However, it seems the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) is still facing residual resistance to the focus that state and national education standards have taken. That focus is on improving basic skills like English/language arts, math, science and social studies.
The question was raised whether or not enough is being done for those who just want to learn a trade skill, who are not interested in going on to college. The answer to that is an obvious yes. That's what basic skills mean: the things you need to get through life. No matter if you study rocket science or carpentry, you still need to be able to read and write and do math. When you zero in on basic skills, you are teaching students what they need to apply in everyday life.
And, the state wants to make sure every student is learning these skills. PACT scores and AYP were developed to not let any student slip through the cracks. These tests and standards do not lump all students together; instead, students are identified by race, socioeconomic class and gender, to name a few of the categories. In other words, the tests are tracking those who traditionally fall behind to make sure they are improving so they don't eventually drop out.
Today's workforce demands more skilled labor. There are less "mills" for employment. Every day we hear about industries streamlining their workforces as new technology is developed, replacing the hands-on employee.
With the lottery providing money for scholarship funds, more students have the opportunity for education beyond high school. Lottery-funded tuition assistance now pays more than half of technical college tuition for South Carolina residents. Up to $876 per semester is available for eligible full-time technical college students.
But to get to this point in life, students need basic skills.
In 1998, when the S.C. Education Accountability Act was passed, many people felt "more tests" were not going to help students, but that mindset is changing as the community recognizes the purpose of these tests. The tests aren't pressuring students to be geniuses; they are pressuring teachers and school administrators to make sure every single student is learning - learning skills that afford them the best opportunities in life.