Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A mixed vignette of a rural school in the Black belt

The vignette comes from an NPR story titled "One Student Tries to Help Others Escape a "Corridor of Shame," reported by Anya Kamenetz.  The story features much to comment on, but I will focus only on the the description of the place where it is set and the political (funding) consequences of that situation:  North, S.C., and the "one-story brick campus" of North Middle/High School, "nestled among mobile homes covered with red roses."  
The population of these counties is overwhelmingly poor, rural and 88 percent minority — compared with a state average of 48 percent. 
The schools here are chronically underfunded, so badly that it constitutes a violation of law. That was the finding of the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2014, after a lawsuit that dragged on for 21 years. But still, the state has done little to address the inequities. The Legislature is currently considering a review of facilities for districts named in the case, to address what Superintendent Washington calls a "dire need" for upgrades. 
North Middle/High School reports a four-year high school graduation rate of 85 percent. But only 10 percent of students who took the ACT met college-ready benchmarks in English, and only 2.5 percent in math.
This confirms what I have often suspected about rural schools:  the graduation rates are higher than would be justified by objective metrics of students' ability.  In short, many students are "graduated" just to get the out of educators' way.  Further, while state legislators dally about fixing such problems--even those declared of constitutional magnitude--youth continue to be dramatically disserved by their school systems.    

North, population 754, by the way, is in Orangeburg County, population 92,501, 62% African American, with a poverty rate of 30.8%.    

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