The Achievement Gap: Alive and Kicking in SC

Jim Rex

The SC Department of Education is intent on portraying the achievement gap in South Carolina public schools as narrowing.

Sadly, it isn’t.

Two school districts in Clarendon County provide a clear snapshot of the shameful social, economic and racially correlated performance gaps that plague South Carolina public schools.

According to SC Dept. of Education reports, Clarendon District 1 enrollment is over 90 percent African American, while neighboring Clarendon District 3 is 60% white. The SC Statistical Abstract shows Clarendon County as having 29.8% of families with children below poverty. A comparison of PACT scores between black students in Clarendon 1 and white students in Clarendon 3, reveals a horrifying disparity in academic performance. Take a look at these scores for reading and math:

English Language Arts % Below Basic Basic Proficient Advanced
Clarendon 1: African American 40.1 40.7 17.3 1.9
Clarendon 3: White 21.5 37.7 36.2 4.6
Mathematics % Below Basic Basic Proficient Advanced
Clarendon 1: African American 43.1 44.7 10 2.2
Clarendon 3: White 17.7 45 22.3 15

More than half the white students in Clarendon 3 meet the state performance standards in Math and Reading, while just one-in-five of their black peers in Clarendon 1 performed as well.

The intra-district achievement gap is just as horrifying. The numbers below indicate that fewer than one in four African American students are proficient in reading, writing or math.

ELA % Below Basic Basic Proficient Advanced
Clarendon 3: African American 44.9 42.6 11.4 1.1
Clarendon 3: White 21.5 37.7 36.2 4.6
Mathematics % Below Basic Basic Proficient Advanced
Clarendon 3: African American 41.2 46.3 8.5 4
Clarendon 3: White 17.7 45 22.3 15

Are test scores like this indicative of a progressive and effective education system? Certainly not.

These districts are just two of many – and not the worst. When parents lack the means to transfer their children out of schools (either by moving, or enrolling them in a private school) the schools work to perpetuate existing social-economic divisions. Low-income students remain trapped in virtually segregated, gerrymandered, underperforming districts. The only people who profit from this ineffective and confusing morass of waste are the bureaucrats.

In 2006, Clarendon 1 spent over $10,577 per student in state and local money ( incidentally $2,943 more per pupil than neighboring Clarendon 3), plus thousands more in federal money. Of that money, a pitiful $4,732 per student will go to actual classroom instruction.

This situation, and others like it, are either being swept under the rug or ignored outright by the people who should be addressing it. Jim Rex issues press releases about nutrition and lower mortgage rates for teachers, but remains silent about students being failed in Clarendon County. His public school transfer program will obviously do nothing to give the students in Clarendon what they need to succeed.

The real solution is clear: Replace bureaucratic graft with accountability to parents. Empower families to choose the school that best meets their child’s needs through school choice.

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4 responses to “The Achievement Gap: Alive and Kicking in SC

  1. Pingback: Rex and bureaucrats pressured to offer so-called “choices” « The Voice for School Choice

  2. Pingback: Poorest Schools are State’s Best Funded « The Voice for School Choice

  3. Pingback: An Inconvenient Spoof: Part 1 « The Garnet Spy

  4. Pingback: Race Gaps widen in South Carolina’s public schools « The Voice for School Choice

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