Black students are making academic progress in public schools in Charleston County and also in the Berkeley and Dorchester systems. But they continue to lag behind white students because they are not gaining as fast.
The 2015 Regional Education Report by the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative found that white students increased their average scores by double digits in 3rd-grade reading and 8th-grade reading –- two crucial determinants of learning –- while the gains by black students were in the low or middle single digits. Gains by Hispanic students also outpaced those by blacks. The TCCC study also found that progress was much higher among students from higher-income homes than among students from lower-income homes . All the numbers are in this TCCC chart:
The TCCC also document disparities for 2015 across all school levels in the Tricounty system - elementary, middle and high school - as shown in this chart:
The Charleston County School District and the other regional school districts all have programs aimed at accelerating minority academic achievement, but the TCCC said: “Current approaches to closing these gaps are not sufficient; therefore, strengthening our approaches must become a high community priority.”
School districts locally and nationally with high black and/or other minority enrollments are turning to programs that go beyond the four walls of their schools to connect with students where they live, in their homes and communities.
One such local initiative is the Charleston Promise Neighborhood, which is partnering with many public and private groups and leaders well beyond its 5.6-mile service area in The Neck that straddles the City of Charleston and North Charleston. Anita Zucker, CEO of the Intertech Group, is a founding member who stays actively involved.
CPN's goal is to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and isolation that has trapped residents of its neighborhoods for more than 25 years. Its focus is the children at four elementary schools - Chicora, Mary Ford, Sanders-Clyde and James Simons - whose predominantly black and poor students have shown steady academic progress, thanks to CPN programs, both in and beyond the classroom. But the schools, because they have so far to go academically, are unlikely to achieve the high 2016 achievement goals of the Charleston County School District.
Nationally, an increasing number of schools are sending their teachers into the homes of students whose schooling is disrupted by the myriad symptoms of the poverty and isolation that mark CPN's neighborhoods. By connecting directly with parents and other family members, teachers can often get students back on their academic track within a few home visits, participating schools report. The Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project has trained 19,989 teachers who have made 86,700 home visits in 25 states in all sections of the country, including South Carolina.
One of the most ambitious programs that goes beyond the classroom is in the poor, mostly black community of Jennings, MO, adjacent to Ferguson, whose broken school system has been cited as a major contributor to the conditions creating the racial tinder box that exploded in 2014 after 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown of Ferguson was killed in an encounter with a local policeman.
The black school superintendent in Jennings, Tiffany Anderson, has, over three and a half years, crafted or set in motion a whole series of innovations to help her system’s especially vulnerable students get a variety of help they needed beyond the school, including a more stable place to live. Volunteer support from the Jennings community has held down the cost of the combination of unorthodox initiatives.
With many students leading a less-stressed-out life, academic performance in Jennings schools has increased so much during Anderson’s tenure that the system, which has about 3,000 students, finally regained accreditation after two decades of poor performance.