South Carolina Celebrates National Charter School Week

May 11, 2022

Palmetto Promise Team

At Palmetto Promise, we celebrate all types of students and all forms of schooling. This week, we’re highlighting the 40,000 South Carolina students who receive their education at one of the 81 public charter schools in the state.

Charter schools in South Carolina are flexibly positioned to meet a variety of needs. For example, 41% of the total public charter school enrollment are students who receive their education completely virtually. Some schools are specifically focused on helping children with dyslexia…and more.

During the pandemic, South Carolina public charter schools saw a huge jump in enrollment. 28%, or a total of 8,759 students, enrolled in either a brick-and-mortar or online charter school.

South Carolina’s virtual charter schools saw a significant spike in enrollment, due to the fact that they had been innovating in the full-time online education space for a number of years.

This positioned them perfectly to adapt quickly to the COVID-19 environment, with some virtual schools seeing an over 100% increase in their student enrollment.

Another key driver of the increase: brick-and-mortar charter schools answered the cries from parents and calls from elected officials to safely deliver face-to-face instruction. Some schools saw their enrollments climb 50% as charter schools hit maximum capacity across the state.

But most importantly: the growth that was seen during the pandemic endured beyond. Charter school enrollment saw a similar increase in the Average Daily Membership (ADM) numbers for the 2022 school year, with an increase of 6,832 students!

Now the big question is if lawmakers will step up to fund these students fairly and allow even more children to access this same opportunity. Thankfully, it appears there may be significant progress towards this important goal in this year’s state budget.

Belton Prep: A Culture of Excellence

One charter school going above and beyond in meeting students’ needs is Belton Preparatory Academy in Anderson County. As a school with test scores in the top 10% of all SC public schools, the Charter Institute at Erskine has recognized Belton as a Diamond School of Excellence.

As a Title I school, low-income students make up more than 40% of Belton Prep’s enrollment. And out of all Title I schools in the state, Belton Prep is #1 in both math and reading scores!

Belton is in the top 1% of all SC public schools and is the number one best performing charter school when it comes to math scores. Similarly, in reading, they are in the top 2% of the state and the #2 best performing charter school.

Executive Director Deidre McCullough spoke to Palmetto Promise and credits the success with their culture of excellence. “Look, we’re not perfect, but we will always be excellent,” she said, “Number one is to create a strong culture of excellence and that’s excellence in academics, behavior, virtues, values, and from that everything else flows.”

McCullough noted that excellence in academics is the target, but the strategies Belton uses to get to that target are what she believes help create a well-rounded student and person. “We believe every student was created for a special purpose,” she told us, “We are just trying to develop a nurturing environment to grow those gifts and talents.”

“Created for greatness, positioned for success” is Belton’s motto, and McCullough noted that although academic success is the target, she hopes that over time they can replace that target with career success and help their students set goals for further into the future.

Belton is just one of many charter schools that find success through the power of strong and intentional leadership. This National Charter School Week, we celebrate the teachers and the leadership that bring out the best in our students.

Palmetto Promise recently released a report on the state of Charter Schools in South Carolina and the need for flexible funding structures, as well as top-line facts. You can read that here.

Featured image: Belton Prep Executive Director Deidre McCullough and PPI President & CEO Ellen Weaver