To Watch: The South Carolina Read to Succeed Act

Change could be on the horizon for the South Carolina educational system? In January, the Read to Succeed Act, proposed by South Carolina State Senator Harvey Peeler, will be up for debate. The proposed act would restructure the curriculum taught in South Carolina elementary schools to focus on reading development using a variety of mandates. The Read to Succeed Act would require 3rd graders who cannot read at the appropriate grade level to be held back. These held back 3rd graders would then partake in an intensive summer reading program. The students who demonstrate reading proficiency by Nov. 1 will then be allowed to proceed to the 4th grade. In addition, the Read to Succeed Act would create a Reading Proficiency Panel, a panel of education experts that would oversee literary programs and establish the best practices for elementary schools to follow. Current teachers in the South Carolina school districts would be required to go back to school to learn how to teach reading and a Read to Succeed Office would be created to facilitate their training.

However, these new requirements are stirring lots of debate within the South Carolina education community and are heavily opposed by some South Carolina teachers and educational organizations. The head of the South Carolina Education Association, Jackie Hicks, believes that the state’s educational issues are due to underfunding and lack of resources. She believes that if the necessary tools aren’t provided to the South Carolina elementary schools, then the changes proposed by the Read to Succeed Act will be “doomed to failure”. South Carolina Department of Education’s Superintendent Mick Zais is also opposed to the proposed act. It would cause the restructuring of the Department of Education and create additional boards which he finds to be useless and “unaccountable”. School administrators such as Jason McCreary, a director of accountability and quality assurance for Greenville County Schools do not support the act because they believe they have found successful formulas for improving reading already. Instead of very strict reform, McCreary suggest having a “broad discussion” about currently successful South Carolina literacy programs.

Harry Peeler and the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee believe the mandates of the Read to Succeed Act are necessary to establish change and have already began to gather support for the bill. Earlier this year, the South Carolina legislature allocated $1.5 million for the formation of a summer school reading program. The Education Oversight has reached out to and gain support from Clemson University and several local charities. Now the bill sits ready to go before the South Carolina Senate along with a similar bill in the House.

It will be interesting to see if the proposed Read to Succeed Act will maintain its original mandates. Elections for the South Carolina House and Senate will be occurring next year and educators and politicians have very different opinions on the bill. The Read to Succeed Act would also force teachers to return to school and would possible have to pay for their re-education with their own funds. The divisions caused by the bill will definitely affect voting during the next election unless concessions are made.

-Arthur Townsend


4 responses to “To Watch: The South Carolina Read to Succeed Act”

  1. legprocess says :

    I agree with Jackie Hicks and her argument that the problem is neither the teachers nor students, but the lack of funding and proper materials. I don’t go to school in South Carolina, so I can’t speak on what kinds of supplies are present within the schools but I think it’s safe to make the assumption that students are not being provided with the proper materials they need to succeed. If there is $1.5 million dollars to allocate to a new summer reading program, I think a better next step would be to provide classrooms and teachers with the proper materials to teach the appropriate reading level. I feel like this approach is a lot more practical than setting up an entirely new summer program. I’d be interested to know if the teachers who feel the same way are putting up a fight to possibly change the way this new program will be structured.

  2. legiprocess says :

    I do not think this bill is likely to be passed unless it is revised. While many politicians would love to be able to say they voted yes on an education reform, I don’t think it would go over well with the public. Most teachers would oppose this bill since it is difficult and costly to have to relearn how to teach after already completing your schooling. The teachers may be able to gather enough support to convince their congressperson to vote no. Additionally, it is risky to create an entirely new office and program. It increases pressure on the teachers to get their students to a higher reading level without necessarily
    giving them the tools to do so.

  3. Will Ransohoff says :

    It sounds like, while everybody agrees that literacy is a noble goal, there is a lot of disagreement on the implementation. Hicks thinks that the new boards would be dead weight, but I sort of wonder if the opposition of parent groups might have something to do with that denouncement. Whenever education reform comes up, some of the most strident opposition often comes from parents who are afraid of the state getting undue influence over their child’s upbringing. Do you think this might be getting in the way of South Carolina’s laudable goal?

  4. legiprocess says :

    I find it interesting that the education community is so split on this issue. While a lot of them don’t support the new program, their reasons vary. That suggests to me that not enough research was put into how to improve the education system. I think Congress is just trying to pass a bill to “improve education” without actually thinking through how effective their new bill will be.

    I think it is highly interesting that Jason McCreary does not support the act because he thinks he already knows how to improve literacy. If that is the case, why aren’t South Carolina’s scores going up already?

    -Jenny Wu

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