This years report by the states Education Oversight Committee, released Monday, offered few, if any, surprises. As in past reports, this one shows that too many of South Carolinas schools have failed to improve fast enough to meet the committees 2020 goals.
We cant continue to operate our schools the same way and expect different results, said Neil Robinson, EOC chairman.
The report shows that far too many schools are underperforming. Nine percent of students statewide attend schools at or near the bottom of the states grading system, and one in five high school students doesnt graduate within five years.
Officials with the states technical colleges report that 41 percent of high school graduates need help with math and reading skills to be able to perform at a college level. That costs the state $21 million a year to pay faculty needed to teach students what they should have learned in high school.
But while these are largely recurring problems, EOC members are doing more than wring their hands. This years report serves as a challenge to schools to raise their students performance levels.
At the core of the EOCs proposals is a campaign to improve reading skills in early grades. In South Carolina, improvement on reading proficiency is flat, according to the report, and early intervention is crucial.
While the board has not officially voted on specific proposals, it has discussed a number of ideas. Robinson said he would appoint a subcommittee this week to study proposals and make recommendations for legislation.
Proposals could include summer reading camps, required summer school and holding back third-graders who fail end-of-year reading tests on reading. Members also discussed requiring all teachers in kindergarten through eighth grade to take graduate-level classes to earn a literacy credential five classes for elementary school teachers and three for middle school teachers.
The idea of addressing inadequate reading skills in early grades is nothing new. Educators have long known that the ability to read well by the third grade is a key predictor of whether students will be successful in higher grades and whether they ultimately will graduate.
No other single factor is as important in educational success than being able to read. And the earlier schools intervene, the better a students chances of succeeding throughout his or her educational career.
To that end, bills have been introduced in the Legislature to extend full-day kindergarten statewide to 4-year-olds from low-income families. State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, is one of the cosponsors of the Senate bill.
All these efforts to reach children early and help them develop skills they will need to keep pace with their peers are practically guaranteed to have a significant payoff down the line. Graduation rates will improve and the state will end up with a better educated work force.
As Robinson noted, we need to try something different if we want different results.