By Beverly Gadson-Birch
According to the State Department of Education Comprehensive Support and Improvement’s (CSI) recently released report, Charleston County School District has nine schools on the list: Greg Mathis Charter High, Morningside Middle, North Charleston Elementary, Chicora Elementary, Mary Ford Elementary, Burns Elementary, R.B. Stall High School, North Charleston High and St. John’s High School. Eight of the schools are located in North Charleston Constituent District #4; and, one is located in Johns Island Constituent District #9. CSI schools are Title I schools “performing at or below the 5th percentile of all Title I schools in the state”.
This is information is very disturbing since these schools have been on the bottom for years but not surprising. What’s even more surprising is the majority low performing schools are located in North Charleston, a city with the highest revenue base that ranked #2 in January 2018 on the list of “Best Places to Live in South Carolina.”
Recently, news media have generated much discussion regarding school ratings and the state’s “minimally adequate” educational standards. Oh, so now education matters since there is an influx of high tech industries moving into SC with a limited labor force.
While I applaud the Post & Courier’s series of articles on education, none of the information is new. NONE!! The Interdenominational Ministers Alliance, NAACP, National Action Network, Legislators, The Coalition, Teacher Organizations, Quality Education Project, parent and community groups, just to name a few, have appeared before the Charleston County School Board on numerous occasions outlining plans for change but often meeting with resistance.
Let’s take a look into why South Carolina schools have failed millions of students, particularly minority students. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this education debacle out and why Charleston County School District, in particular, continues to have a number of failing schools. It boils down to the following: 1. Failure to educate all students equitably regardless of zip code or ethnicity; 2. Implemented Minimally Adequate educational standards, creating low expectations; 3. Disparities in the treatment, evaluation, salary and placement of teachers and professional staff; 4. Failure to adequately plan and implement high tech curriculum and trades; 5. Failure to upgrade and build new schools in minority neighborhoods; and, 6. An antiquated funding formula.
During slavery, slaves were forbidden to read and write. If they were caught, the penalties ranged from severe beatings to death. And, slaveowners who aided in teaching their slaves were fined. Slaveowners knew if their slaves could read and write, they would begin to teach others. Then, they would unite against them to gain their freedom. If a slave knew how to write, he could forge his master’s signature and travel north unaccompanied to freedom. And where would plantations be without slaves? How would crops be harvested without slaves? So, there has always been a power struggle to keep slaves in their “place”. In order to maintain the institution of slavery, reading and writing were forbidden. Knowledge is truly power.
Since slavery was abolished in the 1860’s by the Emancipation Proclamation, it was still maintained in the backwoods of South Carolina. Black children got off to a late start and the playing field was never leveled. While educators and statisticians have tried to make comparisons over the years between white and Black student achievement, the gap continues to exist. You can’t catch up to a car travelling 50 mph if your bike can’t reach 50 mph. It will never happen until technology advances to the point that a bicycle can travel at the same speed as a car. Until then, common sense dictates that more teachers, resources and money need to be invested into the students that got off to a late start. Stop thinking Black or Brown children can’t learn. They can! The system left them behind, by design, and now y’all wondering what happened.
In order to level the playing field between white and Black achievement, you have to change the speed of the bike. In order to change the speed of the bike, you have to raise the educational level from “Minimally Adequate” to “Highly Proficient”.