The Best School Districts in Charleston, South Carolina

The Best School Districts in Charleston, South Carolina

Smiling students in Charleston, SC

One of the most important decisions in your children’s education is choosing the school they will attend. But with about 150 total schools in Charleston, South Carolina, it may feel intimidating to choose just one. It’s important to remember the educational resources a school receives often depend on the school district they belong to. Before choosing a school, focus on selecting one of Charleston’s school districts.

There are three public school districts within a 50-mile radius of Charleston: Berkeley County School District, Dorchester County 02 School District, and Charleston County School District. Each school district occupies a different area of Charleston, they have different academic resources, and they each present their own unique features. Focus on these three characteristics to quickly narrow down which districts, and eventually, which schools will benefit your student the most.

Our guide will provide an overview of these three districts and three things to look for in each district. If you are new to the Charleston area or moving there soon, the location may be one of the most relevant aspects to consider before making your decision. Overall, deciding which school district is right for you will help narrow down the schools to choose from. This process may also give you a better idea of the qualities you seek in your child’s education experience.

Berkeley County School District

The Berkeley County School District is the fourth-largest school district in South Carolina. At Berkeley County, the educators believe students are “more than data points.” Students receive extra resources in the form of technological support. The district equips its schools with over 3,000 smart classrooms and every student receives a Chromebook for schoolwork.

Girls using laptops with classmates at school

Location

Selecting the right location could be the most important factor when choosing a school district because no matter how great a district may be, if it takes over an hour to drive there, it’s probably not worth the travel time. Seriously consider your commute first when selecting a school district.

Berkeley County School District is located in Moncks Corner, just north of Charleston. This district includes 49 total schools, featuring twenty-six elementary schools, twelve middle schools, and nine high schools.

Academics

There are about 38,000 total students across the Berkeley County School District from Pre-K to 12th grade. They maintain a student-teacher ratio of about 16:1, with an 84 percent average high school graduation rate. This district also provides programs for advanced academics, which offer support from state-funded Gifted and Talented classes to challenge and encourage students. 

Berkeley County has an array of schools that provide specialty programs for you to explore based on specific themes or goals. You’ll be able to build your students’ educational experience around their strengths and prepare them for life beyond school. For example, Marrington Middle School of the Arts is dedicated to the visual and performing arts, and completion of the requirements at Berkeley Center for the Arts (BCA) grants students an SC Fine Arts Seal of Distinction.

Unique Feature

Most school districts offer interesting programs that set them apart from the rest. Research these district programs to see if there may be a way to better support your student. The unique programs offered in a district may align well with your student’s interests.

One of Berkeley County School District’s hidden gems is Berkeley Middle College. This is the only magnet school in the district, which just means it is a public school that attracts students for its unique features. Berkeley Middle College is a high school for juniors and seniors who can complete their requirements to graduate high school and earn their associates degree or other certifications provided by the local Trident Technical College. Accelerate your student’s learning with real college experience so they can be prepared to enter the workforce.

Dorchester School District 02

The Dorchester School District 02 is the smallest district of the three main districts in Charleston, South Carolina. Dorchester features 27 total schools and programs, including an alternative school and an adult education program. In addition, the graduating class of 2023 was offered more than $51 million in scholarships.

Location

Located northwest of Charleston in Summerville, Dorchester School District 02 offers 15 elementary schools, 6 middle schools, and 3 high schools. Dorchester prides itself on being a community-centered district and encourages families to participate in their frequent engagement events.

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Academics

The district supports 26,135 students with a 16:1 student-teacher ratio. These students boast competitive academic achievements, with 40% proving proficient in math and 55% proficient in reading, with an impressive 92% high school graduation rate.  

Additionally, Dorchester School District offers sixteen “clusters” in the Career and Technology Education program, which prepares students for professional careers after graduation. Some of these clusters include Architecture & Construction, Finance, Health Science, Information Technology, Marketing, and many others. Take advantage of these kinds of programs to kick-start your student’s career opportunities.

