Friday the State Department of Education released results of the 2008 High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test.
According to Department’s press release, 4-in-5 students passed the test on their first attempt.
The so-called “high school exit exam” is actually given to students in the sophomore year, two full school years before they complete high school. “The term ‘exit exam’ is a major source of confusion to parents and lawmakers,” explained Randy Page, President of South Carolinians for Responsible Government.
Even more confusing, analysis by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), an educational nonprofit, has singled out the HSAP as a very weak test. NWEA researchers have noted that the pass/fail point on the math portion of the HSAP is the lowest they ever studied. The same NWEA team compared the South Carolina HSAP “exit exam” to the 8th grade PACT test and found the HSAP to be no more difficult. The researchers explained:
“Based on the results of the most recent study, we believe that students achieving Basic performance on the PACT should easily pass the HSAP assessment in grade 10. In fact, Level 2 performance on the HSAP is generally below the level of performance that would correspond to Basic proficiency on the PACT for grade 8.”
While South Carolina’s HSAP “exit exam” is actually an 8th grade level test administered in the 10th grade, politicians still seized on the chance to praise themselves for the 80 percent pass rate.
Jim Rex, South Carolina’s elected State Superintendent took the opportunity to congratulate himself, suggesting that an 80 percent “exit exam” pass rate might be an indication of improving graduation rates.
The current rate for on-time graduation is just 49 percent – or more than 158 drop outs per day. Rex also carefully avoided mention of the fact that African American students remain 10 to 20 percent less likely to pass the HSAP than their white peers. According to the Center on Education Policy and the Southern Regional Education Board the race-correlated gaps in South Carolina’s public schools continue to grow, despite a national trend toward reducing the gap.
“Parents need real information about their children’s’ schools,” said Page, talking about the vague title of the test and the misleading data from the state press release. “If South Carolina is serious about education reform, lawmakers will adopt nationally normed standardized tests like Iowa Basic Skills or Stanford 10 so parents can compare their children and schools in a truly apples-to-apples way.”