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.