Standardized test scores continue to drop in Darlington County

Leigh Ann Kelly addresses the school board about an equipment purchase request for the Darlington High School track team.

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

The numbers don’t lie. Unfortunately, what the numbers show is that Darlington County students are not scoring well on standardized tests and those numbers have been slipping since 2015.

During the Darlington County Board of Education Nov. 13 Carlita Davis, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, shared the 2017 Assessment Data Report with the board.

In 2016, only 33.6 percent of DCSD students scored ‘On Track’ to attend a four-year college on the ELA portion of the SC READY test for third through eighth graders. In 2017, that number dropped to 29 percent. An almost identical drop occurred in Mathematics, going from 33.9 percent to 30 percent.

On the SC PASS test, for grades four through eight, only 40.6 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in Science, down from 66.3 percent in 2016. Social Students also saw a drop, though not quite as drastic, going from 74.7 percent in 2016, to 66.8 percent in 2017.

Davis said that the entire state has seen a drop in test scores. She said that there were several contributing factors, including the changes being continually made to the tests students are taking; teachers were not always given significant warning of these changes.

Board member Wanda Hassler said that she had poured over the numbers in recent days and was shocked to see how far DCSD has fallen in scores and in district ranking.

“Everybody may have shifted but not only have we shifted, we have dropped.” Hassler said. “All of these other schools were taking the same test and have had the same changes that we have had but yet we have dropped position.”

Davis said that Darlington is ranked around 40 of the 82 districts in South Carolina. Former DCSD Superintendent Rainey Knight said, when asked by Hassler, that Darlington was once ranked in the top third of districts in the state.
“We have two schools in our district now who are competing for state level football championships, am I correct,” Hassler asked. “How come our students are, academically, in the bottom third? If we have a losing team, do I go to the assistant coach and complain? I don’t go to the defensive coordinator, I don’t go to the offensive coordinator; I go to the coach. The coach is the one that is ultimately responsible. I think it is time for our coaches to step up and take ownership of this data…We need not be sitting in this same position next year.”

One of the challenges Davis and several principals in the audience said that their students faced was taking tests on devices rather than with paper and pencil.

Boardchairman Jamie Morphis seemed concerned that the district had spent so much money on their one-to-one initiative and it was those devices that were causing students problems during testing.

Hassler also voiced her concern over the students’ inability to navigate their technology to take the tests.

“We’ve spent $2.6 million on technology so that our students can have access to technology,” Hassler said. “We should be able to teach these students to overcomes these challenges. Their jobs in the future are going to be digital jobs; everything is digital.”

Test scores are not the only thing that has dropped. In recent years, district graduation rates have also dropped. In 2015 DCSD’s graduation rate was 92.3 percent, significantly higher than the state’s rate of 80.3 percent. That gap closes in 2016 with the state rate increasing and DCSD’s decreasing; they were 84.6 percent and 88 percent respectively.

Davis said that the district staff has been working with individual schools to create plans for improving scores, ultimately wanting to ensure that students are graduating with the skills that they need to enter the workforce or go to college.

Board members received an updated list of items that will be completed using capital project funds. The board voted to come back during a worksession to decide which items would be made a priority.

Leigh Ann Kelly, president of Darlington High School’s Athletic Booster Club, asked the board to assist the school in replacing equipment for the track team.

“This request was brought forward last year but with the recent changes in administration, the issue has not been resolved. The mats that provide for the safe landing for our athletes for both the pole vault and the high jump are in extremely degraded condition. The mats are ten years old and are compromised such that it has generated concern as tot whether it is safe for our athletes to use this equipment in the upcoming track season.”

Kelly said that replacing the mats would be around $26,000 and that the school’s athletic department funds cannot afford to absorb that cost. The board said that they would take the request and get back to Kelly.

Author: Duane Childers

Share This Post On

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Posts Remaining