by Emily Gray
With substantial high school dropout rates, an abundance of violent crime, and a few alarming cases of STD epidemics in high school and college communities, it is clear that South Carolina has room for improvement. The most logical approach to solving these problems is school reform. The most obvious fault in our schools today? A lack of qualified teachers. School is the beginning of every child’s life, and it directly correlates to the types of adults they become; so, our schools must be equipped to serve their students.
Although a more direct approach to reforming South Carolina would be to “crack down” on crime, it is not plausible. Crime may be the only issue there is room for on many citizens’ ballots, and while legislators may not find STDs and dropouts to be their most pressing issues, it is immensely important to correct them to enact any sort of long-term change. It is not hard to make the connection between a failing school system and a life of bad choices. From the very beginning of a child’s academic career they are let down; with too many students and too few teachers, how can anyone involved be expected to excel? Even the most qualified teacher will fail in our current system, but we do not even have the most qualified teachers. According to usnews.com, South Carolina’s education system ranks 43rd out of 50. We are at the fourteenth percentile, and this is unacceptable. South Carolina must take steps towards improving its education system.
The blame cannot be placed entirely on the educators, though. Students have grown up in environments that are not appreciative of the influence education holds. Towncharts.com reports that only 29.1 percent of South Carolina residents age 25 or older have graduated high school or gotten a GED, and only 17.8 percent hold a bachelor’s degree; this fact only further hinders the chances of a student’s success in our current school system; because, according to lamar.edu, there is a direct correlation between a parent’s level of education and their likelihood to encourage educational pursuits as a valid and prudent use of time. Although having parents who support and hearten their children in their K-12 careers would immensely improve a student’s motivation to do well in school, there is no realistic way to improve parent involvement. How can South Carolina address the issues derived from a student’s personal life and experiences? The answer, again, lies with teachers. According to edweek.org, a study conducted by Ben Alcott, a lecturer and research director at University of Cambridge, shows that the rate of students who continued their education past the age of sixteen increased by eight percent when they received encouragement from their teachers. Furthermore, the students who are the first to receive this improved school system are bound to offer their own children more support in academics, and this cycle will continue to produce adults increasingly more dedicated to their children’s success in school. But for this cycle to begin, we must first find more competent teachers. South Carolina’s public schools have a dearth of teachers, and many of those it does have lack the training and commitment necessary to accomplish this feat. Simply put, we need more teachers who are committed to educating the youth of South Carolina.
Because a surplus of teachers cannot be expected to magically appear, the state government must provide incentives. Where those incentives come from is another issue, though. As of December 2020, salary.com found that teachers in South Carolina made an average of $55,028; this is approximately $9,000 less than Massachusetts, which is at the top of public school systems in America according to usnews.com. To attract qualified teachers, our state government must make education a top priority. Once new and better teachers are incorporated into our schools, student performance will inevitably improve. Enough teachers for the student body means more productive teachers, after-school office hours, individualized attention and encouragement for students who need extra help, and better grades and test scores. More money for teachers is essential to student success.
To connect the betterment of our state to higher paid teachers, consider this explanation: Qualified teachers with passion and drive for education will be able to make a meaningful living in South Carolina. No more moonlighting will be necessary to pay rent; no more football coaches who majored in exercise science will be teaching history. More money means better teachers, and more teachers. If our schools were equipped to serve students, and not just the bottom line, there would be fewer dropouts, teen pregnancies, STDs, and young gang members. Students should be able to learn about sex in a comprehensive way; they should be able to rely on school as a safe escape from a bad home life; and they must be able to reach their fullest academic potential.
In their nonfiction book, Freakonomics, economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner delve into the ways a person can become a criminal or a dropout. The most evident explanation, the authors found, was related to one’s childhood. Although the connection made in the book is between falling crime rates and the Supreme Court’s selective incorporation of abortion as a constitutional right through Roe v. Wade, the argument that a person’s early life experiences influence who they grow up to be as an adult stands true. The way someone is raised and treated as an adolescent directly correlates to the person they become as an adult. If schools were able to provide enough attention and guidance to every child, people in South Carolina would not have to turn to crime. They would know how to practice safe sex. They would have options their families never gave them. Children spend at least a decade of their lives in school, during their most formative years; if South Carolina is to improve as a state in any meaningful way, it must improve its school system.
South Carolina is plagued with adults who had no options, no comprehensive education. While school reform will not solve every problem we have, it will create a generation of citizens able to pass along the options they received to their offspring. A change must be made at some point, and once that change is made, improvement will follow.
“Correlation Between Parents' Education Level and Children's Success.” Lamar University, 19 April 2019, https://degree.lamar.edu/articles/undergraduate/parents-education-level-and-childrens-success/. Accessed 27 January 2021.
“Education Rankings: Measuring How Well States Are Educating Their Students.” U.S. News and World Reports, N.d., https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/education. Accessed 27 January 2021.
Lasevoli, Brenda. “Study: A Teacher's Encouragement Gives Students a Lasting Boost.” Education Week, 31 March 2017, https://www.edweek.org/leadership/study-a-teachers-encouragement-gives-students-a-lasting-boost/2017/03. Accessed 27 January 2021.
Levitt, Steven D., and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Revised and Expanded Edition). William Morrow, 2005.
“Public School Teacher Salary in Massachusetts.” Salary.com, N.d., https://www.salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/public-school-teacher-salary/ma. Accessed 27 January 2021.
“Public School Teacher Salary in South Carolina.” Salary.com, N.d., https://www.salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/public-school-teacher-salary/sc. Accessed 27 January 2021.
“South Carolina Education Data (Figure 10).” Town Chats, 2020, https://www.towncharts.com/South-Carolina/South-Carolina-state-Education-data.html#Figure10. Accessed 27 January 2021.
U.S. News Best States. “South Carolina Ranking and Facts.” U.S. News and World Reports, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/south-carolina#state-rankings. Accessed 27 January 2021.