Test data can be confusing. Here are three standardized tests students take in high school, and what each is designed to measure:
Composite results of Beaufort County's 2012 end-of-course exams, showing the number of students taking the test by subject, their mean score and the percentage of students by letter grade. To see state, district and individual school averages, go to www.ed.sc.gov/data/eocep.
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Beaufort County School District averages on three of four key high school exams topped state averages this year.
Average scores on the algebra, English and biology end-of-course exams also were higher than 2011's district averages.
However, scores lagged state averages on the U.S. history exam and slipped slightly behind last year's district scores.
"We've got some work to do in U.S. history," district instructional services chief Dereck Rhoads said.
End-of-course exams are given in the last few weeks of the school year to students who have taken those four courses. Their scores account for 20 percent of their grade in the course.
Beaufort County students did best on the biology exam, which has only been given for two years. The district average among the 913 students who took the test was an 83.9 on a 100-point scale -- three points higher than the state average of 80.8.
Average scores on the algebra exam, 82.1, and the English exam, 78.6, just topped the state averages of 81 and 78.2, respectively. District averages on the exams have increased in recent years, and the number of students earning passing grades -- a 77 percent or above -- has also increased.Principals say their schools plan to keep improving scores.
"We're always looking to make sure they're better," said Hilton Head Island High School principal Amanda O'Nan. "We're not 100 percent satisfied until we have every kid passing, and not just with a 'C' but doing extremely well."
Battery Creek's average scores, along with Whale Branch Early College High averages, lag the district in every category. But their averages in three of four categories improved from the previous year.
Scores slipped in U.S. history at Battery Creek and in algebra at Whale Branch. An attempt to reach Whale Branch principal Priscilla Drake was unsuccessful.
"It's always good to see growth, but you're never happy if you cannot maintain the pace with other schools in the district," Battery Creek principal Ed Burnes said.
Burnes said the school will adapt a tactic used last school year in biology, a subject in which it made its largest gain, rising to 78.2 in 2012 from 73.2 the previous year.
Burnes said veteran biology teachers gave students extra help in the month or so before the exam. This year, he'll ask the same of U.S. history and algebra teachers.
Rhoads said that method will be used across the district for U.S. history. Students will also take cumulative tests throughout the year in U.S. history courses, rather than tests that focus only on the most recent lessons. Rhoads said they are also looking for ways to infuse U.S. history concepts into other courses -- such as civics classes generally taken by freshmen -- as a way to reinforce the information.