For every 100 tri-county high school freshmen in the class of 2009, 75 received a diploma and 38 enrolled in postsecondary education. Only 14 went on to graduate on time from a four-year college, according to the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative.
The collaborative, started by The InterTech Group CEO Anita Zucker, provides educational data so that stakeholders can come together and work on ways to improve how children learn and succeed. Its first regional education report was unveiled in January 2015. Chapter two of the report was released this morning during the Charleston Regional Business Journal’s Power Breakfast event.
“We know from the assessments made in 11th and 12th grade that many of those graduating seniors are not well-prepared for the world of work or for college,” said John Read, CEO of the collaborative. “Moreover, at 55% of our students going to college, we are 10 or 11 percentage points below the national average for the matriculation of our students into postsecondary. We also know that there are 100,000-plus men and women in our region who have more than one year of college and no degree and no apparent means of coming back to school to obtain their degree.”
He said the collaborative has developed four paths forward to address public education in the region.
The first is to promote teaching practices and school cultures that address the needs of each individual child as a “whole child,” to ensure that every child is successful.
“There are places here where teaching and learning takes place with respect to the whole child, and the needs of that child are understood by the teacher because she has time, because she sits within a culture where the school is open and inclusive to the families of those children,” Read said. “We know that can be done. We’ve seen it in other communities and we see it here.”
The second suggestion is to develop a cohesive system of support for the region’s under-resourced children from infancy through workforce and career readiness.
“That can be as simple as assurance that every child, particularly those from a harder life, have a caring and compassionate adult to walk with them from the time they become kindergartners through the completion of their public education,” he said. “But it is the case here in the region that we have a concentration — still insufficient — but a concentration of resources around the elementary schools and less of that on either side, less for the middle school kids and the high school kids.”
The third point is to re-allocate resources and change policies and practices that make disproportionately negative impacts on minority students and that contribute to the achievement gap.
“Some may find it fair that property taxes are the primary basis on which schools are funded. But it’s not fair to everyone, and it’s inequitable,” Read said. “Some may find it fair that in some districts, schools can retain their own revenues from summer programs and turn them back into support for those kids. Some may see that as fair, but unless it’s fair to all — and it’s not because the neighborhoods in poverty don’t have that advantage. Then it is inequitable.”
The final path forward is to pay closer attention to leadership requirements and fidelity of implementation by school districts.
“The lack of fidelity in implementation of some of our work in this region has caused some of that work to be less than fully successful, and we need to attend to that,” Read said. “For our part, as the Cradle to Career people, we’re sponsoring collaborations in this region to try to bring people together to work on these issues.”
Medical University of South Carolina President Dr. David Cole, who sits on the collaborative’s board, said change will require the political will to make people aware of education’s impact.
“It requires a different mindset,” he said. “We don’t need to ask permission to become engaged in education.”
Michelle Mapp, CEO of the S.C. Community Loan Fund, said it’s time for the community to step up.
“We scream and we yell about spending money for transportation, and I understand nobody wants to sit in traffic. But can we scream and yell about educating our children too?” Mapp said. “We have not done that as a community.”
Next week, a group is meeting for the first time to focus on increasing literacy, and already Trident United Way and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce have convened groups to discuss the problems. But Zucker emphasized that every community member plays a role.
“We can only ask everyone to come together. It’s up to those people who come together to then begin to make things happen,” Zucker said. “But if we’re not passionate and out there — and I’ve been passionate all my life about changing education and giving opportunity to everyone — you have to help.”
Reach staff writer Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyBHeff on Twitter.