Kennedy lays out ‘aggressive’ 5-year goals for school district

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 1:01 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2022 at 5:23 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Superintendent Don Kennedy is hoping to turn the Charleston County School District around with an aggressive five-year plan to bring reading and math scores up to par and drive up the number of students who are ready for life after graduation.

“Fifty-one percent of our kids read below grade level,” Kennedy said. “When you look at the racial groups, African Americans, 82% read below grade level. Hispanics, 75%. Kids in poverty, 75%. The numbers in math are similar.”

Kennedy presented to the school board three sets of goals centered on reading, math and college and career readiness on Monday. Currently, less than half of students are not able to read at a satisfactory level. District data shows reading proficiency has fluctuated between 35% and 49% over the last 15 years.

However, that number is even worse when it’s broken down by race. The 2021 SC READY English Language Arts scores revealed only 17.9% of Black students met or exceeded grade-level expectations. Overall, 49.1% of all students met or exceeded grade-level reading expectations.

“Up until this year, the district has not had an ELA, a reading curriculum. Because we have not had a curriculum, it’s been difficult to have consistency across the school district in terms of how we approach reading,” Kennedy said. “With this new curriculum, which is a state-approved curriculum, that will be the mechanism if we implement it correctly.”

Kennedy says by June 2027 they aim to increase the percentage of all students meeting or exceeding reading expectations on SC READY Tests from 49.1% to 75%.

It’s a completely different kind of goal for math. Kennedy says the goal is to increase the number of students successfully completing advanced math courses in 8th grade.

“To make that happen there has to be attention paid to what happens before the 8th grade,” Kennedy said. “If kids aren’t ready to take the placement test in 7th grade they won’t get into the advanced class.”

However, Kennedy says the specific goal has not been established yet because they are still waiting on the latest 2022 testing data from the state. He says those numbers will be released this fall.

Over the last 15 years, math proficiency scores have dipped from a peak in 2012 at 60% to 51% in 2021.

Test scores only tell part of a student’s story and possibly the most important metric to judge a school is whether graduates are prepared for life after school. By 2027, Kennedy says they’ve laid out a goal to see the percentage of students who are college and/or career-ready increase from 67.7% to 86.2%.

“That’s a high percentage of students who are not ready,” Kennedy said. “When I say going to college, I mean going to college prepared to do college work – not having to take remedial high school courses that they should have learned in high school.”

With all three of these goals, Kennedy has laid out additional goals for specific subgroups, primarily aimed at addressing the achievement gap in minority groups.

The board is expected present these goals and the testing data to families in community meetings to get feedback in the coming weeks.

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