Stereotypes about South Carolina public K-12 schools aside, statewide SAT scores were above the national average this year. Performance and participation in Advanced Placement courses grew.

That's good news for the state as a whole, but more locally, for Richland School District Two and the Fort Jackson community.

"It makes parents feel more confident," said Fort Jackson school liaison Fred Henley. It provides reassurance that teachers are giving students the right tools to excel.

Progress is a continuing, joint effort between Fort Jackson schools and Richland Two.

"Richland Two is proud to partner with Fort Jackson to educate students and prepare them for college, the military and workforce. Our strong, enduring partnership is built on a shared commitment to creating, sustaining and investing in a culture and environment of excellence where all students succeed," said Dr. Baron R. Davis, superintendent of Richland School District Two. "Richland Two and Fort Jackson want only the best for our students, whether they attend a school on the Fort or a school in our district. Together we will continue to find ways to improve not only test scores, but more importantly, opportunities for students to maximize their gifts and talents as they pursue their pathways to purpose."

In Richland Two, increased inclusivity and familiarity with test content are possible factors for the improved performances, according to John Arnold, the district's director of accountability and assessment.

At Fort Jackson, programs by Child & Youth Services and the Army Continuing Education Services are likely driving scores up, Henley said.

Homework labs, run by specialists who help students with their studies after-hours, are one.

The workforce preparation program is another. It provides guidance on topics like resume-writing, interviewing, applying for scholarships and preparing for the SAT.

Online and in-person study tools and tutoring through ACES help, too, Henley said.

This year, more South Carolinian students completed the SAT.

Half of the class of 2018 -- 22,141 students -- took the assessment.

That represents a 5.7 percent increase from 2017.

All third-year high school students have the option to take the ACT, SAT, both or neither, Arnold said.

They can take the assessments numerous times.

The highest scores are used to calculate averages.

Total scores, along with individual scores in the Evidence Based Reading and Writing, or ERW, segment and the Math segment, rose.

SAT scores range from 400-1600. Each component's score can vary from 200 to 800.

This year, South Carolina earned an average score of 1064, compared to the national average of 1049.

The state's national ERW was 14 points above the national score of 529.

Its math score was the same as the national mean, at 520.

Nearly half of South Carolina's SAT test takers -- 44 percent -- hit the College and Career Ready Benchmarks in both segments.

Because of changes to the format of the SAT, "it's difficult to go back and make comparisons" to previous years, Arnold said.

These numbers still represent improvements.

Richland Two has worked to align course sequence with the content of the assessment.

The district is preparing students by helping make sure they've taken the courses necessary to succeed before being tested.

Algebra 2 is one example in the realm of math; students who have taken it are more prepared for the test, Arnold said.

The district is also working to make students aware of the differences between the assessments.

Some students may score better on one test than the other. Arnold said Richland Two is helping each individual student make the best decision on what to take.

More students are taking Advanced Placement courses in South Carolina.

In Richland Two, students who aren't recommended for Advanced Placement course can now choose to opt in for the challenge, Arnold said.

The state's performance scores in AP testing have risen.

In Richland Two, teachers familiar with AP test content are making sure students get practice in throughout the year.

"You practice how you play," Arnold said. "We're always trying to get our students ready for college."

There was an increase in both the amount of students taking AP exams and the total number of exams given. They increased 5.7 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.

The number of students eligible to receive college credit for the courses grew.

Scores of three and above rose by 10.1 percent, for a total of 30,427 exams.

AP exam scores range up to five. A score of three indicates the student is qualified for college-level courses; some post-secondary institutions will grant credit for scores of at least three.

The number of AP Scholars -- students who received at least a three on three or more AP exams rose 8.6 percent in 2018.