The school board in Allendale County recently hired an interim superintendent charged with turning the school district around. He was dismissed by state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman so she could hire her man, Walter Tobin, who was on the S.C. State Board of Trustees when the school was being academically and fiscally mismanaged. She has created what she says needs to be avoided: constant turnover in leadership.
I see no evidence that Superintendent Spearman has developed an immediate transition plan to ensure a smooth and successful transition for students, parents, school personnel or the elected school board in Allendale.
I submit that the students in Allendale County, who are overwhelmingly African-American, are doing as well as other African-American students statewide. The entire group is failing academically. Why is the superintendent not addressing the issue statewide?
For example, in 2015-2016 only one out of 10 African-American students statewide scored college-ready on the ACT. The academic achievement of this group is consistently at the bottom, as reflected in the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress indicating that only:
▪ 16 percent scored proficient in fourth-grade mathematics.
▪ 8 percent scored proficient in eighth-grade mathematics.
▪ 15 percent scored proficient in fourth-grade reading.
▪ 11 percent scored proficient in eighth-grade reading.
There are more than 250 under-performing schools in South Carolina, accounting for tens of thousands of students, of which the overwhelmingly majority are black. The academic performance of these students is a shameful, mindboggling tragedy, yet this information isn’t included on the new state report cards. Why?
Allendale seems to be a smoke-screen, a bullying ploy, by Superintendent Spearman, to deflect how poorly these students are doing across the state. African-American students are doing worse than any other subgroup of students, even when you account for poverty and other factors.
Superintendent Spearman should make it easier to see all of the test data for African-American students. She also should stop scapegoating Allendale and make a difference for all of these students across the state.
Gary L. Burgess