By Nikki Gaskins
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Just over 13 percent of incoming freshmen in Charleston County read at a fourth grade level or lower, according to leaders with the Charleston County School District. Last year, the number stood at 12.9 percent.
The number is based on the spring scores of incoming freshmen who took the MAP test which is better known as "Measures of Academic Progress." While Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley says the number is nothing to smile about, she says the district is making progress.
"We want all students to read on grade level but practically speaking, if you're an English language learner, it's going to take you longer to get on grade level. Like wise, if you have a learning disability," Dr. McGinley said.
Twenty-one percent of students read at a fourth grade level or lower in 2007, but Dr. McGinley says that number has nearly been cut in half.
"We've hired master reading teachers and associate teachers to work with our much challenged readers and we expect to continue to see progress," said McGinley. "We now have a reading acceleration program in every middle school and we have a primary reading acceleration academy in every elementary school."
But some schools may need more work than others. According to a CCSD report, 46 percent of incoming freshmen at Lincoln High School in McClellanville tested at a fourth grade level or lower. At Burke High School that number was at 41 percent . The level at Northwoods High School was 30 percent .
"When you look at that 13.1 percent, half of those students are either special needs students or students with English language needs," said McGinley.
Despite the challenges improving literacy, Dr. McGinley says she's encouraged by the direction the district is headed.
"We want to keep attacking this issue until we have it down until next to zero," said Dr. McGinley.
District leaders say North Charleston saw the biggest improvement out of all the schools. In 2009, 40 percent of incoming freshmen read at a fourth grade level or lower. Today that number is roughly 24 percent .
Students who fail to score at the appropriate level must enroll into a reading academy or repeat their grade level.
Dr. McGinley says most parents opt to have their child go on to the next grade while getting the extra reading help the district provides.