According to Education Week (via 24/7 Wall Street), South Carolina is tied for having the 6th worst schools in the United States. It may be a great day in South Carolina, what with all those Smiling Faces and Beautiful Places, but things aren’t happy, happy, happy with our educational system.
The following is excerpted from 24/7 Wall Street:
Education news and research publication Education Week released its 18th annual survey of the status of education in all 50 states. The K-12 Achievement Index is one indicator in Education Week’s “Quality Counts” report that measures key education outcomes and provides ranks and grades for each state based on their commitment to improve educational policies and practices. This year, Massachusetts received the highest score, a B, while Mississippi got an F. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states with the best and worst scores for K-12 achievement.
The discussion of quality of education often turns quickly to money. It appears that the states with the highest levels of achievement generally also spend more money on education. The states with the top five grades in achievement are all in the top 15 for funding per student, adjusted for the cost of living. Only one of the 10 worst states for student achievement was in the top 15 for spending per student, cost-adjusted.
Senior Research Associate at the Education Week Research Center, Sterling Lloyd, explained that funding is not necessarily “the deciding factor” that determines the quality of education. Of course, he added, “most people would acknowledge that if there’s not enough money there then it makes things difficult for educators and makes it very difficult to improve achievement.”
There is a surprising lack of correlation between the state’s K-12 achievement and the presence of policies Education Week identified as important. Five of the 10 states with the best achievement scores are among the worst in the country for setting standards and using assessment techniques that are most likely to be effective, according to Education Week. Meanwhile, Louisiana and West Virginia are the second- and third-best states for standards, but they are both among the five worst states in student achievement.
Lloyd explained that one reason for this disparity may be the amount of time it takes for good policies to have an impact on schools. “One of the things we find is that the states that have historically had lower student achievement tend to perform better on the policy side of things. Often, this is because they’ve put in place an aggressive policy agenda, in part because they’ve had low achievement over the years.”
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 11 best-scoring and 10 worst-scoring states in K-12 achievement, based on Education Week’s 2014 Quality Counts report.
7. South Carolina
State score: 62.6 (tied for 6th worst)
High school graduation rate: 61.5% (2nd worst)
Per pupil expenditure: $9,877 (16th lowest)
Preschool enrollment: 46.7% (25th highest)
South Carolina received the highest grade in the nation for efforts to improve teaching. As of the 2011-2012 year, the Palmetto State was one of just 11 with a pay-for-performance program, and one of 15 with incentives to teachers for taking on differentiated roles. Yet, area students continue to show limited gains in achievement. Between 2003 and 2013, South Carolina students’ math and reading scores improved less than students’ scores in most other states — in some cases state student scores even worsened. As of 2010, the state also had one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation. Recently, Governor Nikki Haley announced a proposal to spend $130 million to hire reading coaches, improve Internet access in schools and increase spending in poor school districts.
Will our state leaders ever get the message? How many more generations of South Carolina students will be denied the education they deserve and we’re obligated to provide?
As I wrote in SC: The Future Cannot Wait; “For all that is wonderful about the Palmetto State, its great shame, its self-inflicted wound is an inferior education system. ‘System’ is the appropriate word because the educational deficiencies in South Carolina are systemic; the progeny of moral and political corruption, fiscal buffoonery and social negligence.“
I had a hard time listening in school, and it shows. But it seems listening is even more difficult for those responsible for our schools.