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A detailed description of our study methodology is available here.  A synopsis of this information is provided below.

Study Design and Methodology

Between May 2005 and November 2006, the Riley Institute project team spent more than 3,000 hours meeting with nearly 800 South Carolinians to gather their opinions on public education. The team met with businessmen and women, teachers of all levels, superintendents, parents, school board members, principals and students from every county and school district in the state - large and small, rural and urban, wealthy and poor.

In late 2006, the Riley Institute invited all to take part in a second phase of research focusing on key themes that emerged from the research during Phase I and asked participants to delve deeper into possible solutions. Participants reassembled in mixed groups featuring one representative from each stakeholder group: an elementary school teacher, a middle school teacher, a high school teacher, a principal, a superintendent, a parent, a school board member, a student, and a business leader. Over 200 people participated during the two days. Participants in the mixed reconstituted sessions were asked to reflect upon, discuss, and prioritize strategies that emerged most often and with most agreement during the first year of research. They were then asked to devise practical action plans for South Carolina related to the top-rated strategies.

Meeting process and instrument

In each meeting the same format was followed. Four questions were asked: three open-ended discussion questions and one in-depth survey. The first and second questions asked participants to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of South Carolina's public schools. The third question asked participants to share ideas about how they would redesign public schools to address areas in need of improvement. The final question consisted of a 160-question survey, which asked respondents to weigh a list of opportunities, programs and support structures needed in the public schools to help all students succeed.

Using random sampling techniques, the project team invited superintendents, principals, teachers from all grade levels, parents, school board members, business people from both large corporations and small businesses, and students who were still in school or recent graduates to participate in the study. In order to gather lists of potential participants, the project team worked with local Chambers of Commerce, the office of the State School Improvement Council, school district offices, local school boards, and schools themselves. Individuals were invited to attend meetings with others from the same stakeholder group.