Column: New PASS exams intended to benefit student performance
Last week, you may have noticed that all the school marquees around town had a reminder for PASS testing. PASS testing refers to the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards.
In 2001, South Carolina mandated that students in grades three through eight be tested on the state standards. At first, the assessment program was called PACT, Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test. Then, in 2009, the name was changed to PASS. PASS testing measures student performance on the South Carolina Academic Standards. The test results are used for school, district and federal “No Child Left Behind” accountability purposes.
All students in grades three through eight take the PASS test for English/language arts, writing and mathematics. All students in fourth and seventh grades take the tests for both science and social studies. Students in the other grades take either the science or the social studies test, but not both. The PASS writing test requires students to write an essay and to answer multiple choice questions concerning reading passages. The English/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies tests include multiple choice questions only.
PASS test results are reported to the districts in June. Each student report shows individual performance in the subject areas with a total scale score and a performance level (i.e., exemplary, met, not met) with respect to the subject area. Students also receive feedback about their strengths and weaknesses on the standards and suggestions for focus activities for future studies.
The current goal for our Aiken County students, contained in the Aiken County School District Strategic Plan, is for the District mean of students scoring “Met” or “Exemplary” to be above the state mean by the spring of 2014. Over the past number of years, the District’s students consistently out-perform the state average, but there are subgroups and schools which demonstrate a need for additional attention. The District is dedicated to academic proficiency for all our students and continues to focus its efforts on increasing student performance.
Starting with the 2014-15 school year, the PASS test will be replaced due to the introduction of Common Core Standards.
Common Core Standards, which are national standards, have been adopted by nearly all 50 states, including South Carolina. The Common Core Tests will be administered using an online computer program. The Common Core Test questions will require answers in the form of short answer or essays instead of multiple choice. Due to the change in test format, the Common Core Test will be more rigorous.
A group of 25 states, including South Carolina, are corroboratively developing the test, which will allow states to administer the same test about the same standards. The District has taken a proactive approach to Common Core, as Common Core Standards were introduced in the 2011-12 school year to kindergarten students.
All other grades have since been introduced to Common Core Standards. A number of schools throughout the District have been piloting computer-based Common Core testing. District teachers and administrators have been and will continue to receive professional development with respect to Common Core Standards during its implementation.