For most black high school graduates from Charleston County public schools, their diploma is not much more than a piece of paper.
Fewer than 6% of black graduates are adequately prepared for career or college, according to recent results of ACT Composite tests (see chart).
Only four of the county's 14 high schools that gave the tests in 2014 are doing well in graduating students who are ready to go to work in at least mid-skill jobs or on to college. Those schools have mostly white enrollments. Two other schools – Charleston Charter for Math and Science (46% minority) and West Ashley (59% minority) – are graduating students whose preparation for jobs or college is questionable. At the other eight county schools, which are predominantly black, their graduates are most likely not prepared, based on tests results.
The problem begins before the students enter high school, says Ted Legasey, who sparked formation of the Effective Schools for All Charleston County Children Movement last summer. Of the 1,200 black children who leave middle school for high school, "over 20% of them are reading at the four-grade level," Legasey said. Of the 850 to 900 who graduate from high school, "only about 50 of them will be ready for college and/or career, as measured by either the ACT or SAT tests." he said.
The trend line is getting worse: "What the data show is that the percentage of children who do not meet standards actually increases each year as students move through elementary and middle grades....Charleston County public schools are failing miserably."
The Effective Schools Movement is weighing its next move, which is likely to be campaigning to be a major influence in the county school board elections in November.