Reports show SC graduates not prepared for work or college

October 23, 2018

Graduation rates in South Carolina high schools have continued to rise over the last decade. And while many have lauded that achievement, a new report may have residents questioning the quality of education those graduates are receiving from South Carolina schools.

When it comes to college readiness, the Palmetto State falls near the back of the pack nationwide, according to the 2018 Condition of College & Career Readiness report. Based on composite ACT test scores for English, reading, math and science, the report ranks South Carolina 50th among all U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Nevada was the only state that ranked lower than South Carolina.

The report, administered by ACT, tracks U.S. high school graduates’ progress in taking the widely used standardized test, relative to college readiness. Here are some of the report’s key takeaways for South Carolina:

  • 42 percent of South Carolina high school graduates are college-ready in the subject of English; 30 percent for reading; 24 percent for math; and 20 percent for science.
  • Only 14 percent of graduates in the state reached the college-readiness benchmark across each subject area.
  • 63 percent of the state’s ACT test takers aspire to earn a bachelor’s or graduate’s degree.
  • 25 percent of South Carolina’s class of 2018 took the ACT test more than once.

South Carolina is one of 17 states in which 100 percent of 2018 high school graduates took the ACT test. Among those states, South Carolina ranks 16th – outpacing only Nevada, while trailing behind Mississippi. Despite graduates’ poor level of college preparedness, the Post and Courier has reported that the state’s high school graduation rate has continued to climb over the past decade.

Unfortunately, the report’s results will come as little surprise to many South Carolinians. In April, the National Center for Education Statistics released its 2017 results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That report found, among other troubling developments, South Carolina’s 10-point decline across all test scores represented the steepest slump in the nation.

The Post and Courier points out that the ACT report also comes on the heels of the South Carolina Department of Education’s 2018 Ready to Work test, the results of which showed fewer than two-thirds of 11th graders possessed the skills needed to perform 65 percent of certain jobs.

Palmetto Promise Institute has been working for on key education reforms since 2013 and the release of “Transformation: What South Carolina Can Learn from Florida’s K-12 Reforms.” That report identified a number of successful, student-centered policies South Carolina would be wise to adopt from the Sunshine State – whose students have far outpaced those of South Carolina over the last 20 years.

South Carolina is currently leaving far too many of our children behind. But it’s important to acknowledge that these are not the failures of South Carolina teachers. Rather, the system itself, from funding mechanisms to lack of robust education choices in every community, is outdated and failing both teachers and students alike.

It’s incumbent upon state lawmakers to pursue bold, student-centered reforms that both enable high school students to graduate – and prepare them for the next chapter in their life.