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Half of Black students not meeting academic expectations in Charleston County

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 3:21 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2021 at 6:19 PM EST
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Black students in the Charleston County School District are falling behind early and staying behind as they move through the system.

The latest 2021 data compiled from the SC Ready scores – a state test for students in grades 3-8 that measures college and career readiness – shows more than half of all Black students do not meet expectations in math and English in fourth grade. Meanwhile, less than 9% of the white student body falls into the same category.

School board member Helen Frazier has been putting together monthly town hall meetings to present and discuss the disparities. She says the pandemic has slowed efforts by the district to make progress on the issue.

“We have a superintendent now who has been trying to address these issues by hiring more minority staff, by implementing programs to address the specific academic needs of black students,” Frazier said. “The pandemic has only exasperated the problem. . . Studies show that if a child has not been able to read proficiently by grade four, then he is going to have a very difficult time catching up with his peers.”

Hispanic students perform similarly to their Black counterparts with 56% not meeting expectations in English and 47% not meeting expectations in math on the fourth-grade assessment. Frazier hopes raising awareness about the issue will inspire the community to help address it.

“We cannot affect change unless we have the people at the table who need to be there and that includes our parents and our members of the community,” Frazier said. “We need to change the trajectory of how we move forward in the area of parental and community involvement.”

The disparities are not isolated to CCSD.

State data shows 51.4% of Black students and 41.1% of Hispanic students did not meeting expectations in 4th grade English compared to 19.8% of white students statewide. The data is similar in 4th grade math where 54.4% of Black students and 38% of Hispanic students did not meet expectations, while only 18.6% of white students did not meet expectations.

CCSD Parent Howie Comen says this should be a concern for all parents, not just Black and Hispanic families.

“It affects us all because if people are uneducated they are going to drop out of school. They’re going to turn to crime. You can make a lot of money selling drugs and that’s what happens in the system,” Comen said. “It’s a Black and white issue. We all suffer if any segment of our community is dysfunctional or not brought up to snuff.”

He says the system is broken, but can be fixed.

“The brains are here. The people are here that know how to fix it. It’s just a question of getting the whole community together,” Comen said.

The results are the worst since 2017, with no data collected in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The SC Ready test data varies slight from grades 3-8. You can see the demographic breakdown for each grade here.

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