South Carolina Releases ‘Stagnant’ SAT Scores

More slippage …

South Carolina’s scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) remained stagnant this year, according to data released on Friday by the S.C. Department of Education (SCDE). Meanwhile, the state fared better than the national average on its advanced placement (AP) exams – although there was a significant decrease in the number of exams taken this year compared to 2019.

According to the department, 49,727 total AP exams were taken – a dip of 6.4 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of AP exams with scores of 3, 4 or 5 decreased by 0.5 percent to 30,945 exams.

Nonetheless, this reduced sample size of students from the Palmetto State’s government-run schools outpaced the national average in eight out of ten “most popular” categories – although it remains to be seen whether these are apples-to-apples comparisons.

AP scores range from 1-5, with a score of 5 indicating a test taker is “extremely well-qualified” in the subject matter. A score of 3 represents the minimum qualification for advanced placement in a given subject.

“Despite the obstacles brought on by COVID-19 that forced the closure of school facilities across South Carolina last school year, our students perservered and yet again earned national distinction on advanced placement,” S.C. superintendent of education Molly Spearman noted.

As for SAT scores, 27,673 students at government-run schools in South Carolina (or 64 percent of the class of 2020) took the exam – a decrease of 2 percent from 2019.

These students’ average score was 1,019 out of 1,600 – lower than the national government-run school average of 1,030. The Palmetto State’s performance on the evidence-based reading and writing section of the exam clocked in at 519 – just below the national average of 520. Meanwhile its math score averaged 499 – below the national average of 510.

South Carolina’s writing scores declined by 2 points from last year while its math score declined by one point – although those drops were not as pronounced as the dip in national scores at government-run schools.

Last year, 31,633 students at government-run schools in South Carolina (or 68 percent of the class of 2019) took the SAT.

“While SAT scores remained stagnant, we were pleased to see steady participation from our graduating class,” Spearman said. “We know that access to test taking sites remains an issue and will be doing all that we can to ensure any high school student who needs to take a college entrance exam can do so with the cost covered by the state.”

Not surprisingly, results varied by geography. York county school district four – a.k.a. the Fort Mill School District – boasted the highest statewide total score (1096) while Hampton county school district two and Barnwell county school district 19 tied for the lowest score (825). Two other districts – Jasper county and Florence county school district four did not test sufficient numbers of students to register on the rankings.

To view 2020 results by district, click here (.xlsx). To view them by school, click here (.xlsx).

Our view on this data? Regular readers of this news outlet are well aware of our views regarding the efficacy (or lack thereof) of government-run education in the Palmetto State.

As of this writing, there are a total of 783,000 students in South Carolina’s chronically failing government run education system – with taxpayers shelling out a staggering $14,227 per pupil, per year.

That’s $11.2 billion … each year, every year.

RELATED || South Carolina’s Government-Run Choice Program In Trouble

And that number only goes up … each year, every year.

Also, this total does not include “education” money spent in connection with local bond referendums … nor does it include the $1.5 billion in unrestricted reserve cash South Carolina’s school districts are currently sitting on.

Given this steadily escalating investment, our state deserves much better than “stagnant” or declining outcomes – particularly in light of the fact that we were already scraping the bottom of the barrel on these (and other) metrics.

Our answer? Permanent, universal parental choice that will materially expand the education marketplace in South Carolina – creating real competition and improving academic outcomes for all students.




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