Friday, November 17, 2017

CCSD Desires Professionals in Classrooms Without Professional Pay


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At least it's going in the right direction! Pay for substitute teachers, that is.

If you've ever subbed in a classroom, you know how demanding a job it is. You earn every penny of the meager sum doled out for hours of stress. In addition, since subs must be assumed to be brainless and incompetent, whatever lesson plans you have require no professionalism at all. In fact, mostly subbing = babysitting, whether the students are 7 or 17.

These conditions result from the low pay and even lower requirements to be a sub, the latter being a result of the former. Truth to tell, most school districts still haven't learned that college-educated women now can look forward to careers other than teaching and certainly other than subbing.

So it's some relief to see that the Charleston County School District is showing signs of understanding reality. A shortage of substitute teachers directly results from low pay. 

Duh.

A new proposal suggests that "Uncertified substitute teachers would see their pay rise from $64 a day ($8 an hour) to $96 a day, or $12 an hour. Certified substitutes would receive $112 a day ($14 an hour), up from $80 a day currently."

Get that? What other certified professional would accept $14 per hour?  

Accountants? No. 

Lawyers?  Please stop joking. 

Plumbers? Stop that.

And CCSD's bus drivers get $15 per hour. 

Bus driver? Certified teacher? What's the difference? Bus drivers are more valuable.

"While the proposal could increase [costs] by $2 million, [Board member Todd] Garrett said district officials still are working on an estimate of its financial impact for this budget year. He said it likely will be 'minimal,' because of savings from unfilled vacancies and from a rate reduction by Kelly Services, a staffing firm that works with the district to provide substitutes."

The effect on education will also be "minimal." Paying professional babysitters $14 per hour. Here's an example of why teachers and their substitutes get little respect from the general public.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lake Wobegon in Dorchester District 2


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"Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."--Garrison Keillor

You may have imagined Keillor's marvelous place to be somewhere in the Midwest. Not so. It's taken root in Dorchester District 2. 

The Palmetto and Life scholarships were designed for deserving above-average graduating seniors who had a B average or better, a B, of course, defined as "above-average."  It turns out that in Dorchester District 2, over half of its seniors, nearly 60 percent, are above average and thus eligible for these scholarships.

There's one minor hitch in this rosy picture: results on the ACT show that only 35 percent of those seniors are "college ready."

These same students take tests poorly? Then why do they have B averages?

Right. Parents are happy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Allendale Takeover Should Call In Meeting Street Schools


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As a former speech and debate coach, I remember well attending meets at Allendale-Fairfax High School not long after the first state takeover was lifted. The buildings were well kept, if spartan and well-seasoned. The students and coaches were enthusiastic and hard working. Teacher coaches admitted that the 1999 takeover by the state had made little difference. Everyone involved wanted to succeed.

The second time around is unlikely to be a charm. Too many factors work against well-meaning professionals. Nevertheless, help is essential.

One aspect that needs serious thought is the existence of these rural districts with few students. Next door to Allendale are Bamberg County Districts 1 & 2 (dividing an incredibly small student population) and the Hampton County District (another small student population). While rural distances must be accounted for, it still appears that having four school districts in an area of three counties where the total student population hovers under 5,000 is just plain ridiculous. And the other three districts aren't doing much better than Allendale.

You see, the Charleston County School District's low-performing schools would feel right at home in Allendale, or Bamberg District 2, or Hampton. They share a problem: how to educate the children living in poverty-stricken homes whose adults also are poorly educated. 

In Charleston County, the answer seems to be Meeting Street Schools.

I know, that's extra time and money. Isn't the state already spending those?

Sometimes endemic problems call for drastic measures. While those attempting to pull Allendale out of the mire should be commended, we are still just fooling around with the edges.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sign of the Times: Virtual School in SC and CCSD


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Flexibility is its middle name. 

The Richland I school district (Columbia) offers "'home schoolers, teen parents, and the academically gifted student, as well as aspiring professional dancers, artists or athletes who must train or practice during the day,'" access to a high school diploma. "'Students who work after school or during the day, as well as those working in family businesses, would be ideal candidates,'" 

Different here is that "In Richland 1, prospective virtual students must submit a questionnaire and an application that includes an essay, transcript, report card and four written recommendations from educators or coaches." Such requirements should ensure that this program will succeed where other virtual schools are failing in the state.

Locally, the Charleston County School District does not put forward such a possibility. Extolling the virtues of a piecemeal approach, Deputy Superintendent of Learning Services Cindy Ambrose said, "Perhaps they want to take a class they cannot fit into their schedule, or there are not enough students seeking to take a class, which would prohibit a particular school from offering that class. There are so many unique needs, and to better meet our students' needs, we are considering a virtual school program."

Maybe CCSD needs to take another look at Richland I. Those partial programs aren't doing so well.

