HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The South Carolina Department of Education released ACT assessment testing scores for public schools across the state.
The 11th graders tested in the spring of the 2016-2017 school year. For the first time, the SCDE said more than 50 percent of South Carolina schools used the online ACT test assessment instead of paper and pencil. The results took much longer to get out as well.
Approximately 95 percent of the schools who opted to take the online ACT test had a technical issue. Those include glitches, tests timing out, system failure, and teachers who were unable to get through to the ACT support line.
Horry County Schools chose to opt out of online ACT testing, according to district spokesperson Lisa Bourcier.
There were around 25,000 students who were potentially negatively impacted. In the past two weeks, the SCDE said it has still received 11th graders' scores after school districts noticed hundreds of errors.
"Our ACT testing fared a little bit better than the state testing. We were lower in one category for that, and again we had an additional 300 students take the test this year as compared to last year and that will make a difference too," Bourcier said. "It's just a sample screenshot of that child that particular day taking the test. It doesn't encompass the entire student."
Ryan Brown, the chief communications officer for the SCDE, said it's unfortunate this happened.
"It's too bad when you select a testing company that you have this many setbacks," Brown said. "We just felt like they weren't really prepared to test the whole state online and that was apparent."
The question of validity across the board led state Superintendent Molly Spearman to strongly encourage all districts to take the paper and pencil ACT in the spring of 2018.
"The state superintendent has put a lot of thought into this and heard from a lot of parents and teachers, and I think that recommendation will come forth and ultimately it is the decision of the district, but paper and pencil could avoid these issues in the future," Brown said.
Since 2015, the SCDE has required all students, regardless of what track they are on, to take the ACT. The biggest change now moving forward is the bill the General Assembly passed in the last session.
The bill states next spring, every 11th grader will have the option to take the ACT or SAT. The state will pay for one and if a student chooses not to, they can take a different career-related assessment senior year.
Brown said, overall, state scores are significantly showing students are "not college ready."
"We still have a ways to go and I will say the ACT benchmarks are very rigorous and high, and require students to have a high understanding of South Carolina college-ready standards and also have the proper coursework with the right material," Brown said. "So there's a lot that goes into that and we aren't where we need to be."
Bourcier said that Horry County Schools will continue to follow the requirements from the SCDE.
WMBF News also checked in with Marion, Dillon and Robeson counties, who said all students tested with paper and pencil. Florence and Darlington counties both used the ACT online system.
The SCDE said scores still may change slightly, but for transparency, the department wanted to release those test results.