The myths being perpetuated by several misinformed downtown community members and their allies that Burke has a “poor reputation” and an “abysmal academic record” can no longer be tolerated.
Burke serves a population which is 97.7 percent African American and 85.2 percent of them receive free or reduced lunch services. The achievement gap, which has an overwhelming effect on my students, means that their starting point in the classroom is metaphorically miles behind their more privileged, oftentimes white, peers.
As such, to accurately judge Burke students’ performances, we can only be compared to schools that serve students of similar demographics and socioeconomic status. Fortunately, the real Burke High School is dramatically different from the school that exists in the collective imaginations of those who choose to believe rumors about our school:
■ Our students performed higher than students at Lincoln, North Charleston, St. John’s and Stall on the 2013-2014 end-of-course exams. Students at West Ashley High School outperformed those at Burke but only by less than 1 percent.
■ Our African-American, free and reduced lunch students performed higher than students at Garrett, Lincoln and St. John’s on the 2013-2014 HSAP math exam. Once again, our students were outperformed by West Ashley High School’s students by less than 1 percent.
■ Our students graduate at a higher rate than both North Charleston and Stall.
Furthermore, students taught by teachers at Burke High School had a 96.4 percent pass rate on the Algebra I EOC during the spring semester of the 2014-2015 school year.
Based on this data, and more released by the school district, it is quite obvious that downtown rumors that create a fictitious “failing” Burke do not portray the school that my students, colleagues and I walk into every day. Yet the downtown smear campaigns label Burke as a problem. Hardly.
As a community, it is our responsibility to do what is best for all children. We need to rely on facts and data, not stereotypes or rumors.
We must acknowledge the data-proven successes of Burke students, yet continue to work steadfastly to close the achievement gap in all Charleston County schools.
Unfortunately, if some of those same, misinformed members of the downtown community have their way, Burke High School could cease to exist or lose its identity and history dating back to 1894.
If we fail to look at the true numbers our students will be intentionally shackled to stereotypes, defeated, ignored and forgotten.
Burke High School Teacher