Darlington County School Board concerned about achievement gap

The Darlington County School Board got an update Monday evening on student performance over the past year. Several board members were surprised at just how far behind the data says Darlington students are.
The Darlington County School Board got an update Monday evening on student performance over the past year. Several board members were surprised at just how far behind the data says Darlington students are.

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) – The Darlington County School Board got an update Monday evening on student performance over the past year. Several board members were surprised at just how far behind the data says Darlington students are.

It was a simple performance data report that ignited a nearly hour-long debate among school board members and some teachers present Monday. The question then became how to raise those test scores to match other districts in the region.

Darlington County Schools  performance data showing high school students performing below state averages on End-of-Course exams.
Darlington County Schools performance data showing high school students performing below state averages on End-of-Course exams.
Carlita Davis, Darlington County Assistant Superintendent for curriculum instruction and assessment, showed school board members just how far behind the data says students in the county are on tests like SC Ready, PASS, even up to SATs and high school end-of-course exams.

Darlington County Schools performance data shows students in the district performed well below state averages on the ACT.
Darlington County Schools performance data shows students in the district performed well below state averages on the ACT.
“The consistency within the state, that’s an issue,” said Darlington County School Board Chairman Connell Delanie. “Of course we’re trying to address that and move forward the best way we know how based on the information that we have presently.”

As the numbers kept coming, several board members said they were shocked at the achievement gap between Darlington students and their peers statewide.

“This is very alarming,” one member said.

Later, the discussion turned to how to close that gap and support teachers who may have trouble succeeding in the classroom due to changing standards and assessment requirements.

“I think the teachers are doing a great job,” Chairman Delanie said. “But of course, they are constantly being asked to change, and when they are asked to change, sometimes we fall a little bit behind.”

Darlington County Schools performance data showing 3rd-8th graders performing well below state averages on the SC Ready assessment
Darlington County Schools performance data showing 3rd-8th graders performing well below state averages on the SC Ready assessment.
The school district made big strides to bring technology into the classroom, so why are students still so far behind?

“This is a moving train,” he said. “Teachers are being taught in different ways, but then again when they hit the classroom it’s a different story. So they have to train and re-train and we try to integrate the technology piece with the academics.”

Chairman Delanie said it’s not just up to teachers to help students succeed, but parents as well.

“We need parents,” Delanie explained. “We need the home front to step up and do the best they can for the kids whenever they can.”

The school board also briefly discussed plans for three new schools in the county–a result of last Tuesday’s passage of an extension of the penny sales tax.

Members expressed that they were pleasantly surprised with the referendum’s success, and plan to meet early next year to begin discussing bids to build the new schools.