Jessa Potvin

Meeting Street Elementary Beats the Odds

August 19, 2015

Jessa Potvin


Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood is giving us a glimpse of a future in which a disadvantaged background doesn’t limit success for South Carolina students.   Their students, some unable to write their first names at the beginning of the year, have performed extraordinarily well in standardized testing; eighty percent even scored above the national average!

How did such a remarkable change happen? The Post and Courier explains in a recent article how a public-private partnership formed the foundational catalyst:

Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood isn’t your average public school…. It opened last August in the heart of North Charleston, serving kids in pre-kindergarten through first grade as a one-of-a-kind, five-year public-private partnership between the Charleston County School District and the nonprofit Meeting Street Schools. Here, almost 90 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Yet 100 percent of kindergartners met or beat typical growth on their standardized tests last year.

 “Holy cow.” That was school board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats’ first reaction when she saw their test scores this summer.  “It’s just very obvious results. That’s what people desperately want to see in education, obvious results,” she said. As the rest of Charleston County schools begin a new academic year next week, board members will be eyeing Meeting Street Elementary’s approach.

Meeting Street Elementary currently receives about $9,000 per student in public funds from the school district, based on enrollment. Private donors and Meeting Street Schools, founded by Sherman Capital CEO Ben Navarro, cover the rest of the school’s expenses, which have included more than $1 million in renovations. When the school expands to the fifth grade, the additional cost will be about $3,000 per student, [Chris Allen, chief of staff for Meeting Street Schools] estimated.

“I don’t think it has to be donor-funded forever,” he said. He noted the passage of last year’s bond referendum funding the district’s capital projects as an example of what can happen when a community steps up to take care of its schools.

Our research in 2013 proved what Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood has made clear in our own state: with good educational policies, disadvantaged students can experience dramatic improvement.  In 2013, low-income Florida students, benefiting from multi-faceted educational innovation in their state, outscored all categories of South Carolina students on the NAEP 4th grade reading exam.

School choice programs were key components of Florida’s far-reaching reforms.  South Carolina’s children don’t have to remain behind their peers in education; by employing multi-faceted education reform that recognizes the indispensable role of school choice, we can give every child – regardless of their zip code – an exceptional education and a bright future.