Beaufort County School District discusses student discipline, achievement gap

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - The Beaufort County School District met Friday for day one of their workshop sessions. On the agenda - the achievement gap, student discipline, and the budget for the upcoming school year.

The district is looking at ways to narrow the achievement gap and to balance the budget for the upcoming school year. The roundtable discussion is open to the public and is a question and answer styled discussion on the pros and cons of various agenda items. We sat through Friday's session and found out how the schools are working towards minimizing differences in student disclipline - another area of concern for the district and parents.

Student discipline has been the topic of discussion after a study showed some disparities in how students were disciplined and which groups of students seemed to be disciplined more than others. The Board of Trustees asked for discipline reports to be reviewed at the beginning of the school year, and data showed that black students were disciplined twice as much as white students - but even though there were differences percentage-wise in how discipline is handled, consequences for each group were the same.

The district is now working towards strengthening training for faculty and staff to help teachers identify other factors that may play a role in a student's behavior, such as issues at home and social media. The goal is to get all teachers on the same page when it comes to approaching a conflict and resolving it.

"One of the things that we want to do more than anything else is continue in our relationship building with our students and staff. As staff continues to learn more about students and who they are and how they receive and perceive things, we believe that will drastically help us in our efforts to decrease our consequences in discipline," said Dr. Gregory McCord, Chief Auxiliary Services Officer.

The district also has a family workshop in place that allows parents and students to work together over a 14-week period. The goal is to work on conflict resolution skills so problems at home aren't disrupting the school day.

Another item on Friday's agenda was the achievement gap. Most recently, Beaufort County became a majority-minority district, but they're still seeing some large discrepancies in testing scores among students of different demographics.

Beaufort County Schools have seen an increase in graduation rates over the past decade, ending last year with a rate of 83 percent. White students graduated at rates higher than both Hispanic and black students, and council has been looking to identify the causes of that current gap and develop procedures to help intervene when a student is struggling in school. The most recent standardized test shows that at least 20 percent of students in 3rd-8th grades are not reaching grade level requirements.

"There are some areas, like third grade, where we're above the state in every area, but then there are some areas, like fourth grade, where we still have some work, and we also are looking at the cohort group as they move through, so last year's third graders are fourth graders this year, are where they're supposed to be last year. We expect them to be on track this grade level, so once they're on track, they stay on track," said Dr. Jeffrey Moss, Beaufort County Superintendent.

Results from the South Carolina College-and-Career Ready Assessments showed that there are a lot of students close to meeting grade expectations. In response, the superintendent proposed a program to identify those students, and working with them closely to bring them to proficient levels.

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