Two graduates wearing robes

The Dorchester County Adult Education program also provides opportunities for students of all ages to complete their high school education, gain technical skills for the workforce, or enter postsecondary education. They also offer resources for adults learning English as a second language (ESL). 

Unique Feature

Dorchester District 02 uniquely provides extra resources for military families associated with Joint Base Charleston. Dorchester is a Purple Star school district, which tells military families that the district is dedicated to supporting their students’ educational journey, no matter their next step after high school.

As a Purple Star district, every school is required to employ a military liaison, who is responsible for providing resources for students in military families. If you are moving to Charleston for a recent military assignment, these military liaisons ensure transfer students can get support for their academics and can get plugged in with sports, clubs, programs, and extracurricular activities.

Charleston County School District

The Charleston County School District (CCSD) is the second largest school system in South Carolina. Charleston County oversees 88 total schools and programs. They also offer alternatives to traditional public schooling such as IB (international baccalaureate), magnet, Montessori, and charter schools. 

Don’t count this district out because we listed it last. According to Niche, Charleston County School District is currently rated the #1 best school district in the Charleston Area.

Location

This district covers the entire city of Charleston, plus 1,300 square miles of the surrounding South Carolina Lowcountry. 53 elementary schools, twenty-eight middle schools, and sixteen high schools live within the Charleston County School District with options of public and private schools.

Academics

With so many schools to choose from, you may feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry, CCSD has provided a video to introduce you to the district and help you choose a school. The district also has a page for family resources to further assist your family’s experience with your student’s educational experience.

Charleston County School District educates over 50,000 enrolled students with a 13:1 student-teacher ratio. Even though they are the largest school district on this list, they maintain the lowest student-teacher ratio. In addition, this year, twelve percent of the student body are multilingual learners. In 2023, the district’s graduation rate was 87.3 percent.

Charleston County has some of the best private schools in the area. Charles Town Montessori is a private school that provides three programs: the Toddler Program for ages 15 months through three years, the Primary Program for ages three through six, and the Elementary Program for ages six through twelve. If you are looking for private options for older students, check out Charleston County’s Porter-Gaud. This is a highly-rated faith-based private school serving options for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Help your child get a head start in their careers and look over the CCSD Career and Technology Education Programs of Study. Plus, encourage your student to check out the career opportunities listed by the district, but be aware that these applications must be filled out by a student.

Unique Feature

Most US public schools teach English as the primary language, but Charleston County School District is broadening their horizons. CCSD contains a department called the Office of Multilingual Services and Outreach, whose goal is to ensure all CCSD staff members receive training to serve the district’s multilingual student body by June 2025. In addition, the program seeks to raise the percentage of college-ready multilingual learners from 67.7 percent to 86.2 percent.

Don’t miss the YouTube series made by the Office of Multilingual Services and Outreach, Multilingual Minute. Through these videos, you can find information about the program, the students the program serves, and learn more about what it means to explore other languages and cultures. If your family is multilingual, Charleston County has the resources and professional staff to support you.

Conclusion

Choosing a school for your child is never going to be an easy choice. Make the decision easier on yourself by narrowing down which school district offers a better fit for your student’s educational needs. Then, select a school based on your student’s age group and the characteristics you want to see in their educational journey.

Consider if you are more attracted to a district with better test scores versus more funding for athletics. Do you prefer the closest school to your home or are you okay with a longer commute if there are more extracurricular programs available? Are you looking for a school with a religious affiliation or a private school? Trust there is a school that will meet your student’s needs in Charleston. Only you can make the right decision for your family. 

The best school districts in Charleston, South Carolina are Berkeley County School District, Dorchester School District 02, and Charleston County School District. Each varies in its academics, location, and unique features. Understand these key aspects to choose the right school district for your student and your family.

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I am from Sacramento, California and earned my BA in Literature from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California. I am currently enrolled in the English MA program at University of Oregon, researching forest management policy and environmental studies. In my free time I enjoy watching basketball, cooking, reading, gardening, and trying new hot sauces.