Monday, September 25, 2017

Teacher Shortage Not Alleviated by Education Innovation Forum

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A Letter To the Editor worth posting. 

Not written by the PR department of Spearman's Department of Education!

Letters: Teacher shortage

I attended the Aug. 31 Education Innovation Forum at the Francis Marion Hotel, because I was attracted by the possibility of an honest discussion about teacher shortage and retention. I was sadly disappointed, because it became a typical administrative “pat each other’s back” for a job well done.

There was no mention of the negative perception of teachers by the public and the general student body, no discussion of the reasons for the middle class abandoning public schools or of the funding needed to adequately pay the teaching staff. Nothing was mentioned about the low morale of teachers as a consequence of administrative neglect and abuse. We have allowed adults to abrogate their responsibility to discipline children when they misbehave in the classroom.

The superintendent offered nothing to the conversation. And there was no mention of the fact that the governor proposed the previous day to remove the teachers’ pension and replace it with a 401(k). School officials spoke of using PR to elevate the perception of the teacher. I think they meant to increase the deception of the public. Poverty was mentioned as the biggest obstacle for learning.

My friends and I were poor as church mice, yet we became scientists, engineers, scions of industry and, yes, teachers. Attitude is the obstacle to success in the classroom.

The primary speaker spent an hour trumpeting her program, mentioning innovation and digital portals, along with other such meaningless edu-speak, the kind that I was subjected to during my 30 years as a high school teacher. I reminded her that the only portal that was used in my day was between our ears, and it was very successful.

Too much money is wasted on services that are duplicated on the state and federal level. If we are going to attract youngsters to the teaching profession, the role of the administrator must be changed to one of support for teachers. The only people who count in the educational process are the teachers and their students. Everyone else is superfluous. [italics mine]

Ian Kay
Wingo Way


Friday, September 22, 2017

Why Must Allegro Charter Fight for Space in CCSD?

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This public charter school desires to serve the downtown community. As long as charters cannot afford to provide busing, Allegro should remain downtown. 

Problem is, the Charleston County School District wants Allegro (and all other charters) to fail.

The impossibility of putting Allegro into Burke High, where the halls are so empty that they echo, remains a mystery. Allegro has agreed to disagree. Who will provide enough classroom space downtown for a projected 350 students also remains a mystery. Any space large enough is becoming a hotel. As the peninsula becomes a museum, perhaps Allegro's hunt for downtown space is doomed.

"'One struggle is our own lofty mission, to serve primarily the peninsula and give them a great option for an art school,' said Principal Daniel Neikirk. 'Of course, it’s tremendously difficult to find anything on the peninsula.'"

Vacant school buildings owned by CCSD sit rotting downtown. Anyone ever hear of Fraser?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Reading Levels: Meeting Street Schools Working in CCSD?

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Why are so many Charleston County students unable to read to learn in the fourth grade? Let's stop blaming teachers and look at reality. The reality is poverty and poor parenting. No amount of curriculum tweaking will overcome it.

If a child is not on reading level in the third grade, disaster awaits with the rest of his or her educational career. With social promotion that child falls farther and farther behind, finally dropping out or graduating without the literacy needed for a job that doesn't consist of physical labor alone.

Is there any path to the Charleston County School District's replicating the results of Meeting Street Schools outside of Meeting Street Schools?

Gerry Katz's recent Letter to the Editor pointed out the following:

"Children who enter MSS preschool education system at 3 years in pre-K and graduate MSS elementary school in fifth grade have Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) scores in the top 5 percent nationally, and have been accepted into high-achieving public and private middle schools."

"Using nationally recognized MAP education standards to determine student academic preparedness, third-grade MSS students are shown to achieve competency in the 98th percentile in reading. By comparison, third graders in North Charleston Title 1 schools have MAP reading scores in the 20th percentile."

"On the basis of MAP testing, the MSS model for under-resourced children is five times more effective than the Charleston County School District model for educating under-resourced children to read proficiently on grade level at the end of third grade."

"Under-resourced children: a) Do not have a literacy-rich home environment; b) Do not have parents who can support their educational needs; and c) Do not have systems to neutralize the negative home drivers that prevent under-resourced children from learning. Under-resourced children cannot respond positively to first-grade instruction." Sad but true.

Does CCSD now have enough data to drive a decision on securing the future of its most at-risk students?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

SC's ACT Scores: No Future Comparisons

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See, South Carolina's required ACT results weren't really all that bad, but as usual, next year's changes in testing will guarantee future results cannot be compared. Next year, some students will opt out of ACT testing for SAT testing instead.

To be only 1.1 points lower than the other states that required all students to take the test is not such a bad result. Yes, we are below the national average by more than two points, but look around you. South Carolina also has one of the most disadvantaged populations in the country.

No, it's more important to point out that Charleston County actually bested Dorchester District 2! Imagine how much it would be if all of Dorchester County was included!

That only 15 percent met all College Readiness benchmarks is much more problematic, since more than 15 percent of high school graduates enter college--hence high numbers in remedial college classes.

"The proportion of graduates showing virtually no readiness for college coursework remained sizable. In the class of 2017, half of South Carolina’s students and 33 percent nationwide met none of the benchmarks, suggesting they are likely to struggle during their first year in college." Shudder to break that one down by race!

Does anyone wonder why we haven't seen the stats for individual high schools, since we can see those for Academic Magnet and School of the Arts? How about Burke, West Ashley, and Stall? 

Let's start with them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

CCSD's Ignoring History of Local Schools Enervates Support

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Everyone understands that some local schools no longer exist, whether through consolidation or closing. What rankles long-time residents is the utter disdain from the current and previous administrators of the Charleston County School District for the history of the schools. You only need attempt to track down a yearbook from the seventies from any local high school, with the possible exception of Burke, the only high school allowed to keep its original name, to find this truth.

So it is bittersweet to see that someone actually cared to rehang a specially-commissioned portrait of FDR in the current Moultrie Middle School and that a portrait of Francis Marion has returned:

"According to Town of Mount Pleasant archives, Gen. William Moultrie High School, originally on Pitt St., relocated to Coleman Blvd. in 1944. In 1973, students moved into the new Wando High School on Whipple Road. The old high school became Moultrie Middle School. This facility was demolished in 2007 and the new building was completed in 2009. That was the third Moultrie School to be built on site. The Moultrie Schools were named in honor of Gen. William Moultrie, the highest ranking South Carolina officer during the Revolutionary War and hero of the 1776 Battle of Fort Sullivan, which was later renamed Fort Moultrie. He fought in the S.C. Militia during the 1761 Cherokee Wars, and served in the Royal Assembly and first Provincial Congress. He was elected Lieutenant Governor and was Governor twice. While Governor, he relocated the capital from Charleston to Columbia and established the county system and county court system. Moultrie designed the first S.C. state flag during the American Revolution."

"Through the years school archives were lost and sometimes thrown away. [italics mine] Some were even given away. And that turned out to be a blessing in terms of a portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt."

"Common tradition is for a graduating class to gift something to the school. The class of 1944 commissioned a portrait of Gen. William Moultrie by local artist and actress Alicia Rhett. The following graduating class commissioned an oil portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also by Rhett.

"Talk of those portraits took place recently between a local mother and daughter. Doris Dayhoff, a 1944 graduate of Moultrie explained to her daughter Linda Dayhoff Smith, a 1970 graduate, the significance of those and other gifts.

"This got Smith to wondering what had become of the portraits. She called the Charleston County School District and officials there were unsure. [italics mine] The new principal Ryan Cumback was too.

"Smith happened to run into an old family friend at the grocery store recently. He just so happened to be a Moultrie graduate, retired Wando teacher and local historian. Why is this important? Well, when she told him what she was up to regarding the missing portraits, he smiled and said he was in possession of the Roosevelt portrait. The school's fifth commencement gift had been offered to him when items were being removed from the old Wando in preparation for the move to the new facility.

"I almost fainted in aisle two of the grocery store," Smith said. "Of course I asked him if he would return it to the school and he was happy to do it."

"As a teacher at Wando he frequented the library because he was a social studies teacher. There were often stacks of books that the librarians were disposing of or giving away, but on one particular occasion there were stacks of portraits. Among them was the Roosevelt.[italics mine]"

"I looked in corner and saw that it was an Alicia Rhett who played India Wilkes in 'Gone with Wind.' I thought that really it should not be thrown away and I took it for safe keeping," Williams said."

"Also, Roosevelt was the president of Williams' childhood. A president during a time of war. It was important to Williams that the portrait be salvaged." Not important to CCSD, however!

"In a small ceremony Williams, Smith, Dayhoff, Cumback and district officials met to return and hang the FDR portrait in it's proper place in the halls of Moultrie Middle. Talk turned to the missing Gen. Moultrie portrait when Cumback realized they were referring to the very one hanging just down the hall in the vestibule. It was removed from the wall for inspection and in light script a scrawled message on the back read, "given back by class of 1960." During a reunion they think took place in 1986 which would have been their 25th reunion. The story behind this is unknown."

"As of last week, the only other Rhett portrait that was missing is that of Francis Marion given by the Class of 1946. On Friday, an anonymous person came forward to return the painting."

How does an area that prides itself on its history put up with this stuff? 

CCSD has shown its utter disregard for the past. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

School Buses Versus College Scholarships in SC

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Ah, yes. The "education" lottery!

Back in 2002, SC voters approved a state lottery whose proceeds would fund education. Where has that money gone in the past 15 years, and where should it go in the future? Should funds be used to update the state's aged fleet of school buses? Should proceeds fund scholarships for college students? Politicians disagree.

One sure result of the state's watering down its grading system is that many more high school graduates will qualify for college scholarships. Where will the extra money come from? Why has the legislature not tightened up qualifications? At the rate we're going, soon half of every graduating class will qualify.

Meanwhile, South Carolina purchases used school buses that other states have deemed too old to be on the roads. 

Anyone see a problem here? 

Maybe the problem is that only one-fourth of money spent on lottery tickets is ever used for any educational spending. If three-fourths is not spent on education, how do politicians justify calling it the education lottery? Semantics.

And don't get me started on the fact that the lottery is a tax on the poorest among us.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

SC's Teacher Shortage Not About Money

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Scholarships for those pursuing teaching are effective. South Carolina's Teaching Fellows program has worked over the last 17 years, according to State Superintendent Molly Spearman. So too the Call Me MISTER program to recruit black males to become teachers. 

Not so much the recruiting drive to import teachers from out of state. Looked upon from the Lowcountry angle, no one should be surprised. Take the Charleston County School District, for example. The beauties of the area beckon; then the reality of its struggling schools defeats all but the most dedicated recruits. 

Locals tend to stay; those from off leave. 

"Dorchester School District 2 Superintendent Joe Pye said school districts need to find a way to recruit more locals, who tend to stick around longer."

"We travel all over the North and we haul them in by busloads because they can't find jobs," Pye said, "but the beach only attracts them for a year."

Let's make South Carolina's schools of education first rate and recruit outstanding students to attend. Pay attention to Jody Stallings's points about teaching conditions as published previously.

Gone are the days when female college graduates settled for teaching as the only possible career and put up with all the nonsense. The days of treating teachers as non-professionals should disappear as well.