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New educational report highlights shortfalls and sets goals for Tri-County students

(Source: WCSC) (Source: WCSC)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

A new Regional Education Report shows public education in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties is failing to prepare black, Hispanic and lower-income students to succeed, both in school and beyond graduation.

The Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative released its annual status report Thursday to update achievement levels in core assessment areas and highlight goals moving forward. The TCCC was established as a community movement working to improve the educational outcomes for all students in the Tri-County area, regardless of race or socio-economic background.

"Armed with this information and with a commitment to work together, school districts, colleges and universities, non-profits and business and community leaders have the real opportunity to make a difference," TCCC CEO, John Read said. "That work is underway and I think it shows great promise." 

The report provides data on kindergarten readiness, reading and math proficiency in both third and eighth grades, high school graduation rates, and preparedness for either post-secondary education or the the modern workforce.

Some of the key statistics in the report include:

  • Only four out of 10 children are socially, emotionally and academically prepared to begin kindergarten. This could be because of the lack of a cohesive support system for under-resourced children prior to kindergarten. 
  • Only 38 percent of third graders are proficient in reading and only six in 10 of these students are proficient in math.
  • Reading proficiency improves for eighth graders to slightly more than half, but more than three out of every five eighth graders are not ready for high school math.

The report highlights different factors contributing to this data and examines the growing achievement gap between black and white students. 

  • When it comes to third grade reading, eight in 10 black students are not proficient, compared to five in 10 white students. 
  • Data from the class of 2018 showed an alarming decline in reading proficiency for all students between third and eighth grades, but black students declined nearly three times the rate as white students.
  • The statistics are even worse when it comes to eighth grade math, showing nine in 10 black students lack proficiency, compared to five in 10 white students. 
  • The report asserts that changing standards and state-mandated assessments could have some impact on the fluctuations. Students could have taken three different reading and math assessments in three years.

Charleston County school superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait says the design of education in public school systems everywhere presents a challenge because all children aren't armed with the same tools to succeed.

"Anytime we have children from homes where they don't have exposure to lots of opportunities, those children come to school not as ready to learn as others," Postelwait said. "However, the job of the public school is to close that gap, and we're just now learning a whole lot more than we used to know about how to do that."   

The final challenge the TCCC report addresses is preparing children for life beyond high school graduation. Regionally high school graduation rates are up, but many of those graduates are not college or career ready. Slightly more than half of high school graduates are enrolling in two or four year higher education programs. The report shows two-thirds of the students are not prepared and will end up taking remedial classes. As students begin to enter the workforce, the data suggests one-third are not qualified for 65 percent of the jobs the Work Keys database. They cannot meet local workforce demands including technical skills required for a changing job market.

"The jobs that are out there now are going to increasingly require two and four year degrees with some measure of technical competency associated with it," Read said. "In that regard, the public education system is the talent supply chain." 

The report concludes with a Call to Action to raise proficiency in all areas. A significant effort to reach those targets will be to reduce the gaps by half, between White students and Black or Hispanic students, and between lower and higher income students.

You can find more information on the report at tricountycradletocareer.org

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