading rose from 18.3 percent to 18.5 percent; the percent meeting the benchmark statewide rose from 25.8 percent to 29.5 percent.”
“The percent of UCHS students meeting the Science benchmark rose from 8.9 percent to 13.5 percent with the mean increasing from 16.6 to 17.5,” Langley said. “Statewide the mean score for Science rose 18.1 percent to 18.5 percent; the percent meeting the benchmark statewide rose from 17.9 percent to 21.2 percent.”
“Composite scores, comprised of English, Math, Reading, and Science scores, rose locally from 16.3 percent to 16.8 percent; statewide, the scores rose from 167.9 percent to 18.2 percent,” Langley said. “There is not a benchmark for the composite score.”
“Writing scores, which do not impact the composite scores and do not have a benchmark, moved to the 36-point scale in 2016,” Langley said. “Previously, they were on a 12-point scale so a comparison cannot be made from 2015 to 2016. Locally, the writing average was 13.1 percent while the state average was 15.4 percent.”
“Scores were reported for the first time for ELA, which is a combination of the English, Reading, and Writing scores, and for STEM, a combination of the math and science scores,” Langley said. “UCHS ELA and STEM scores were 15.2 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively. State scores for ELA were 17.0 percent and STEM scores were 18.7 percent.”
Langley also addressed the board about the ACT WorkKeys program.
“South Carolina chose ACT WorkKeys as the measure to ensure students are prepared to meet the career-ready requirements of the South Carolina Profile of the 21st Century Graduate,” Langley said. “ACT WorkKeys has one of the largest, most robust occupational profiles databases available. More than 20,000 job titles, ranging from white-collar professional to blue-collar technical positions, have been profiled by ACT-authorized job profilers. Extensive research has been done on these jobs to identify the essential skills and skill levels for employee selection, hiring, and training.”
Langley said that there was a decline in student performance in ACT WorkKeys as well as ACT.
“At Union County High School, 83.9 percent of the students tested received WorkKeys National Career Readiness certificates compared to 87.8 percent in 2015,” Langley said. “Statewide 86.8 percent of the students received certificates compared to 87.9 percent last year.”
“Students were tested in three areas: Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information,” she said. “Students may earn certificates at one of four proficiency levels — Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. We are especially proud that the percent of students receiving Silver certificates rose from 36.5 percent to 46.7 percent, which is just shy of the state score of 47.7 percent.”
“Locally, 255 students earned certificates in each of the following areas,” Langley said. “Just under a quarter of the students, 24.3 percent, earned Bronze certificates compared to 36.0 percent in 2015. Statewide that number decreased from 21.7 percent in 2016 to 25.1 percent in 2015. Students earning a Bronze certificate scored a level three or higher on all three exams, which indicates a student has the necessary foundational skills for 16 percent of the jobs in the WorkKeys database.
“The goal is for students to earn a Silver certificate or above since the Silver credential indicates that a student has scored level four or higher on each exam and is qualified for 67 percent of all jobs in the database,” she said. “The percent of students earning a Silver certificate at UCHS rose from 36.5 percent to 46.7 percent compared to state scores of 40.0 percent in 2015 to 47.7 percent in 2016.”
In the upper areas, however, the district’s — and the states’s — performance showed a decline.
“Students earning a Gold certificate have scored level five or higher on each exam and are qualified for 93 percent of the jobs,” Langley said. “At UCHS 12.9 percent of the students received a Gold certificate compared to 14.1 percent in 2015. Likewise, the percent of students throughout the state receiving a Gold certificate decreased from 22.1 percent in 2015 to 17.2 percent this year.
“The highest certification is Platinum and students earning that level are qualified for 99 percent of the jobs,” she said. “Only 0.2 percent of the students statewide earned a Platinum certificate, which is a decrease from 0.8 percent in 2015. Locally, no students earned a Platinum certificate compared to .4 percent in 2015.”
Langley also provided the board with the average scores — both local and statewide — for each test:
• Applied Mathematics: 76.2 at UCHS; 77.5, statewide
• Locating Information: 76.2 at UCHS; 76.7, statewide
• Reading for Information: 78.3 at UCHS; 79.3, statewide
Langley said that “the high school leadership team will use the information from both the ACT and ACT WorkKeys to guide instruction and to create interventions to improve areas of weakness as revealed by the student scores.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.