By Cheryl Cromwell
Civil rights trailblazer and educator, Septima P. Clark, said, “I believe unconditionally in the ability of people to respond when they are told the truth,” I share in this belief and the truth, presented in the new data released by Charleston RISE, is that 80 percent of Charleston’s African American third graders who were enrolled in a Charleston County School District school during the 2016-17 year were unable to meet grade level standards on the state’s annual reading assessment.
This “truth” has garnered lots of response from our community! Sad to say, there is plenty of blame (and in a few spots, praise) to go around. Some parents shared their frustration about the statistics while others expressed the need for more “involved parenting in the home” to combat this issue.
“Nothing about these stats will improve without the involvement of parents,” wrote one Facebook user.
“It starts at home,” another user responded.
Charleston RISE also believes that education starts at home, which is how the organization came into existence. It started with a group of parents who had one goal: empower local parents to demand excellent education for all Charleston students regardless of their circumstances. To this end, we believe all parents should engage as early and as much as possible with their child’s education. Parents should be active participants, not spectators. How so? Everything from reading to their child, attending parent-teacher conferences and engaging in activities that promote healthy childhood development.
Importantly, however, we deeply reject this notion that a child’s success in school is solely dependent on the parents’ engagement. There are far too many examples to the contrary to give any credibility to this flawed reasoning. Charleston County has a handful of high poverty and majority minority schools performing well above the district and state averages. These exceptional schools have various levels of parental involvement, yet they find ways to yield positive results where others have failed to do so. When these children walk into school each day, something special happens. The change agent is inside, not outside, these top schools. Let’s ask ourselves, “What is allowing these schools to break the bleak cycle for so many of our district’s children, in particular those children who our free public education system was built to empower?”
Septima P. Clark went on to say, “I have great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking.” It is time we stop the chaos created by blaming and exchange it for creative collaboration, asking what can parents, schools, and the community do to promote and amplify student excellence. Clearly we have examples of success in our district when it comes to educating our African American students. The question is when are we going to do more?
For more information about joining Charleston RISE, please visit the Charleston RISE Facebook page.
Cheryl Cromwell is parent organizer for the nonprofit education advocacy group Charleston RISE, a grassroots organization working to empower advocates and improve school performance.