How to close the achievement gap

Story by Jen Jordan / February 7, 2016

For years, educators have been trying different ways to close the achievement gap between white and black students in Charleston County. Finally, one of those attempts is working.

That puts the Charleston County School Board in an encouraging position to spread the concepts being used successfully at Meeting Street Academy and Meeting Street Elementary @ Brentwood, to reach Burns Elementary students.

The change will add $3,000 to the present $10,000 per-pupil cost, but board members should recognize that the returns promise to be worth that investment and more. They should support it. The per-pupil cost for students in some other schools is far greater, and the results far poorer.

For that investment, Burns students will be taught in classrooms with two teachers hand-picked from thousands of applicants, if the experience at Brentwood is any indication. They will have access to a speech therapist, social workers and therapists. And they will use a curriculum chosen especially for their school.

Most importantly, they can expect to defy trends and significantly close the achievement gap.

Burns will still be a public school, but it will be run by Meeting Street Schools (MSS), a private enterprise. MSS founder and CEO Ben Navarro, Brentwood principal Sarah Campbell and CCSD superintendent Gerrita Postlewait will oversee the operation.

Eight years ago, Meeting Street Academy, a private school founded by Mr. Navarro and paid for by MSS, was opened with a mission to serve students who would otherwise attend failing schools. With a rigorous curriculum, carefully chosen faculty, staff to address health and behavioral needs and high expectations, MSA’s students have thrived. Indeed, educators, elected officials and business leaders from across the state and beyond have visited the school and been delighted by the students’ academic achievements.

It was such a success that MSS suggested a partnership with the Charleston County School District: It would operate an elementary school in the former Brentwood Middle School building, drawing from students in nearby low-income neighborhoods. Unlike MSA, its students would not be screened for admission. And unlike other public schools, its staff would work for MSS, thus allowing principal Sarah Campbell to hire and fire employees as needed.

This is the second year of Meeting Street at Brentwood, and test scores are impressive there, too: When students began kindergarten in the fall, only about 34 percent scored in the top two quartiles. By spring, 85 percent did.

So next fall, students zoned to attend kindergarten at Burns Elementary, a failing school, will be part of the Meeting Street School family. They will temporarily go to Brentwood, as Burns’ building is being replaced.

The school will add a grade each year until it reaches the fifth grade, moving into the new Burns structure when it is complete.

Dr. Postlewait said the district will track closely how students at both Brentwood and Burns perform. Mr. Navarro predicts it will go well and anticipates spreading the MSS practices even further.

The school district has tried one tactic after another to close the racial achievement gap, with limited or no success.

This opportunity to make a big difference deserves the support of the school board, district staff and the community.

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.


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“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

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“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

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“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