S.C. superintendent ‘alarmed’ as school districts report increase in number of failing students

VIDEO: S.C. superintendent ‘alarmed’ as school districts report increase in number of failing students

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - State Superintendent Molly Spearman, who leads the South Carolina Department of Education, said she’s alarmed by the increase in the number of students failing at least one class in the first nine weeks of the school year.

“I’m not shocked by the numbers,” Spearman said. “I am alarmed.”

The Berkeley County School District reported the number of students failing at least one class has more than doubled compared to the same time period last year. In the first quarter of the 2019-2020 school year, 2,876 students failed at least one class. In 2020, that number climbed to 6,590 students.

In Charleston County, 7,739 students failed at least one class during the first quarter of the school year compared to the 4,756 who did last year.

In Dorchester District Two, about 1,500 more students failed one or more classes so far this year compared to last year. In 2019, that number was 2,784. In 2020, it was 4,275.

“The department has prioritized the standards of what really needs to be taught,” Spearman said. “Some of the good news is with the smaller classes sizes that have come from some families staying home virtual, the children who are back are coming back quickly. Teachers say they really are responding, and the gap will close.”

Spearman said the biggest surprise has been in math scores.

“The one thing I was surprised about was mathematics seems to be showing up as a greater loss than reading,” she said. “But when you think about it, reading is something you can pretty easily practice, and as you practice you get better whereas math is new skills that you are taught. So, we’ve got to really put a stronger emphasis on those interventions on mathematics.”

Spearman said school districts are giving assessments this month and next, and she’s looking forward to seeing those results when they come in.

She also said she plans to ask the state legislature for additional funding for more interventions for students, including stronger summer school programs.

“I have real confidence we’ll be able to correct this lapse really quickly,” she said.

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