The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Time Has Run Out on S.C. Educational System

with 3 comments

My daughter is 2 years old. More precisely, as her mother might put it, 28 months old. So, she won’t be starting kindergarten for another three years … which has me panicking because three years no longer seems like a very long time from now.

And, so, as daddy already starts to prepare for the tears (mine) that will flow on that first day of school, I am also wondering just how long it is going to take to fix South Carolina’s failed educational system.

With the end of summer, the College Board released the 2010 results for each state’s SAT scores. Instead of getting better, we are getting worse. While the national average stayed at 1509, the state’s overall score dropped by five points. Nationally, we fell from third-worst to second-worst, behind only Maine which requires all high school students to take the test.

This is bad news. But, as I wrote previously, what is worse is that even our best students have fallen behind.  (And, of course, daddy wants his little girl to be among the best.)

As our comprehensive report on the state’s 2010 scores shows:

  • South Carolina students in the top 10 percent of their class scored an average composite of 1689. Their peers in other states scored 70 points higher with an average of 1759.
  • South Carolina’s best students, on average, scored worse than the average student in two other Southern states: Kentucky and Tennessee.
  • Likewise, South Carolina’s best students ranked last on the SAT when compared to their peers in other Southern states.

To get into Harvard my little girl is going to need to score in the 2000-range. By our estimates, less than 500 students statewide scored above 2000 on the 2010 SAT.

SAT scores aside, South Carolina’s students aren’t even graduating from high school. The state has the 4th worst high school completion rate in the country.

We also are home to 11 of the nation’s 25 worst public schools.

All that has me wondering whether I might want to send my daughter to a private school. Again, though, the performance of private school test takers on the SAT raises questions.

Granted, students at private schools scored far above their peers in South Carolina’s public school system.

  • Public school test scores fell by two points to an average of 1443.
  • In comparison, the average score at S.C. private schools increased by 20 points to 1528.
  • Scores at religiously affiliated schools increased by one point to 1563.

But even South Carolina’s private, independent schools ranked last in the South as compared to similar institutions in other states.

And, then, there is homeschooling. And that’s probably what we’ll do.

If we can afford it. Because, of course, things aren’t getting any better economy-wise here in South Carolina.

And that leads me to wonder just how long it’s going to take to fix the mess that is the South Carolina public school system. Year after year, we hear that reform is just around the corner. Not just tweaks, but fundamental reforms, like weighted student funding and school choice.

But, year after year, nothing changes.

And I—like thousands of other parents across the state— don’t have too many years left to wait.


Written by Jameson Taylor

September 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Wow. What hypocrisy. This website seems dedicated to, among other things, the slashing government spending, broadly defined, as if South Carolina really were a big spender, especially on education. It’s clear from the outset of reading your article that you’re not concerned with or even very knowledgeable of some of the real issues that are hurting our states educational system. Constantly reciting poor SAT scores and hoping they get better is not a solution. You’re making broad judgements on our system based on test scores. This is more about ideology.. I’m afraid that one solution here – increase support for our schools, even if it means (gasp) using public funds. But the fact is that the powerful few in our state are engaging in a throrough campaign of sophistry meant to enrich their own specialized class of elites.


    October 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    • Thanks for your comment. We’ve written extensively on how to improve public funding for public schools — namely, by adopting weighted-student funding, or what is also called student-centered funding.

      In short, the funds follow the child to his/her school. This reform would cut down on administrative costs and also give principals more discretion over how to better serve indiviudal students.

      Student-centered funding is not about cutting funding, but using existing funding more effectively. Once we do that, we can make more informed decisions as to whether some schools, or types of students, need more money.

      Check out our research at:

      Jameson Taylor

      October 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm

  2. […] Carolina needs some concrete solutions – fast . Right now, the most popular education reform movement in the nation is public charter schools. If […]

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