New report says South Carolina makes progress, faces challenges on regional education goals

July 1, 2008

COLUMBIA – SC – July 1, 2008 – South Carolina has raised students’ reading achievement in the early grades since 2005, but needs to work harder to raise college graduation rates and other measures of education progress, a new Southern Regional Education Board report shows.

The in-depth report, released at the SREB annual meeting in Boca Raton, FL today, outlines the state’s progress on the region’s Challenge to Lead Goals for Education. The goals were approved by a commission of region leaders in 2002 and call for major improvements in K-12 student performance, college readiness and other key education areas in South Carolina and 15 other SREB member states.

South Carolina is making solid progress in education, but just as in every state, much work remains to be done, said SREB President Dave Spence on the report’s release.

Among many findings of the report:

 – South Carolina’s high school graduates enroll in college at a higher rate than other U.S. graduates, and 60 percent of students who enter the state’s four-year public colleges and universities graduate within six years – topping the national average of 55 percent.  The state needs an even higher graduation rate in order to build a highly-skilled work force and fuel economic growth. But as college costs climb, many South Carolina students are having trouble paying for college, even after federal financial aid.

 – The proportion of children from low-income households is increasing in South Carolina, but their academic achievement also is increasing in some subjects. More than half of the SREB region’s fourth-graders from low-income families scored at or above the Basic level in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2007 – outperforming their peers nationally. In South Carolina, 44 percent of fourth-graders from low-income families scored at that level in reading, up 1 percentage point since 2005.

 – Most SREB states are requiring more high school students to take higher-level courses to better prepare them for college and career training and jobs. More states are requiring geometry and Algebra II for graduation. South Carolina requires all high schools to offer geometry and Algebra II, and it requires students seeking a standard diploma to take four math courses.

SREB, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization based in Atlanta, GA, advises state leaders on improving education. SREB was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to help government officials work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. 

The states in the SREB region include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.