SC lawmakers considering bill that would require high-stakes testing this spring

January 20, 2021

Palmetto Promise Team

PPI Senior Fellow Oran Smith appears in this news story from WSPA.

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — As teachers and students continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic in South Carolina, many are wondering how the pandemic has impacted academic performance.

Last year, South Carolina received a waiver from the federal government for standardized testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman told lawmakers Wednesday morning during a House Education and Public Works subcommittee meeting she has made the same request this year.

Despite this request, a joint resolution filed in the House would require students to take these federally mandated assessments in spring 2021.

According to the bill the list of required tests include: “the South Carolina College and Career Ready Assessments (SC READY); South Carolina Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (SCPASS), except the fifth and seventh grade SCPASS social studies assessment and eight grade SC PASS science assessment shall not be administered; high school end-of-course assessments required pursuant to Section 59-18-310, and college entrance and career readiness assessments required pursuant to Section 59-18-325 during the 2020-2021 School Year to provide statewide-level data and district-level data.”

Senior Fellow with the Palmetto Promise Institute, Dr. Oran Smith, said South Carolina needs more data to figure out exactly how students are doing academically. He said that’s why they support the legislation that would make students, or at least a statistically significant sample of students, take these standardized tests in 2021.

He said, “We know there’s been a lot of learning loss, but not the depth of it.”

Superintendent Spearman and other critics said there should be no federal testing this year due to the pandemic. South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said, “It’s just not an even playing ground right now for testing. How reliable will these tests be?”

East said the data will most likely show students in South Carolina are behind because of the pandemic. She added that would not be a surprise.

Supporters of the bill said the legislation is not meant to punish anyone. The bill, as it stands right now, would waive the school performance ratings requirements for school report cards in 2021. Dr Smith said, “This is not testing that would be used as traditional accountability measures. This is just figuring out where we are.”

East said having to conduct these tests this spring would take away much needed classroom instruction time teachers need to help catch students up. She said, “We really just feel collecting data during a pandemic is not a good idea.”

Spearman told lawmakers formative tests have already been administered in South Carolina this school year so there is no need for these federally mandated standardized tests.

A panel of lawmakers are expected to listen to testimony on the bill during the next subcommittee meeting. They adjourned before getting to the bill Wednesday afternoon.