Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Be Careful Whom You Vote For, But Vote for CCSD School Board Candidates

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Proving once again that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, the NAACP's Dot Scott urged voters to vote for School Board candidates in this election even if they vote for no one else. 

Most people seem unaware that this Board controls one of the largest employers and spenders in the entire county. Or, at least it should control the Charleston County School District administration, but does it?

If you've followed this blog for long, you know that it speaks for those who want the Board to control the Superintendent and not vice versa. Need some recommendations? How about this slate:


Happy with the current state of affairs? Then vote for the status quo.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Padron Calls Out Bureaucracy in Charleston County School District

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From Atlantic magazine of 2012, congruent with the Charleston County School District's adding more layers of bureaucracy:

"This is why we must bulldoze school bureaucracy. It is a giant diversion, focused on compliance to please some administrator far away. Every minute spent filling out a form or worrying about compliance interferes with the human interaction that is the essence of effective teaching."

"Law is everywhere in schools. It permeates every nook and cranny. Teachers spend hours every week filling out forms that no one ever reads -- because the laws and regulations that have piled up over the years require them. Hardly any interaction is free of legal implications. Teachers are instructed never -- never ever -- to put an arm around a crying child: the school might get sued. Misbehavior and disrespect are met with weakness and resignation; teachers are trained to be stoics, tolerating disorder rather than running the risk of a "due process" hearing in which the teacher, not the student, must justify her decision. "

"Principals suffer a similar inversion of authority with teachers, who are armed with hundreds of pages of work rules that prescribe exactly what teachers can be asked to do. Managing a school -- say, setting the hours, deciding how to spend the budget, and deciding which teachers are doing the job -- is an oxymoron. Public schools today are, by law, basically unmanageable."

Sound familiar? It probably does to school board candidate and former principal Paul Padron. At a recent candidate forum, he made the following remarks:

" the bureaucracy at the 75 Calhoun Street headquarters was the root of the student achievement problem in Charleston County School District (CCSD). Pardon said, '75 Calhoun is like an island. There is a moat around the island. Nothing gets in and nothing gets out. Teachers are afraid to ask for help. Everything gets stuck in the bureaucracy.'” 

"Padron, who served as the principal in three different CCSD schools, said teachers and principals are not listened to or given the support they need. He said, 'The top-down approach we have is not working.'” No kidding!

"He told Lowcountry Source that the authoritarian climate in CCSD reminded him of his native 

Discouraging, isn't it?

Maybe CCSD needs to change.

Monday, October 15, 2018

CCSD Needs to Explain Poor Conditions at High-Poverty Schools

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Just when you thought that all students in Charleston County attended Taj-Mahal-like schools comes this reminder that rotting in the background are some decrepit facilities.

What do I mean? Board member Kevin Hollinshead recently pointed out the following:

“North Charleston provides the largest (sales) tax base in Charleston County, yet the North Charleston schools are under-served in capital spending.” According to Lowcountry Source, 

"Hollinshead cited the recent rat infestation problem at Garrett Academy of Technology as a long-standing maintenance issue. He also pointed to Deer Park Middle School in North Charleston, which has toilets that frequently clog, no kitchen and a tiny cafeteria which only seats one-sixth of the students at one time. Former Deer Park principal and current school board candidate Paul Padron frequently contacted CCSD about the inadequate facilities, but no corrective action was taken during his two years at the school, which is located at the former Northwoods Academy site."

At a press conference, "Many participants noted that teachers and principals are afraid to come forward about facilities problems, fearing retribution from CCSD leadership. North Charleston community activist Elvin Speights notes that teachers from Mary Ford Elementary, the former Ron McNair Elementary (which now houses Burns Elementary), Morningside Middle School and C.E. Williams Middle School have all contacted him with reports of rodent infestation at their schools."

Rats are an awful problem to suffer, but these schools have much bigger ones to handle. Before the days of testing, CCSD could blow these schools off as good enough. But they aren't doing the job. As reported, "The North Charleston neighborhood schools mostly have fewer than 20% of students performing at or above grade level in English and math, according to the 2017-2018 SC Ready test scores. At Chicora Elementary School in North Charleston, only 1.2% of 5th grade students performed at or above grade level in math. District-wide, only 11.5% of black students in 7th grade performed at or above grade level in math._

"Former school board member Elizabeth Moffly. . . described the three incumbent school board members on the ballot, Chairwoman Kate Darby, former Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats, and Eric Mack as 'shills for the administration' and urged people to vote them out of office."

They're spending their time worrying about diversity at CCSD's many choice schools. Someone needs to focus on these neglected neighborhood schools. Mt. Pleasant wouldn't be happy if North Charleston decided to go its separate way in a school district and took its tax base with it.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Charleston Coalition for Kids Reveals Whom NOT to Support for School Board

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Thank you! 

We had figured out for ourselves which candidates think that the Charleston County School District is doing just fine as it is, but ads run by the Charleston Coalition for Kids cemented our thoughts.

Here's whom to vote for if you think everything in the Charleston County School District is just hunky-dory!

