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School board members seek answers to math test scores

  • Kevin Karg
  • Jerold Murray

A Jasper County school board member has voiced his concerns to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division about recent End-of-Course math test scores.

Kevin Karg, a board member since 2015, said he had concerns beginning early last year about the results of the Algebra 1 End-of-Course Exam Program scores from 2012-2015. In a letter to SLED, Karg questioned the validity of Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School’s End-of-Course Algebra 1/Math test results.

Karg said in his Aug. 25, 2016, letter to SLED that there had been “remarkable” improvement in the Algebra 1/Math test performance over a three-year period. He said the percentage of passing students more than doubled. The EOCEP Algebra 1/Math test scores rose dramatically over three years, more than doubling from 32.9 percent of the students passing in 2012 to 67.6 percent passing in 2015.

“The improved Algebra 1/Math scores were a significant factor in the high school receiving a state Palmetto Gold Award in 2014 and a Palmetto Silver Award in 2015,” he said in the letter. “I served as a volunteer in an Algebra 1 class during the spring semester in 2014 and the classroom experiences I had and the observations I made during that period do not support such outstanding improvement in the test scores.”

Karg said he had questions in February 2016 that he wanted answered. He contacted the state Department of Education Office of Assessments and requested an investigation. He made a follow-up call to the department in mid-February last year, and the state Department of Education said it was still looking into the matter, Karg said. In March 2016, Karg said the state DOE told him no issues had been found.

On Aug. 25, 2016, Karg contacted SLED to request an investigation into the scores. On Sept. 7, SLED sent Karg a letter noting it investigates matters of criminal misconduct only after receiving a request from a solicitor, the Attorney General’s Office or the law enforcement agency or jurisdiction in the county.

“We do get requests from time to time such as this one,” SLED spokesman Thom Berry spokesman said Monday. “We would refer that request to the South Carolina Department of Education, and if they feel there is a need for an investigation, they bring the information back to SLED.”

Berry said as of Monday, there was no SLED investigation into this matter and no requests had been received from the state Department of Education asking to look into it. State Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown said Monday that’s there’s no current investigation.

Karg said this August he continued to seek answers by contacting the 14th Circuit Solictor’s Office.

Erinn McGuire, Communications Officer for the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, said the solicitor’s office would handle the issue if it became a criminal matter and charges were brought. The Solicitor’s Office would request that Karg contact the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office.

“I contacted the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and requested an investigation and was informed they would forward my request to SLED,” Karg said.

“I do not know exactly why the numbers are the way they are, but I would like for someone to explain them to me.”

Jasper County Sheriff Chris Malphrus said Karg’s request was forwarded to SLED.

Current school district Superintendent Donald Andrews, who was hired in June 2016, after the timeframe in question, said he’s aware of Karg’s concerns and takes them seriously.

Karg hopes for an investigation.

“It seems statistically unlikely this would happen with the scores,” Karg told the Jasper County Sun Times.

“I have been working on this myself for over 22 months and I would like some answers as to how the scores are the way they are. What I would like to see happen would be for SLED to bring in a data forensics expert to review all aspects of the testing.”

Other board member also seeking answers

Board member Jerold Murray looked at the scores and thinks they need to be reviewed.

“What I am looking at doesn’t seem to sit right,” he said.

“This doesn’t seem to pass the smell test.”

Murray said he has asked that an item be placed on the next school board meeting agenda (Monday, Dec. 11) to have a discussion about the scores.

“When I saw the difference in scores, a light went off and I knew we needed some explanation,” he said.

Murray said he supported Karg in his efforts to receive some answers from someone concerning the results.

“I applaud Mr. Karg for asking about the scores and I back him 100 percent,” he said.

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