New Schools, New Opportunities for Success: Palmetto Achievement Center for Excellence

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Newly opening this fall: Palmetto Achievement Center for Excellence in Columbia, SC

This feature is part of the National Alliance's 2021 Back to School Month campaign.

Palmetto Achievement Center for Excellence (PACE) Academy is a new charter school opening in fall 2021 in Columbia, South Carolina. As an Alternative Education Campus, PACE will serve grades 2-7, focusing on children with dyslexia and other language-based reading difficulties.   

The staff at PACE believes that “dyslexia is a gift and if given the proper tools for success, all students can be empowered to reach their full potential both in and out of the classroom,” and they operate in that mindset. 

Teachers and classroom assistants are thoroughly trained in the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach—an evidence-based, multisensory phonics technique for remedial reading. Staff are focused on the learning needs of each individual student. Multisensory, project-based instruction allows students with dyslexia and dysgraphia to master the same basic knowledge about language and its relationship to writing as any other learner.   

Melissa Rabon Headshot“For many families, private school or even private tutoring is not an option,” Executive Director Melissa Rabon said. “We want to give all students of the midlands an opportunity to receive this type of educational approach, regardless of their family’s financial standing.” 

The Nation’s Report Card found in 2019 that only 32% of South Carolina 4th grade students and 29% of South Carolina 8th grade students scored at or above proficient on the reading assessment, which puts South Carolina at 38th in the nation for reading. The low literacy rate in South Carolina can be attributed partially to one overlooked factor: 1 in 5 people have some sort of language-based learning disability, and dyslexia is the most common.   

“When we look at countries like Finland who incorporate more opportunities for students to move and play throughout the day, we see disruption in the classroom is minimized, identification of ADHD is lowered, and students perform better academically,” Rabon said. 

PACE’s goal is to close that achievement gap and allow students to reach their fullest potential. With a teacher in every classroom, an assistant for every reading class, and personalized support staff for those who need it, students have everything that they need put in place for their success beyond their years at PACE.  

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Bree Butler is the 2021 summer communications specialist at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.