Does South Carolina Rank Last In Education?

During the last few months I have been spending some time researching the status of education in South Carolina. This research lead to a study by the U. S. News & World Report stating how South Carolina ranks last in education. The answer to the above question is “yes”. I was disappointed, but not surprised. This study listed the state of Mississippi as #45, the state of Louisiana as #46, the state of Alabama as #47, the state of New Mexico as #48, the state of Nevada as #49, and the state of South Carolina as #50. The states were ranked on performance in higher education as well as primary and secondary schooling and pre-k education. The overall score was measured in two categories. Higher education represented 50% of total and pre-k-12 represented the other 50%. The higher education ranking tracked education attainment, graduation rates, college debt and tuition costs. The pre-k-12 ranking measured enrollment in and quality of pre-k, test scores and the public high school graduation rate. The thoroughness and details in this report are well documented. Using publicly available data, analysts at U.S News and World ranked each state across seven categories using 68 metrics. The education ranking was based on 11 metrics, including college and high school graduation rates and standardized test scores. Melanie Barton, executive director of the state’s education oversight committee, shared her view regarding the South Carolina education ranking. She said, “I hate to say it, but it does reflect the problems we’re having in the pipeline. We’re not getting kids out with the skills they need to be successful”. She added, “ South Carolina has got to wake up. This is the 21st century, folks. We’re not gonna go back to an era where a high school diploma means a living wage”. John Lane, director of academic affairs at the state commission on higher education, cautioned that the U.S. New & World Report does not provide a complete picture of the quality of the state’s education system. And, he said, many of the challenges facing higher education in South Carolina - student debt loads, high tuition, low educational attainment - are common among states in the south. Since the report went public, the spin doctors and damage control people have gone to work. No, not so much to address this report in a constructive manner, and explore ways to address the deficiencies and make improvements, but rather to blast the report and talk about what they should have focused on and the conclusions they should have found. I am still hopeful. I still believe we can do better. And we must, if we are going to break the cycle of poverty that grips the rural parts of South Carolina. (Lumus Byrd Jr. is a retired businessman and lives in Clinton.)

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