Why are 43% of S.C. students failing U.S. History?, standards were changed

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Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 11:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A statewide assessment revealed that 43.55% of high school students are failing the subject of U.S. History and the Constitution in 2022. This, per the End of Course Examination Program (EOCEP) scores released on Monday.

The EOCEP, provided through the South Carolina Department of Education, is a mandatory test administered to high school or high school-level students across the state.

According to Monday’s publishing, 23,131 of the 53,113 students tested on U.S. History and the Constitution failed their assessment. This is a 10.41% increase in failures from 2019.

David Mathis, Deputy Superintendent for the S.C. Department of Education, says the uptick in failures on U.S. History was anticipated in this year’s test scores.

“U.S. History has a new set of standards... and these were introduced during the pandemic, to our teachers,” said Mathis over Zoom. “These are not the same standards as they’re previously used to. So there’s some growing pains that we have to go through.”

This year EOCEP also reported a 42.52% failure in Biology, 34.01% failure in Algebra, and 15.68% failure in English Two. Mathis confirmed these percentages are trending towards the pre-pandemic standard.

However, Sherry East, President of the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA), says the Palmetto state has always scored remarkably low and that educators were picketing for improvement well before the pandemic.

“Now, all of a sudden, we see the test scores and say, ‘oh my gosh, we have to do something.’ Well yeah, we should have done something a long time ago to fix these problems. I mean, what do you think would happen when you switch to a whole different mode of schooling during COVID?”

East puts little faith in post-pandemic test scores and feels that assessments like EOCEP point blame at overwhelmed educators.

“Teachers feel very pressured about these tests scores. And you know what? I’ve had kids who don’t care about these test scores. And when you add that to whatever’s going on in their personal lives during a pandemic... we need to stop putting faith in these tests. It’s time to talk strategy.”

Off camera, East said that South Carolina is not federally obligated to administer the U.S. History assessment test. She also noted that private schools are removed from state assessment numbers.

In November 2021, the S.C. Department of Education introduced a free, 24/7 tutoring service in partnership with the state library. The $1.5 million partnership is available for any grade level and is assessable here.

“We underestimate the load [teachers] have coming out of the pandemic. Those were unprecedented years and it will take some time to recover... we may not be back to full health, but we are on the road to recovery and we’re in a good place,” concluded Mathis.

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