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Friday, September 21, 2007

Furman Study Released On SC Education Opinions

Furman University study shows consensus among South Carolinians for
improving public education

GREENVILLE - Results of a new research study confirm that there is broad
base support for improving South Carolina's public education system.

The study conducted by the Riley Institute at Furman University shows
that Palmetto State citizens are concerned about high quality early
childhood education programs, programs for struggling students, and
teacher recruitment and retention. The non-partisan research project is
the largest and most comprehensive ever done on public, K-12 education
in the state. More than 3,000 hours of interviews with nearly 800
people representing all of South Carolina's school districts between May
2005 and November 2006.

"These results are reassuring," said State Superintendent of Education
Jim Rex. "They confirm what we've been saying all along.
There is consensus in South Carolina for improving public education and
moving our schools forward. Business leaders, community members,
parents, and educators are all on the same page. The general public has
not taken its eye off the ball."

According to Furman officials, the study's goal was to learn what the
primary stakeholders in the state's education system had to say about
the strengths and weaknesses of South Carolina's public schools and to
gather their recommendations for improving education at the early
childhood/elementary, middle school and high school levels.

Those participating in the study included businessmen and women,
parents, students, school board members, teachers of all levels,
superintendents, and principals from every county and school district.
In addition to answering a 160-item questionnaire, the stakeholders
participated in lengthy focus group discussions.

The study found a great deal of consensus across every stakeholder group
for a large number of initiatives, such as small class size, family
literacy programs and parent involvement, dropout prevention programs
beginning in 8th grade and a curriculum more reflective of the state's

"We believe it is highly important for policymakers and all of us to
know what people at the grassroots level are thinking about public
education in South Carolina, at the place where the work is being done,"
said Don Gordon, director of the Riley Institute. "And to ensure we
heard a geographically and intellectually diverse number of opinions, we
talked to a broad sample of people in every school district in the
state, from the smallest to the largest, the wealthiest to the poorest.
"We also didn't want the participants to simply answer a few perfunctory
questions and be on their way. We conducted lengthy discussions with
each group and got into a great amount of detail. What we discovered is
that folks are passionate about public education in South Carolina and
they want to make our schools as strong and efficient as possible."
Gordon said that Riley Institute officials are in the process of meeting
with key South Carolina legislators and providing them with results of
the study. "It was our goal to compile as much sound and useful
information as possible and then provide that information to those who
make policy decisions about public education in our state," he said.
"This is especially important for our students who in today's global
world are competing for jobs with those from other states and also from
other countries, such as China and India."
According to project director Brooke Culclasure, there was a broad
consensus on a significant number of important educational strategies or
opportunities and the vast majority of participants in all categories
expressed intense interest in improving education in the state. "There
appears to be a real hunger to be an active participant from the
grassroots working up, addressing issues that they really see as
important on the ground every day," she said.
The study was conducted by the Riley Institute's Center for Educational
Policy and Leadership and funded by a $600,000 grant from the William
and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has been making grants since 1967 to
help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the
world. The California-based foundation concentrates its resources on
activities in education, the environment, global development, performing
arts, philanthropy and population.
For a detailed list of the research findings, visit the Riley
Institute's web site at

Actual data can be
found at:

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