Even with Help, Poor Students Lag Behind Wealthier Districts

Education in S.C. needs a closer look.

A report on South Carolina’s $65 million dollar a year program that offers free 4K to underprivileged school districts, shows that even with the extra program, children who attend still lag behind other students from wealthier school districts. 

The study, which was conducted by the S.C. Education Oversight Committee, according to The State newspaper, “compared how poor children who enrolled in 4K during the program’s first four years performed later on standardized tests.” 

The study’s results show that the program, while helping some, is not closing the wide education gap between districts. Poor children who lived in poor districts where the 4K program was offered were more likely to pass exams in math and reading at the end of the year than the poor children in the same districts who did not attend.  But, for those students who did attend the 4K program, their later success in school was no different from those who didn't attend the special program. But advocates of the program say that while it's not perfect, it is bridging the gap between the higher and lower income districts for some students, and 73% of the children in poor districts who attended the special 4K program passed the S.C. standardized test for reading at the end of the third grade. Comparatively, 67% of poor children who did not go to the 4K program passed the reading test at the end of the third grade. Advocates say this is an important benefit of the program, since students who do not pass the third grade reading level will be held back starting in 2017. 

The special 4K program was started in 2006, after a judge ordered S.C. to do more for preschool-aged children when it came to poor school districts. The program was recently expanded to serving 12,500 students and some lawmakers are pushing to expand it even further.