Public School Achievement Gap in South Carolina

Jim Rex Bridge Achievement Gap

The “Achievement Gap” is a name used to describe the persistent and unjust disparity between test scores among different  racial and economic groups enrolled in South Carolina’s government schools.

New data have been released, and some are hoping it constitutes a reversal of this troubling long term trend.

The political publicists at the State Department of Education spun it this way:

South Carolina’s “achievement gap” between white and African-American students mirrors the rest of the nation’s, according to a federal government report released today.  Although mathematics and reading test scores have improved for both ethnic groups, the gap between the two has decreased only in math.

But looking past the soundbites, the data do not seem to mesh with other, independently gauged, indicators.

FITS News observes:

What’s interesting is how this new data doesn’t mesh with data taken from three independently-administered tests over the past decade.

According to the state-administered Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT), for example, the white/black disparity in mathematics scores increased from 24.4% in 2000 to 29.9% in 2008. In science, it jumped from 24.3% to 32.4%, while in social studies it rose from 21.6 to 25.6%.

Also, the white/black gap in SAT scores rose from 195 points in 2002 to 198 points in 2008, while the white/black gap in ACT scores rose from 4.2 points in 2002 to 5.3 points in 2008.

FITS is right. Even  South Carolina’s own Educational Barney Fife (the Educational Oversight Committee, or “EOC“) agrees that racially-correlated achievement gaps are growing, not shrinking, as measured by a range of different types of tests taken at different grades. Taking the State Department of Education at its own word takes quite a leap of faith.

Regular readers of the Voice know: Public educators in South Carolina like to play fast and loose with the numbers.

They like to lower their own standards.

They like to provide awards for underachievement.

They like to promote those who fail.

They like to ignore widespread failure.

They like to call “spending” and “enrollment” signs of success.

…and most of all, they like to use your money to do it!

The fact is, parents and community leaders can not rely on government schools administrators and pandering politicians to bridge the achievement gap.

Those students who need quality instruction the most have, in the current one-size-fits-all system, the least access to it. That’s why they need a choice-driven system like the type that has reduced the achievement gap in Florida. That’s why they need real School Choice.


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