Friday, November 10, 2017

P & C Sides with Postlewait on Moffly's Complaints

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Some of us wondered when the P  &C would get around to reporting on former school board member Elizabeth Moffly's complaint to the State Board of Education. It turns out that reporter Paul Bowers's instructions were to show Moffly in the worst light while attempting to answer her complaints.  

Click the link for details
http://www.postandcourier.com/news/ex-school-board-member-seeks-to-remove-charleston-county-schools/

School Board Chair Kate Darby and Moffly are probably not friends. The reporter quotes Darby as saying, "'Education leaders in Charleston County often say that if it weren’t for the self-serving adults, we could educate children.'" 

Ouch. Careful, Kate. People exist who might put you into that category!

However, Darby [no relation] remains unable to justify Henry Darby's serving simultaneously on the County Council and as the principal of North Charleston High. As reported, "Moffly alleged that Postlewait broke a state law by hiring Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby as principal of North Charleston High. State law prohibits County Council members from holding 'any other office of honor or profit in government.'"

Well? Some wondered about the appointment at the time.

Clearly, the editors wish to blame Moffly's concerns and the 900-signature petition on those nasty Republicans. They're merely annoyed that they didn't break the story first.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Computer Ate My ACT Score in South Carolina


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Could technology problems cause 62 percent of high school juniors to be unprepared for college in English? How about 78 percent unqualified in math?  Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education blames low scores on computer glitches.

Never before had all 11th graders taken the same test. For those knowledgeable regarding national tests, the results put more blame on the education students have received in South Carolina rather than suggesting low aptitudes. You see, the ACT actually measures what students have learned.

Never again will all students take the same test. In the future some will opt out for the SAT instead. Spearman can then show improved results. At least, we hope future results improve.

Nor has anyone explained why South Carolina had such difficulties in giving the on-line test. Somehow it's hard to fault the ACT folks; they do this all the time.

Could anyone in the state department of education or in the local districts, such as Charleston County, have dropped the ball?

Naaaah.

Eight percent ready in all STEM subjects? Actually, that sounds about right.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

SC School Funding Quarrels About State Versus Local


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We know this much to be true: middle-class and wealthier parents can move into school districts with better schools; poor parents, especially in rural areas of South Carolina, are stuck with poorer schools. This situation exists from one end of America to the other, but it's particularly noticeable in South Carolina where rural schools are also frequently all black. 

Basically, Democrats wish to end local funding and create a state school system. Even if they don't admit it, they want to destroy local control of schools, their reasoning being that local control has produced severe inequities in places such as the so-called Corridor of Shame.

Republicans mistrust the idea that bureaucrats, be they in Columbia or in Washington, know what's best on the local level.  Many also remain unconvinced that lack of money has perpetrated district inequities. Whether or not the justices of the state supreme court should dictate solutions continues to be a bone of contention.

Despite our local rag's attempts to portray the last quarter century as stagnant on these issues, much has changed. For those who wish state control, no other measures will be enough.

"Legislators point to recent laws and hundreds of millions in budget increases as evidence they're addressing the problem."

"GOP leaders, including then-Gov. Nikki Haley, have accused justices of not taking into account the "Read to Succeed" law passed months before the 2014 ruling, which, among other things, required reading coaches and summer reading camps. It also called for eventually expanding statewide a full-day pre-kindergarten program for at-risk 4-year-olds, an initiative long pushed by Democrats. Three years later, 64 of 80 districts are eligible for the program created in 2006 as a limited pilot for suing districts."

"Changes since the ruling include a new allocation for districts with the highest teacher turnover. About $7 million was distributed last year to 30 districts, used primarily for training and salary stipends. A college loan-forgiveness program, which could eventually erase up to $35,000 in student debt if teachers stay in a high-turnover district, became newly available this school year."

"And 51 districts are splitting $56 million this school year for building improvements. A bill to borrow up to $200 million a year for dilapidated schools is awaiting action in the Senate."

"But legislators have yet to tackle the antiquated, fractured funding 'scheme' justices faulted in its 2014 order as the key problem." [italics mine]   

Nowhere does the state constitution imply that the judiciary has the right to decide how schools are funded.

There's a further flaw in current thinking. Apparently many believe teacher turnover in rural districts is purely a product of lower salaries. 

"A separate Senate panel, appointed in May, will issue recommendations before the Legislature returns in January, focusing on what it will take to attract and keep quality teachers in rural schools, said its co-chair, Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden."

"That's a central part of addressing the court order. As shown at trial, teacher turnover is especially high at rural districts that pay thousands less than their counterparts. Filling slots involves long-term substitutes, international teachers and those teaching outside their field." Virtually guaranteeing more turnover!

That "separate Senate panel" would do well to interview present and past teachers in the districts concerned to discover what teaching conditions would make them want to stay. 

It's not all about the money, folks!

Back in the dark ages a century or so ago, districts actually provided housing for teachers. That's not necessarily an answer, but it's past time for some thinking outside of the box!