Fix schools from the start

Story by Jen Jordan / August 24, 2015

High schools in Charleston County that are struggling because students have fled to other schools need the full attention of the community — educators, businesses and concerned citizens. The situation is simply unacceptable for the students who are left behind.

But while it is critical to address the plight of these high school students now, before it is too late for them, the focus must be broader.

Students should not be entering high school reading at or below a fourth grade level. But then students should not be entering first grade without the academic and social skills kindergartens are expected to teach them.

And young children should not be entering pre-school on the losing side of the “word gap”. As described by Patty Bennett-Uffelman, Janet Segal and Steve Skardon in a letter to the editor on this page, low-income children are exposed to 30 million fewer words than higher-income children by the age of 3.

The authors are involved in an ambitious project called Begin with Books that sends a book a month to children from birth to age 5.

Educators have long said that beginning learning in early childhood is vitally important for long-term success in school, and programs like Begin with Books surely help.

But it is the responsibility of the school district and the state to do what it takes to implement an effective early childhood program that gives children a better chance to be successful in school from the beginning.

One reason Meeting Street Academy and Meeting Street at Brentwood Elementary are knocking down stereotypes about underserved children is that they begin with 3-year-olds. They also have two teachers in each class — teachers who simply do not accept failure from their students. And the efforts are paying off for the children whose standardized test scores are far superior to their contemporaries in other schools.

If it requires the Charleston County School District re-allocating its resources to strengthen and expand its early childhood programs, so be it. That means adequate staffing, willing and well-trained teachers and efforts to get to know students’ families and to earn their support.

The district should see that students are prepared to go from 3-year-old programs to kindergarten and kindergarten to first grade.

They should be able to read at grade level before leaving elementary school. If that means more focus on literacy, the CCSD must make it happen.

“Left behind,” a five-day Post and Courier series that concluded Sunday, focused on North Charleston High School, where enrollment has shrunk because many have chosen to attend other schools. It chronicled some of the family, social, legal and health burdens that the students who remain deal with.

Unfortunately, students in all age groups have to deal with those issues. Those who have a stable school experience and are achieving academic success have an advantage over those who don’t.

Some people blame school choice for schools shrinking. And the reason they are shrinking is indeed that families are choosing alternative schools. But here’s one reason they are leaving.

William H. Lewis, the former chief operating officer of the Charleston County School District, writes in a guest column on today’s Commentary page that one root problem is that community schools have to serve over-age students who should be taught separately. And often community leaders have resisted changes to neighborhood schools, insisting on retaining small community schools and thereby inadvertently compromising students’ education.

So by all means, school officials must make sure all students have the opportunity to attend high-quality, comprehensive high schools.

But start long before that, so that when students reach high school, they’ll be ready to make the most of it.

The Post and Courier

 

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About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

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Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.

CommunityVoices

  • 1/3

“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

  • 2/3

“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent

  • 3/3

“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher