Universal home visits for new parents and professional development for literacy teachers are two ways to put rural South Carolina children on the path to future success, according to leaders at a recent symposium.
The Institute for Child Success, a Greenville, S.C.-based education policy nonprofit focused on children from birth to age 5, hosted a gathering in October on the campus of Francis Marion University in Florence to talk about the challenges facing children in rural parts of the state.
Of the state's 31 rural counties, all have a higher percentage of children living in poverty than the state average (28 percent). A state-funded study of 17 mostly rural, high-poverty counties along the state's Interstate 95 corridor offered six recommendations on ways to address systemic problems of poverty, education, and health, and those included improving and extending the education system and targeting disparities in health and social services.
The institute structured the symposium around ideas officials say would help achieve some of the report's recommendations, and it explored ideas such as universal access to home visits, more training for rural teachers, and growing Teach For America.
One presentation was about the Durham Connects program, which is run by North Carolina's Center for Child & Family Health. It provides universal home visits for new parents on a short-term basis. They say they're getting a $3.02 return on every $1 invested in the program, and they say that's better than traditional home-visit programs. Officials in South Carolina were interested in this particularly because it had been replicated in several rural North Carolina counties, according to a story in the Florence Morning News.
The Institute for Success has studied a financing mechanism to scale up South Carolina's early-childhood programs, such as home visitation for low-income first-time mothers.
The story also talked about the need for high-quality professional development for rural reading teachers, and it cited one program the Rural Ed blog has written about before: Targeted Reading Intervention. That strategy enables rural teachers to access coaching online and has shown it to be effective.
"We're interested in how this event can direct and inform future research, but, perhaps more to the point, how it can inform our work at the statehouse with policymakers," said Institute for Child Success Vice President Joe Waters in the Florence Morning News story. "We really want to know what's out there, what's working in education, to highlight that and also to bring that back to folks around the state, to bring practitioners from a variety of communities around the state together to share and network."