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      SC standardized tests scores mostly up from 2010, Zais says reading must be a priority

      Standardized test scores for third- through eighth-graders are up overall. But South Carolina schools chief Mick Zais says he's concerned that the percentage of students who can read at grade level goes down as they get older.

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- Standardized test scores for third- through eighth-graders are up overall. But South Carolina schools chief Mick Zais says he's concerned that the percentage of students who can read at grade level goes down as they get older.

      Results of the 2011 Palmetto Assessment of State Standards show that math scores improved across all six grades compared to 2010.

      Social studies scores went up in five grades, science scores improved in four, and English improved in three. Only two grades took the writing test this year, and scores went up in one. By subject, students did the best in English.

      But Zais says reading instruction in the lower grades must be the top priority for students to be successful in high school.

      "Reading is fundamental, and if you can TMt read your textbooks you can TMt understand any of your subjects," Zais said. "That really has got to be a priority, really starting in kindergarten so that our kids when they enter high school are ready to succeed."

      Eighty percent of third-graders passed English. By eighth grade, 68 percent passed.

      Zais said reading instruction in the lower grades must be the top priority for students to be successful in high school.

      If we are serious about reading we are probably going to have to make some cuts in some other areas but we need to move toward a system that provides personalized and customized instruction that meets the needs of our students, he added.

      Although schools have faced budget cuts, increased class sizes, and lower salaries, Zais said that schools must decide how to provide the extra help without more money, going on to say it is a matter of priorities.

      I don't think a shortage of dollars is the issue, it's how those dollars are spent Zais said.

      Neil Mellen, Research Director at South Carolinians for Responsible Government agrees. The watchdog organization aims to educate lawmakers and parents about what is happening in education issues.

      Money is not the issue there is almost $12,000 per child in spending but less than half reaches the classroom we need a system in which parents have the ability to make choices teachers have the ability to make choices about what type of instruction is best for each student|while some kids are going to need a lot of help in reading and that is clear in this report that's not the case for every child and we can't have a one size fits all top down approach. Mellen said.

      (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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