Poll commissioned by newly launched education advocacy group SouthCarolinaCAN

GREENVILLE, S.C.— Fifty-four percent of South Carolinians favor fixing the state’s schools before repairing roads. That is among the surprising findings of a newly released scientific poll of 600 residents conducted across the state in mid-November.

The poll was commissioned by education advocacy organization SouthCarolinaCAN: The South Carolina Campaign for Achievement Now, which launched operations under its new name this week. Formerly known as StudentsFirstSC, SouthCarolinaCAN conducted the poll in conjunction with the release of its State of Education Report—the first comprehensive statewide assessment of South Carolina’s schools in more than two years.

Bradford Swann is executive director of SouthCarolinaCAN, and he envisions his organization as a hub that offers insights and analysis of statewide education news. According to Swann, “We want to drive dialog around public education issues in our state and encourage the public to engage meaningfully in the education discussions and reforms that are happening here. SouthCarolinaCAN will continue the work started by StudentsFirstSC to help lawmakers better focus their efforts to drive accountability in our schools and produce quality classrooms for every student. Chief among these efforts is sharing high-quality information such as the surprising findings in this new poll.”

Among the poll’s other findings:

  • 48 percent of South Carolina residents favor adopting a statewide funding model that sends a disproportionate amount of money to economically disadvantaged school districts. Such a model is often cited as being necessary for poorer districts to attract and retain quality teachers and maintain aging infrastructure.
  • A majority of respondents want legislators to make their top education priority filling every classroom in the state with quality teachers. This outranks other priorities aimed at driving student success such as improving funding models and committing to state-of-the-art classroom technology.
  • There is broad-based, public support for the state to provide charter school options for students and to offer tax credits to parents who choose to send their children to private school.

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4% and surveyed residents on both landlines and cell phones. Click here to see full polling results.

State of Education Report Bridges Multiyear Gap in Statewide Accountability

Statewide school assessments haven’t been conducted in South Carolina since 2014, and future assessments are not planned until after the federal Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented sometime next year. For that reason, SouthCarolinaCAN released its State of Education Report – a fully interactive, online data-rich platform – that enables residents to see how our schools are performing.

Of note, the poll found that there are varying degrees of disconnect between facts presented in the State of Education Report and public awareness surrounding those facts.

According to Swann, “I hope that the State of Education Report serves as a resource that drives statewide conversations about how we address the big hurdles facing public education in South Carolina. Driving awareness is the first step in building consensus around solutions.”

Click here to view the interactive report. Among the report’s key findings:

  • Since 2005, the achievement gap has been growing for both African-American and low-income students. South Carolina has the seventh largest achievement gap out of the 41 states for which data are available. This is according to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data when comparing black and white students, as well as low-income and non-low income students in eighth grade math proficiency.
  • It’s not all about funding. There is little difference between highest poverty districts and lowest poverty districts when it comes to state and local revenues per pupil.
  • The existing methods for measuring school accountability do not reflect student achievement data. The majority of schools were rated either “excellent” or “average,” while only four percent of schools were rated, “at-risk.” Meanwhile, on NAEP testing, only 36 percent of South Carolina’s fourth graders and 33 percent of eighth graders tested proficient in math and reading, respectively.
  • When it comes to the fields most in need, we remain short on teachers. While we have a teacher shortage in South Carolina, the data in this report reveal a mismatch between the fields new teachers enter and the field in direst need of teachers.

SouthCarolinaCAN to Focus on Grassroots Advocacy

SouthCarolinaCAN launched this week as a non-profit grassroots education advocacy organization led by a team of South Carolina residents. The group is committed to enacting research-based education reforms that guarantee every child in South Carolina a great public school to attend.

“There is a sound bedrock of commitment from within our state’s education community on which to build important education reforms,” said Swann. “I’m honored to lead a great group of advocates for students here at SouthCarolinaCAN. We are eager to roll up our sleeves and get to work for our kids, and we look forward to working with teachers, administrators, lawmakers and citizens to transform our schools into hotbeds of innovation aptly equipped to prepare students for the careers of tomorrow.”


Media Contact: Matt Lochel | 803.984.2883 | mattl@jdpr.com


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