Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004
more to be better prepared for college
SC Statehouse Report
19, 2004 -- With South Carolina's SAT rate dead last, it's
no surprise our students aren't as well-prepared for college
as they should be.
Fortunately, things are getting better, according to "Measuring
Up 2004," a new report card that highlights the state's
higher education performance compared to 10 years ago. The
report, published this week by the National Center for Public
Policy and Higher Education (www.highereducation.org),
provides some stark information about South Carolina and shows
the state isn't anywhere near out of the woods yet:
- "The state continues to perform poorly in getting
young people to graduate from high school."
- "South Carolina is among the lowest performing states
in percentage of young adults earning a high school credential
by age 24."
- Only a very small proportion of 11th and 12th grade students
perform well on Advanced Placement and college entrance
exams. But the proportion of students taking college entrance
exams and scoring well has increased substantially over
the last decade. The report says the number of college entrance
scores in the top 20 percent nationally has doubled in the
last decade from 67 per 1,000 high school graduates to 132
per 1,000. Nationally, the average is 227.
- On the bright side, the state has substantially increased
the number of secondary school students who are taught by
qualified teachers. This compares with top-performing states,
the report said. Ten years ago, six in 10 upper-level students
were taught by teachers with a major in their subject; now,
it's 74 percent - - only 7 points below the rate of top
Another indicator that shows South Carolina students are
becoming better prepared - - but still have a long way to
go - - is shown in a Statehouse Report analysis of state SAT
In general, the state's public four-year colleges have higher
SAT scores for this year's incoming freshmen than just two
years ago. But scores for in-state students typically are
lower than out-of-state students. In other words, non-resident
students are better prepared for college and have higher SAT
scores than in-state students. In turn, that makes a college's
overall score higher.
For example, in-state freshmen this year at the University
of South Carolina had an average SAT score of 1134, compared
to 1184 for out-of-state students. The higher out-of-state
average made the overall average higher - - 1149 at USC.
Similarly at Winthrop University, the overall score for this
year's freshmen was 1069, compared to 1062 for in-state students
and 1108 for out-of-state students. At Clemson, the overall
score was 1203 - - 1198 for in-state students and 1212 for
those from outside South Carolina. (Column continues below
[Scores for this year's freshmen are preliminary
only; official scores will be reported in two weeks. Also,
several colleges did not reply to requests for SAT information
on the new freshman classes - - Francis Marion University,
S.C. State University, USC-Beaufort and USC-Upstate. Other
schools provided incomplete information - - College of Charleston,
The Citadel, Coastal Carolina University.]
"It's a natural phenomenon that your out-of-state students
are going to raise your SAT scores, especially in South Carolina
where we're the lowest in the country," said Charlie
Fitzsimons of the state's Commission on Higher Education.
So with this new report and SAT scores reflecting that South
Carolina students aren't as prepared for college as students
from other states, what can be done?
WORLD: Call from the top
Who's up and down
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Fitzsimons says it boils down to two basic things that take
a long time to affect results - - having students take tougher
courses and having more highly-qualified teachers.
On teachers, South Carolina is making progress. While it
needs to keep its commitment to quality teachers, students
need to have more challenges in schools. That means schools
need to encourage students to take tougher courses. And state
lawmakers need to ensure schools - - particularly those in
rural areas - - have the resources available to offer advanced
"If all you're doing in high school is taking the minimally-required
courses, then you're going to be minimally prepared,"
Fitzsimons said. "If you take some higher coursework,
you'll be better prepared for college."
With half of South Carolina ninth graders dropping out of
school before their classmates graduate in four years, the
state still has a long way to go. Policymakers should read
this new report to motivate them to do what's right for higher
9/19: Possible impact of the assault
The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:
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SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Spratt. Hats off to Rep. John Spratt for being named
one of Washington's workhorses by The Washingtonian magazine.
Sanford. While we may not agree with the philosophy
behind Gov. Mark Sanford's actions, it's a good idea for him
to be questioning state agencies on how they spend their money.
McKinney. Congratulations to longtime S.C. House Clerk
Sandra McKinney on her upcoming retirement. She'll be missed.
Brown. For a long time, now-U.S. Rep. Henry Brown
has been throwing around his weight and muscling his way around
government. Now he's been caught in a scheme to try to get
out of paying a fine for burning national forest land by allegedly
threatening the U.S. Forest Service. Look for this to be more
than a one-day story.
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