Where failure isn’t an option

At Meeting Street Academy, 3-year-old students tend to start out at an academic deficit. But by the end of first grade, they score well above the national norm and very close to the nation’s independent schools.

So it is understandable why some parents took offense Monday when State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais referred to students as succeeding despite being poor. MSA parents can’t afford private school tuition, but that doesn’t mean they’re poor. They are, rather, very proud of their children’s achievements.

Rightly so.

With strong support from an energetic faculty, the generous backing of local philanthropist Ben Navarro and Sherman Financial Group, and active participation by parents, students are showing what education can, and should, deliver. Gov. Nikki Haley said MSA is “what I want every school in South Carolina to look like.”

And certainly Mr. Zais meant no offense. Indeed, he is impressed enough by the school that he came to Charleston, along with the governor, for the school’s first day in its new building at the corner of Meeting and Cool Blow streets. He regularly preaches the need for all parents to have the kind of choices in their children’s education that Meeting Street Academy provides.

In some ways it isn’t fair to compare MSA to the struggling public schools its students would attend were they not at MSA.

Meeting Street Academy is a private school that requires parents to volunteer at the school and to read nightly to their children. Most public schools don’t have that leverage, though some charter schools have similar rules.

But like public schools, MSA does not screen applicants for their academic ability. The aim of the school is to help its students, regardless of the skills they bring at age 3, to excel academically and personally and to instill in them an expectation of attending college.

And the ultimate goal is to provide this education — including violin, karate, swimming and tennis — for the same cost that public schools pay. Meanwhile, parents pay just $2 a day. The city of Charleston provided the land for the school’s new building.

A school modeled on Meeting Street Academy opened in Spartanburg last week. Public schools should take inspiration from MSA where expectations are high, and failure isn’t an option.