Determining the preferred education system should use achievement criteria measured against the education goal: that all children will graduate from high school academically prepared for post secondary education or a career in the modern economy.

The public school system uses ACT scores of high school seniors to measure achievement of that goal. Nine of the 13 high schools average from 13.2 to 17.4 on the ACT. (An ACT score of 21 is required to pass.) By this measure, 47 percent of students in nine public high schools are not being prepared to meet the education goal.

Further, in these nine high schools, 15 to 37 percent of rising ninth graders read at the fourth grade level or lower. Children cannot read proficiently on grade level at the end of the third grade, so when they enter fourth grade, they are not able to transition from learning to read in third grade to reading to learn in fourth grade.

They fall behind their classmates academically. They are promoted using non-test based social criteria. Their achievement gap compared to their well-reading peers widens. They reach ninth grade, still reading at a fourth grade level or lower. They likely graduate, but they are not ready for post secondary education or a career in the modern workforce.

The public school system has attempted to improve third grade literacy through school district programs like literacy academies as well as community programs. All combined have not had any positive impact on the literacy competency of the public school rising ninth graders.

The reason these public-school-supported programs have failed is that they start after the first grade or later, when the word gap between under-resourced children and well supported children has doubled and is too wide to close. Educators have not been able to develop an effective program that starts in the first grade.

Private education models like Meeting Street Academy, now operational at three S.C. schools, are effective for under-resourced children starting at age three. The private MSA model compensates for the lack of a literacy-rich home environment and for parents who are unable to support education. Its under-resourced children make scores in reading and math that are comparable to their well supported peers who enter public schools without special literacy intervention.

If we require an education system to ensure that under-resourced children are able to read on grade level by the end of the third grade using nationally recognized education standards, then the private education model of MSA is the system of choice.

Gerry Katz

Consultant

Wofford Road

Charleston