Best & worst state schools study: SC 37th

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – A new study by the personal finance website WalletHub ranking the nation’s best and worst school systems says South Carolina schools are 37th, while North Carolina’s are 19th and Georgia’s are 35th. Massachusetts is number one and Louisiana is 51st, since the study included the District of Columbia.

South Carolina state superintendent Molly Spearman says she’s not surprised by the ranking. “I have always thought that we’re kind of in the middle of the pack. There’s room for growth, but we’re certainly not the last in the nation, as many people think and like to purport, but I was fairly pleased with it,” she says.

The study based its rankings on things like: dropout rate, high school graduation rate for low-income students, pupil-teacher ratio, math test scores, reading test scores, and average ACT and SAT scores. It also took into account school safety, such as disciplinary incidents per 100,000 students and bullying incident rates. South Carolina ranks 18th in school safety.

Spearman says the state is taking steps to improve schools, starting with an increased focus on improving reading in the early grades. The state’s “Read to Succeed” law is being fully implemented.

“Better training for teachers,” she says. “Every classroom teacher, whether they teach reading or not, needs to know strategies in how to teach reading. So we’re doing those professional development programs. We’re offering reading camps in the summer for students that are not on grade level. And next year will be our first year when the legislation goes into full implementation, if students aren’t on grade level in third grade there’s a chance they might be retained because of that. Now, we’re going to really intervene and work with families so hopefully that won’t happen. But if we do need to hold children back we will.”

The state is also focusing in middle and high schools on career readiness, helping students identify early on what they might like to do after they graduate.

“One thing that we’re leading the country in, and a lot of folks don’t realize this, is in youth apprenticeship programs,” she says. “Folks are coming from all over the nation to see what we’re doing here now. We had over a 400 percent increase in those programs last year. I’m sure it will be something similar (this year). This is where high school students, 16- to 18-year-olds, are actually going on the work floor of industries or in mom-and-pop businesses to get hands-on learning credentials that they will have so that they can sometimes go right into the workforce when they finish high school.”

You can see the WalletHub report here.

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