By Sarah Ostergaard
Education law is a tiered system, in line with one of our nation’s founding principles: federalism. Per the 10th Amendment, education is within the purview of each of the 50 states or their local jurisdictions. The federal government does, however, play a significant role.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is governing law for all public schools in the United States, although each state has much leeway in crafting its own implementing state legislation. ESSA was intended to increase accountability: specific testing requirements, increased documentation of attendance, protection of disadvantaged students, focus on graduation rates, and more.
Regarding ESSA testing requirements, South Carolina has selected tests to be administered in the public schools in order to comply with ESSA. According to the SC Department of Education website regarding testing requirements:
- ESSA requires states to test students in reading or language arts and mathematics every year in grades 3-8 (for which SC uses the SC READY tests in English and Math) and once in grades 9 through 12 (for which SC uses the end-of-course exams in English 2 and Algebra 1).
- ESSA requires states to test students at least three times in science, once in 3-5, once in grade 6-9, and once in grades 10-12 (for which SC uses SC PASS in 4th and 6th grades and the end-of-course exam in Biology).
- ESSA requires that states administer an English language proficiency assessment to English language learners in grades K-12 (for which SC uses the ACCESS tests).
- ESSA requires that states administer alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (for which SC has selected the SC-Alt).
In addition to the tests required by the federal government through ESSA, the state of South Carolina also requires the following tests in its public schools:
- SCPASS Social Studies in grades 5 and 7.
- SCPASS Science in one middle school grade (grade 6 or 8)
- Ready to Work (R2W) Career Readiness Assessment in grade 11
- U.S. History and the Constitution end-of-course exam
- Pre-K Readiness Assessments
- Kindergarten Readiness Assessment
- G&T Achievement and Ability tests
- G&T Performance Tasks
- College Entrance Examination *offered (the ACT or SAT) in grade 11
The state of South Carolina also regulates the timing of these tests. For example, the kindergarten assessments are completed within the first 45 days of the school year. Students are generally tested for gifted / talented in October. The SC PASS, SC READY, and end-of-course exams are given to students in May. And SC requires that the end-of-course exams in Algebra 1, English 2, Biology, and US History count for 20 percent of the student’s final grade in the corresponding course.
Additionally, although not federally- or state-required, high-achieving high schoolers also take Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or Dual Enrollment tests in the month of May. These tests measure a student’s knowledge of a specific subject area and can award college credit with a high enough score.
All the tests mentioned above are summative assessments, which measure student learning at the end of an instructional unit or timeframe compared with a standard or benchmark.
South Carolina also requires public schools to administer specific formative assessments, which measure and track a student’s progress as s/he is learning the material. An example of a required formative assessment is the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) tests, which are administered in first through ninth grades twice and sometimes three times per academic year. The MAP tests are given in both Math and English language arts over a few days in the fall, sometimes in the winter, and in the spring.
Although testing goes on for much of the school year, especially the month of May is known as “testing season”. Parents and guardians, please be sure your child has adequate rest, eats breakfast, and takes a charged device to school if needed for testing days.
And good luck.