Aiken County high schools showed improvement in end-of-course tests in freshman English I and Algebra I, and the district average scores for those who passed the exams were higher than the state averages.


Biology scores were also higher than the state average, but U.S. history results trailed the state.


The end-of-course tests are administered statewide each spring and count for 20 percent of the final grade.


“We are pleased that our district had gains on all four EOCT’s and that we are above the state average on every test except U.S. History,” Dr. Tim Yarborough, the high school academic officer, said in a press release. “The strategies the teachers and administrators used were successful and we hope that we will see continued, incremental improvements.”


Dr. Randy Stowe, the district director of administration, and Aiken High principal Garen Cofer acknowledged that many students continue to fare poorly on the tests.


Stowe was pleased with the overall improvement in English I and Algebra I, as those courses are important to continued success in high-level courses.


“But we’re never going to be entirely happy with the test scores,” he said. “We’re providing extra help for our struggling students.”


Parents and other community residents can view the full EOC data online by visiting ed.sc.gov/data/eocep/.


In specific categories, Aiken High students went from a 51.6 percent passing rate in English in 2011 to a 64.5 percent rate in 2012. South Aiken High had the highest rate among at 79.9 percent, a jump of 2.4 percentage points over the previous year. Silver Bluff High improved 9.4 points to a 74.5 percentage passing rate.


Math scores were higher overall throughout the district than in English. Ridge Spring-Monetta High had a 90 percent passing rate, a 17.9 percent increase from a year earlier. South Aiken High’s 85.7 was a 12 percent jump. Aiken High went from 55 percent to 67.4 percent.


Districtwide, 82.6 percent of students passed the Algebra I test – 0.9 percent higher than the state average. The English I district average of 76.5 percent was 2.5 percent higher than the statewide average.


The district averages include the performance of the district’s middle schools. High-achieving eighth-graders take English I and Algebra I in middle school, and their academic successes are reflected on the exams. At seven middle schools, 100 percent of the students passed the algebra test and only one school scored under 90 percent. In English I, three schools had a 100 percent passing rate, and again, just one school was under 90 percent.


The individual scores of the high schools did not reflect the performance of students in their feeder middle schools.


The overall performance at Aiken High is not where he and the faculty want it to be, Cofer said.


“Our teachers have worked endlessly and are doing everything I’ve asked them to do,” he said. “But many of our kids were struggling when they got here. They don’t wait until high school to struggle. They’re not as prepared as we would like, but under the circumstances, we have made tremendous gains.”


A total of 76.3 percent of mostly sophomores passed the biology exam in the district. That’s a solid effort, Stowe said, given that the spring of 2012 was the first time that all students took the test. Only 52.8 percent of Aiken County juniors passed the U.S. history exam.


“It’s very odd that many of our students do well on the national (Advanced Placement) exam, but not on the state end-of-course test,” Stowe said. “Our teachers say that the standards cover so much material that they can’t cover it all in one year.”


For several years, said Aiken County School Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt, the district has worked with USC Aiken and Aiken Technical College in providing professional development for algebra and pre-algebra teachers.


“We see those efforts paying off in the Algebra I scores,” she said.