• Straight Talk from the Superintendent - October 28, 2022

  • Mapping the Road Ahead

    Last week, I shared some thoughts about our K-12 ecosystem. The inputs of our ecosystem affect the outputs and ultimately the outcomes of this system that supports the whole child. I talked briefly about how we define or map our village and how we build and leverage partnerships with various people in our village to fortify our ecosystem.

    My message today is a bit lengthy. However, I believe it is one of the most important messages that need to be shared because it describes the beginning structure of improving student outcomes for all students.. Remember, 77% of our African American students and 70% of our Hispanic students read below grade level. My message today discusses the roadmap we will use to change these outcomes.

    The Board recently engaged with the Charleston community through over 20 engagement sessions and over 500 survey responses, all for the purpose of thoughtfully developing the map of our village. As any good city planner can tell you, intentional planning is key. The engagement process has allowed the Board and district staff to work together to develop the map that will lead us to achieve the system’s vision [destination] through the identified goals [roads] while staying within the guardrails [shared values and priorities]. 

    During this goals and guardrails process, the board sets the goals and identifies the guardrails. The Superintendent and staff build the route.

    Setting Our GPS

    On Monday, we presented to the Board the nearly-final iteration of the map that we’ll use to get to our goals. The goals are set by the Board. Part of the map includes setting interim goals. The interim goals are set by district staff and will help plan our strategic work toward achieving Vision 2027 of all students reading on grade level by grade five. 

    The goals, developed by the Board, are rooted in data that shows that while CCSD often achieves above the state, on average, we know that our Black/African American students and Hispanic students are significantly behind in reading, math, and college and career readiness. 

    As a result, the goals developed by the Board are specific to groups of students and are designed to ensure we are providing positive outcomes for all students.

    • Goal 1: Literacy - The percentage of Black/African American and Hispanic 5th-grade students reading on grade level will increase from 25.5% in July 2022 to 60.7% in July 2027 as measured by SC READY ELA.

    • Goal 2: Algebra I Readiness & Achievement - The percentage of all CCSD students enrolled in 8th Grade achieving C or higher on the Algebra I End-of-Course exam by the end of 8th grade will increase from 24.9% in May 2022 to 60.3% in May 2027.

    • Goal 3: College and Career Readiness - The percentage of students in the 4-year cohort who graduate college and/or career ready will increase from 67.7% in August 2021 to 86.2% in August 2027 as measured by SC College and Career Readiness Indicators.


    Like on most roadtrips, there are milemarkers. I like to think of the interim goals as the mile markers. District staff and I have worked collaboratively to develop the interim goals. The interim goals are an important part of our intentional planning and will result in improving outcomes for all students. The interim goals, developed by staff, are the milemarkers that measure progress along our trip. Another purpose they serve is that they ensure that the direction that staff sets is, indeed, the direction that the Board intends to take.

    Staff has developed an interim goal for each of the three goals - Literacy, Math, College & Career Readiness. The interim goals can be found here.

    Reaching the Destination Safely

    Arriving at the destination is important, but doing it in a way that preserves the vehicle and the safety of those inside is too. The guardrails the Board has set are similar. Guardrails are shared values and priorities that must be honored - no matter what - along the journey to achieve Vision 2027. The guardrails are as follows:

    • Guardrail 1: Graduate Skills - The Superintendent shall not allow students to graduate without the soft skills [and financial literacy proficiency] needed for post-secondary success.

    • Guardrail 2: Social Emotional Learning - The Superintendent shall not allow students to go without Social Emotional Learning.

    • Guardrail 3: Stakeholder Engagement - The Superintendent shall not present major initiatives to the Board without engaging schools (parents, guardians, students, staff), district, and community stakeholders who are most impacted by the initiative/decision.

    • Guardrail 4: Treatment and Expectations of Students - The Superintendent shall not allow disparate treatment of or low expectations for any students.   

    • Guardrail 5: Climate - The Superintendent shall not allow a negative or unsupportive staff culture.

    While the Board sets the guardrails, similarly to the goals, district staff identifies interim guardrails. The interim guardrails are used to ensure that in working toward our goals, I uphold the values of our community.

    We’re Here, What’s Next?

    The process of developing the interim goals and interim guardrails has been truly collaborative. It’s been unlike any I have experienced in Charleston, and is quite exciting to be a part of. It involved staff drafting interim goals and interim guardrails, and sharing drafts with the Board during public meetings and using the Board’s feedback to revise. The process has been in service to students and in service to our commitment to provide all students with positive outcomes. The deep collaboration between the community, the Board, and district staff will guarantee that we are all holding the same map and that as a community, we are heading to the same destination. 

    The feedback and revision process will continue at the Board’s upcoming Committee of the Whole Meeting on November 7, 2022. After final adoption of all guardrails at the November 14, 2022 Board meeting, staff will continue the powerful work of probing the system and developing the strategies. The work will test our assumptions, and challenge our system to ensure an alignment between the community’s vision (goals toward student outcomes) and the district’s reality. 

    We had the opportunity to engage with our Teacher Roundtable on Tuesday and share and discuss a small part of the roadmap in more detail. Their feedback and input was insightful, valuable, and laser sharp as we know teachers have an eye for detail and thought-provoking questions. We look forward to continuing meeting and discussing this important work with our internal and external stakeholder roundtable group leaders as we move to put these goals and guardrails into action over the next few months.

    Thank you for all you do for our students and families. Have a great weekend and a safe Halloween.