SC schools working to close economic gaps between schools, districts

VIDEO: SC schools working to close economic gaps between schools, districts

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - South Carolina schools are trying to address the gaps poor and minority students are facing in schools in this state.

A South Carolina Department of Education report reveals major gaps in teacher turnover and salaries in high poverty and high minority schools and school districts.

The report shows the average annual teacher salary in high poverty schools in South Carolina is about $3,500 lower than in wealthier districts.  In high poverty schools, teachers earned an average annual salary of $46,023 compared to $49,497 in wealthier districts.

The salary gap was nearly the same comparing high minority districts, with an average teacher salary of $46,268 a year, to districts with low minority populations at $49,383.

Experts say the $3,000-plus difference is important when newly hired teachers must travel to their districts.

As a result, the state reports the pay gap leaves an inequitable distribution of teachers, with poorer districts having more inexperienced, unqualified, and out-of-field teachers in the classrooms.

Another problem, the report states, is teacher turnover. Charleston County has the worst numbers in the state when it comes to large numbers of teachers leaving schools.

Of the 43 schools in South Carolina with a 30-percent or higher teacher turnover, Charleston County  has 10 schools.  According to the 2013-14 data, they include The Apple Charter School (which is now closed), Greg Mathis Charter High School, West Ashley Middle School, Jerry Zucker Middle School of Science, Sanders-Clyde Elementary, James Simmons Elementary, St. Andrews Middle School, Charleston Charter Math/Science, North Charleston High and Lincoln High School.  Charleston Charter Math/Science has an "A" performance rating, but seven others have an "F" and two have a "D" performance rating.

The Tri-County school districts don't fare well, either,  when it comes to teacher experience in the classroom.  Teachers in Dorchester District 4, on average, have around 12 years experience, as do teachers in Charleston and Berkeley Counties.

Teachers in Dorchester District 2 average just over 11 years experience.  DD2 is the ranked 77 th of 81 school districts reporting.  Only four districts in the state have lower averages, with Lexington District 4 at the bottom,  reporting  an average of 10.3 years.  The highest is Clarendon District 3 with average teacher experience at 20.5 years.  Georgetown County ranked 19th with  a teacher experience average of 15 years.

The report also looked at the percent of teachers leaving their schools, to teach in other districts.  Dorchester District 4 ranks number six in the state with a rate of 58.8 percent . Charleston County has 5.1 percent, Berkeley 13.3 percent and Dorchester District 2 11.1 percent.  Beaufort and Florence District 3 were tops, with no teachers moving to other school districts.  According to the report, the data shows teachers are not leaving to move to another state or to leave the teaching profession, but instead, are taking jobs within other South Carolina districts.

Thursday, the U. S Department of Education announced it is  approving South Carolina's plan and those of 15 other states, to close the gaps in education.  South Carolina plans  to include teacher preparation programs, investing in strategies related to school leaders, and providing financial incentives to reward teachers and encourage them to remain in the highest-need schools.

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