Kate Darby

Eric Mack

Cindy Bohn Coats

Joyce Green

Needless to say, there are better candidates.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Charleston County's Schools Sit Empty as Mandarin School Struggles

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Heaven forbid that Charleston County's empty taxpayer-paid school buildings be rented to public charter schools. Here's a good example of what's wrong with school choice in the Charleston County School District: the current administration prefers to allow vacant, unused school buildings to sit, rot, and drain the operating budget instead of renting those spaces to public charter schools.

This used to be known as "cutting off your nose to spite your face."

"East Light Academy occupies a warehouse off Clements Ferry Road at 2325 Charleston Regional Parkway. The public charter school’s out-of-the-way location might have been one factor that led to low enrollment in its first semester, according to school leaders." 

"Principal Przemyslaw Murczkiewicz — “Mr. Mur” to the students — said the school’s location might have been its downfall. School founders hoped to locate it centrally in North Charleston, making it accessible to a large population of students. Instead they have rented space in a converted medical supply warehouse in an industrial area of Berkeley County. Traffic is often clogged on Clements Ferry Road near the building." 

That's putting it mildly! Ever been there during rush hour?

The school, sponsored by the SC Public Charter School District, hoped to replicate the success of a total immersion Mandarin language school in West Columbia that enrolls about 500 students.

Columbia. 'Nuff said.

Looks like East Light will lose its charter over low enrollment. Too bad for choice in Charleston County.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Charleston County to Change School Choice Rules

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What is diversity? Desegregation by another name. 

George Orwell, please speak up.

The Charleston County School District is run by people so out of touch with reality that they needed to spend the equivalent of two or three yearly teacher's salaries to find out that the district still needs to be desegregated after more than forty years of trying, or pretending to try, depending on your point of view. 

It's like paying your two-year-old to tell you he needs a nap. 

It was $135,000 paid to consultants simply for cover, so that Kate Darby's school board could claim that someone else came up with the notion that "sibling admission policies, bus transportation, and racial demographics" need rethinking in the district. After all, board members must run for re-election.

Too bad that common sense went out the window with the no-shorts-in-school rule. If it were still around, we could formulate improvements without feeding the edublob. 

Think of it: why should siblings gain preferred admission to magnet schools? To please parents who are already blessed by winning the lottery? 

Why should the district provide bus transportation for some choices of schools and not others? Because of lingering resentment over the growth of charter schools? Because the poor can't be left in the bus's rear window?

How have policies that promoted desegregation left schools in majority white attendance districts with nearly all-black elementary schools? There's the stickler. Don't tell me some "experts" from Clemson have now solved that problem.

And let us in on the secret results of offering the top two graduates at each middle school admission to the Academic Magnet since 2016. How's that working out for ya? 

As usual the district makes changes in hopes of improvement, then never tells the public whether the changes worked. Hey, that's a good place to start changing. More transparency with results.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Learning Styles Bite the Dust in Classrooms

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How many educational fads did your school district visit upon you during your education? How many failed practices have vanished from educational jargon? Does anyone remember the "open classroom"? How about teaching set theory to elementary students instead of subtraction? Then there's the idea that elementary students should spell however they wish.

Wouldn't you just love to gain back the millions spent on these fads? Well, another one has come and gone, at least in educational circles: learning styles.

So you're an auditory learner? Maybe you should learn to read.

Our favorite CCSD middle-school teacher, Jody Stallings, recently pronounced death over the last gasps of this popular mythology.  

"Research over the last few years has concluded that the theory doesn’t hold water. From The Journal of Educational Psychology to The Journal of Neuroscience, recent published studies assert that there is no relationship between students’ learning-style preferences and their ability to comprehend. The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning calls the idea a 'neuromyth.'”

"The theory of learning styles has been debunked so thoroughly that just last year a group of 30 scientists from some of the most prominent universities wrote a letter imploring schools to drop their adherence to it, calling the theory 'detrimental.'”

?The 30 scientists note that 'categorizing individuals can lead to the assumption of fixed or rigid learning style, which can impair motivation to apply oneself or adapt.' This is a big problem. Students are losing the ability to adjust to varying circumstances because all of their lives we have catered to their personal desires. They no longer have to problem solve, think critically, or figure a way out of a tough situation, and it is killing their ability to cope in a challenging world."

"The reality is that humans can learn in a variety of ways. If we 1) adjust our attitudes from an “I can’t” to an “I can and I will” perspective, and 2) train ourselves to use good focus and study strategies, we can learn no matter what kinds of lessons the teacher uses. Teachers of younger students should be focusing on coaching them in the use of these strategies rather than spending time adapting lessons to conform to an erroneous theory."

"Teachers should use the best strategy available to them to teach a lesson efficiently and effectively. Maybe it’s lecture. Maybe it’s a video. Maybe it’s dressing up like a unicorn and squeezing vine-ripe tomatoes between their knees. Good teaching is good teaching, and all students can benefit from it, even if they’d prefer a different method."

Right again, Jody.