As a result of our work over the past five years, we’ve learned some things:

  • We know it doesn’t have to be this way.
  • We know every child has the ability to learn.
  • We know systemic racism in education, and in other systems like housing and healthcare, is preventing significant numbers of children, through no fault of their own, from reaching their full potential.
  • We know that despite the best efforts of many educators, the public education system widens the gap among White, Black and Hispanic children in every school.
Words Matter

It’s important to understand the terms below as we intend them.

Disruption: The purposeful interruption in the normal course or continuation of some activity or process.

Action: The bringing about of an alteration or change through an act of will, by persuasion or through advocacy.

Equality: Treating everyone and every group the same with no acknowledgement of historical decisions that led to unbalanced conditions.

Equity: The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.

Racism: The historical and current lack of fairness and opportunity based strictly on skin color.

System: The prevailing political or social order by which something is done.

Systems Change: Shifting the conditions that are holding problems in place.

Tri-County Region at a Glance

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 American Community Survey, 2013-2017 American Community Survey; S.C. Department of Education; U.S. Department of Education, College Scorecard; and Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Tri-County Region by the Numbers
  • Counties: 3 (Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties of South Carolina)
  • Municipalities: 28, including 3 of the 4 largest cities in South Carolina
  • Public school districts: 4 (Berkeley County School District, Charleston County School District, Dorchester County School District 2 and Dorchester County School District 4)
  • Public school students: 113,481 (2017-2018 school year)
    • Gender breakdown: 51% male and 49% female
    • Race breakdown: 50% White, 34% Black/African-American, 10% Hispanic/Latino, 4% Two or More Races, 2% Asian, <1% American Indian and <1% Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • Title 1 schools: 99
  • Percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch: 54%
  • ​Institutions of higher education with a presence in the region: 20 (Some of the largest include: Charleston School of Law, Charleston Southern University, The Citadel, Claflin University, College of Charleston, Clemson University, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, Trident Technical College and University of South Carolina​​)


It has become clear that insufficient attention to equity is the central issue impeding educational attainment. Systems change is hard, takes time and requires that all of us think and act differently with respect to equity for children. Together, we can do better.