The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Education Oversight Committee “Waters Down” State Standards?

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After weeks of deliberation, the full Education Oversight Committee (EOC) voted on the establishment of Student Performance Levels on the Palmetto Achievement of State Standards test (PASS), which has replaced the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT).  The full EOC vote was on whether or not to adopt the motion sent to them by the EOC sub-committee.  That motion was to, “adopt the recommendations regarding PASS assessments proposed by the South Carolina School Board Association and the South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA)”, as well as a few caveats that the sub-committee recommended.

Prior to taking a vote, the committee heard public testimony from Robbie Barnett from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.  Mr. Barnett essentially advised the EOC that they should be prepared to defend their decision to “water down” education accountability measures – at least as perceived by some members of the public.

After hearing testimony from the public, EOC Chair Harold C. Stowe opened the motion for comment from the committee.  EOC member Mike Brenan commented on the third grade reading cut score; the score that would separate students into their performance categories such as “Exemplary”, “Met”, “Not Met”.  Brenan made a motion to amend the subcommittee’s recommendation on the third grade reading cut score, and use the score originally calculated by teachers in the bookmarking process (the process where teachers from around the state determined the number of questions a student would answer correct on the PASS test).  A roll call vote was then taken on Mr. Brenan’s proposed amendment, which failed 9-7.

Once the comment period was closed, the committee took a roll call vote on the motion of whether or not to accept the recommendations from the SCASA and the S.C. School Board Association.  The full motion was as follows:

  • “To adopt the recommendations regarding PASS assessments proposed by School Board Association and the Association of School Administrators with the following caveats:
    • In addition to the social studies assessment, the writing performance levels will be reexamined in 2011;
    • In applying the recommendations for PASS standards, in no case should the performance level for “Met” fall below the PACT Basic level.  If an adjustment of the “Met” standard is made on the test to comply with this, further adjustment should not be made to align the remaining performance levels;
    • Adjustments made should not go beyond one standard error of measurement, except in the case of social studies;
    • For reading and research, for mathematics, for science, for social studies tests, the Met level standard should be adjusted to match the PACT Basic level and further adjustments should not be made to align the remaining performance levels”.

The roll call vote was taken, with EOC member Alex Martin joining the meeting via conference call.  The ayes and nays were as follows: 11-4-1 (passed)


Kristi V. Woodall

Michael A. Anthony

Bill Cotty

Mike Fair

Barbara B. Hairfield

R. Wesley Hayes, Jr.

Alex Martin

Buffy Murphy

Joseph H. Neal

Neil C. Robinson, Jr.

Neil Willis


Harold C. Stowe

Charmeka Bosket

Mike Brenan

Julie R. Hershey


Dennis Drew

Moving forward, the decision to accept a new scoring system for PASS results, in order to “realign” scores with national standards, means that more students and schools will meet federal education standards.  The committee repeatedly made the point that the new scoring system would not affect the rigor of the state standards.  A decision has not yet been made on the number of categories that will be used to track progress (the options range from three to five).  This issue, however, will be taken up at the next EOC meeting.

See the video below for more details on the EOC’s adoption of PASS standards.


Written by SC Policy Council

October 8, 2009 at 3:37 pm

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