People from the rural communities of McClellanville and Hollywood heard what they wanted to hear from the Charleston County School Board Monday. Middle grades would not be moved from their schools after all.
But what they didn’t hear — and what the board and communities alike should want to know — is what will be done to boost achievement at those rural schools.
The conversation surrounding the administration’s recommendations (to move middle schoolers from Lincoln High in McClellanville to St. James-Santee Elementary School in Awendaw, and move sixth graders from Jane Edwards and other elementary schools in District 23 to Baptist Hill High) had a lot to do with community fears that some local schools would become too small to continue.
That is a reasonable concern, and Superintendent Nancy McGinley assured them such was not her plan.
But her assertion in pitching the moves (which the school board first approved and then changed its mind) was that they would benefit them academically. She was short on details.
The Charleston County School District has tried to entice the county’s best teachers to move to rural schools where achievement is lagging.
That could certainly help.
But what else? What will educators do to address the achievement gap between rural and suburban schools?
Urban schools also need a special plan. Indeed, a new countywide school activist group has grown out of the Burke High School Foundation, which was formed to advocate for the failing inner-city school.
Burke has had consistently poor test scores and a shrinking enrollment.
In 2010, the school board adopted a literacy policy making it the district’s No. 1 priority. A series of Post and Courier stories had shown that nearly 20 percent of ninth graders read on a fourth-grade level or worse.
That long-term problem and ongoing efforts to solve it are cited in a letter on this page by Robert B. Fludd, head of the Liberty Hill Improvement Council After School Literacy Program in North Charleston.
The district’s actions on the literacy front have already produced encouraging results.
Now the board and the administration should bring that same sense of urgency to the task of improving overall performance in rural schools, and their troubled urban counterparts.
And that crucial mission will require more than shuffling the deck on which schools children attend.
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