Charleston RISE – an advocacy group for high-poverty schools

Charleston RISE – an advocacy group for high-poverty schools
June 20 04:14 2017 Print This Article

The grassroots group Charleston RISE recently graduated its first group of 12 community leaders dedicated to advocating for high poverty schools in the Charleston County School District. The group recently completed a 20-week program focused on state education policies, school policies and the role of elected school boards.

The leaders were trained by Cheryl Cromwell of James Island, who helped organize a forum on high-poverty school success stories in February:  Cromwell said, “Our goal is to fight for all students regardless of income.”  Moderator Kevin Johnson, former National Basketball Association all-star and Mayor of Sacramento commented, “Education is the civil rights issue of our time.”  He described his experience as an “A” student in high school who started college at a disadvantage at the University of California at Berkeley.

The North Charleston schools forum drove home the statistic that 84% of African-American 3rd grade students in Charleston County are reading below grade level.  Cromwell notes that 75% of those students will never catch up.  She said, “Nobody has all the answers, but somebody has to stand up and address the problems we are facing.”

Cromwell says that a lot of parents and grandparents care about making their community schools  better, but the key is the ability to network with one another to have a bigger voice.  She said, “Parents want positive change in the schools.  When parents connect with each other and share their goals, good things will happen.”

The first project undertaken by the 12 initial Charleston RISE graduates was to comb through school report card data from the county’s 48 public elementary schools (including independent charter schools), based on English-language arts and math test scores.  Title I (high poverty) schools Oakland Elementary and Stono Park Elementary in West Ashley scored above the state average on the tests.  Most of the high poverty schools were stuck at the bottom of the rankings.

Charleston RISE will begin its next school advocate training session in August.  You can follow the group on Facebook at