The much anticipated progress report on Lincoln Middle-High School students transferred to Wando High this school year documents what some expected – that those students were being placed in a more academically challenging environment. Lincoln Middle-High was closed for economic reasons, but many suspected students at the rural school weren’t getting the quality education they deserved anyway. The progress report indicated as much.
Charleston County School Board member Michael Miller was among board members who opposed Lincoln’s closure. He said Monday the report on Lincoln’s students shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. The disparities that were revealed between the quality of education received by Lincoln students and that received by students at Wando is typical throughout the district, even between black and white students who attend the same high school, he said.
Board member Todd Garrett provided information pointing to the same conclusion. According to information Garrett provided, only nine percent of African American students in Charleston County are ‘career-ready’ which the district quantifies by the Silver WorkKeys level. Boeing requires the equivalent of Gold Work Keys level, which means nearly all of our African American grads are not qualified to work at Boeing or Volvo after at least 13 years with CCSD, he said. Less than four percent of African American grads are “college-ready” which is determined by achieving a 23+ ACT score.
He noted 90 percent of CCSD grads have to take a remedial course before beginning ‘for credit’ courses at Trident Technical College, 84 percent of African-American students don’t read on grade level by 3rd grade and less than half of CCSD students, black or white, improve by a grade level each year which results in a slow slide backwards each year. “Those are the results in one of the richest districts in the state where we spend 27 percent more per pupil than Greenville County (the richest district in the state)” he said.
Miller said the Lincoln/Wando report is evidence of problems inherited from academic disparities perpetuated over decades and which continue today. The same outcome would be seen if students from North Charleston High, Baptist Hill High or Burke High were transferred to Wando, he said. But more insidiously, those disparities are perpetuated between students within higher performing schools.
The Wando progress report is more indicative of what the school district is not doing, Miller said. The ‘soft bigotry’ characterized by Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait in describing what led to the findings shouldn’t come as a shock to school officials who receive similar data on a regular basis, he said.
“We know the data. Educators are not shocked at what came out. They may be disappointed, but they can’t be shocked because they know things the public doesn’t. We spend money and implement programs that don’t move the needle. We do a lot of patchwork using grants that don’t show results. But if we were sincere about making improvements, we’d get it done. Things that are important, you get done,” he said.
Miller surmised, “Either closing the achievement gap between students is not important or our people don’t know how to do it. If they don’t know how to do it, we’ve got the wrong people running the district. But in my opinion, any time you have a sustained problem for over 40 years, that’s an indication it’s not important and you don’t care.”