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Miller Questions School District Literacy Statistics
Published:
8/28/2013 2:29:02 PM


Michael Miller, school board member
 

By Barney Blakeney



At the Aug. 26 meeting of the Charleston County School board members discussed a variety of topics and gave first reading to a policy to accommodate lactating mothers. West Ashley representative Michael Miller wanted to talk about reading.

Several weeks ago county schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley applauded the district’s report of a decline in the percentage of students reading below grade level.

In 2010 the school board passed a literacy policy after news reports revealed about 20 percent of the district’s ninth grade students read at or below a fourth grade level. McGinley reported that percentage declined to about 13 percent last year. Miller says that’s no reason for school officials to take bows.

“That’s still not good enough,” said Miller who is beginning his second year on the board. “It depends on who you ask whether we’re making progress or not.” County schools administrators cite statistics that may be misleading, he said.

At the county’s Sixth Grade Reading Academy formerly located in North Charleston two years ago, some 65 percent of students received certificates of completion which merely indicated they completed the reading course at the school, but did not master reading skills. Still those students were passed on to the seventh grade, Miller said.

That indicates the district has a practice of of passing on students who may not be prepared for the next grade level. Completion of literacy requirements may improve statistics, but not the reality of students unprepared for higher level work, he said.

He asked who benefits when students meet technical requirements, but still have not progressed academically. Districtwide statistics can be deceptive, Miller said.

“With kids returning to the district from private schools, home school and other places, the district’s numbers may represent one thing. But at some of our schools, like St. Johns, Stall and North Charleston high, the percentage of students reading below grade level are way above 13 percent.

“Some questions have to be answered and some issues need to be addressed. There needs to be an effort, a dialogue that’s helps us rev up what’s going on in terms of literacy. The numbers are unchanged.

“This school board has to make sure we’re educating children not just promoting them to grades where they can’t perform,” he said.



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