Charleston Shared Future team explores possible student outcomes

January 29 09:28 2019 Print This Article

The Charleston Shared Future Scenario Team made its first public presentation Monday in front of a crowd of about 350 people at Burke High School. The team, consisting of Charleston County School District (CCSD) administrators, principals, teachers, students, parents and community leaders, explored four possible outcomes for CCSD students by the year 2035. That is the year when most children born in 2035 would become high school seniors.

The four scenarios were developed during nine days of workshops in September, October and November. The process was facilitated by the international consulting firm Reos Partners and was paid for using bonus funds generated by CCSD’s procurement cards. The scenarios were not intended to predict what would happen in CCSD by 2035 but  to explore what could happen if different approaches to school governance were taken. Here is a summary of the four scenarios:

1835. The date references a state law enacted to prevent anyone from teaching slaves to read. It alludes to the school district’s segregationist past and its varied student outcomes among the haves and have-nots. Under this scenario, schools serving high-poverty neighborhoods are neglected and businesses resort to hiring workers from outside the area. The poor educational outcomes and high unemployment leads to high crime rates and civil unrest.

Sweetgrass Basket. This scenario involves gradual transformation in school governance, funding and academic and career programs. It calls for the state General Assembly to dismantle the existing eight constituent school districts, align the nine school board seats with the existing County Council seats, and phase out the Act 388 property tax law over 10 years to broaden the school district tax base. Phasing out Act 388 would require a two-thirds vote of the state House and Senate and approval by voters in a general election year. It involves increased intervention services for at-risk students, including mental health. It also pushes more decision-making down to the school level and gives principals more autonomy. Increased family engagement would be emphasized. Business partnerships would be expanded with more students participating in apprenticeship programs. By 2035, the achievement gap between white and minority students would be narrowed along with increased student growth.

Reconstruction. The title alludes to the rebuilding process in the aftermath of the Civil War. This scenario calls for rapid transformation in school governance and funding, including an immediate repeal of the Act 388 property tax law. CCSD would adopt Culturally Responsive Teaching, a system that equips teachers to effectively serve diverse student populations. It would redraw school attendance lines in four zones to ensure greater racial diversity throughout the district. Professional development training would be expanded to include school board members. In contrast to Sweetgrass Basket, this scenario calls for a more centralized approach to school governance.

Techtowne. This futuristic scenario involves the rapid adoption of new technology. There is an increased emphasis on self-paced, individualized learning. Fewer teachers would be needed in secondary secondary schools. Social adaptations will be needed, as students feel more isolated. The skill set required for teachers will dramatically change. The new instructional style would attract more technology companies to the Charleston area, taking advantage of a highly qualified workforce.

Community engagement will be a major focus of the Scenario Team in the months ahead. Community Forums will be held Tuesday from 6 to 8 pm at Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary, Stall, Wando and St. John’s. Community feedback is encouraged on the website. The site contains the full scenarios and the studies and documents used to research them.

Photograph courtesy of Charleston County School District