Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ed Deficits Show Need for Vocational Classes in High School


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Every year the P & C runs an op-ed by Gene Budig and Alan Heaps bemoaning the educational deficits in America's youngest generations. They moan about the facts, but offer no solutions. This year's bemoans the disconnect between what students and parents think they are getting (a good education) and what they are actually achieving. Here are their stats:

• A mere one-third of our eighth graders are proficient or better in math and reading.
• Only a quarter of graduating high school seniors are ready for college level math, and less than 40 percent for reading.
• Our 15-year-olds rank 38th of 71 countries in science and 24th in math.
• Fewer than 60 percent of those who enter college graduate within six years.
• Only a third of Americans have a four year degree or higher.
• We import skilled workers. Companies annually request between 200,000 and 300,000 imported workers to fill science, technology, engineering and math positions.

One of the many problems with these facts is that they assume that a four-year college degree is desirable for the majority of students. Nothing could be further than the truth. Oh, yes, I know that it is drummed into every child's head that if he or she doesn't get a college degree, the student will spend the rest of life as a downtrodden peasant.

That's part of the problem. We actually had a President state that everyone should graduate from college. Such blind assertions exacerbate the notion that somehow a person isn't quite, well, valuable to society unless B.A. or B.S. can follow his or her name. Let's judge the statistics from another angle. 

A mere one-third of our eighth graders are proficient or better in math and reading. This group should enter high schools that will prepare them for college entrance. Right now many of them are simply segregated into "honors" classes. The two-thirds who are not proficient should attend high schools that prepare them for skilled workforce jobs. 

Only a quarter of graduating high school seniors are ready for college level math, and less than 40 percent for reading. These are essentially the same one-third of eighth-graders mentioned above, with adjustments made for high school dropouts. Students not ready for college-level work would already have a workforce skill if they had the opportunity to develop one in vocational classes.

Our 15-year-olds rank 38th of 71 countries in science and 24th in math. Maybe we should look at how other countries segregate their students into schools that prepare them for skilled careers. They do, you know!

Fewer than 60 percent of those who enter college graduate within six years. Because those dropouts shouldn't have taken on the debt of student loans in the first place. Some of these no doubt were caught up in the party culture so prevalent on campuses today, but most colleges accept unqualified students to meet their quotas. Take a good look at all of the colleges and universities that essentially have open admissions, taking anyone who graduates from high school and spawning multiple non-credit "college" courses to bring those students up to standards (they hope).

• Only a third of Americans have a four year degree or higher. Why is this a bad statistic? How many jobs really require a college education? Look around you at the salesmen, real estate brokers, barristas, and office workers. Did they really need four years of college? Did they really need to forgo income for four years while racking up thousands in student loans?

• We import skilled workers. Companies annually request between 200,000 and 300,000 imported workers to fill science, technology, engineering and math positions. Here is the only argument that holds water. The number is inflated because foreign workers will accept less pay, but don't we want educated immigrants to our country? The question for our schools is, are these skills necessarily taught in college, or could many of them be taught in high school if our system took job skills seriously?

Food for thought.

Friday, August 18, 2017

CCSD's Associate Superintendents Strike Again!


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Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? Given events at Wando High School earlier this month, we doubt it. 

According to Lowcountry Source, "Elizabeth Adamson gave the 8th grade commencement speech at Cario Middle School this past June. She was featured in a Post and Courier article. She was looking forward to taking honors classes at Wando High School. She already had her schedule set and had enrolled in JROTC. She attended JROTC orientation beginning Monday, July 31. Her mother Anela Adamson received a phone call the evening of Wednesday, August 2 from Principal Sherry Eppelsheimer asking that Elizabeth not return to the school. No explanation was given."

Bizarre. The student's mother was advised her daughter would be in a contained classroom at the School of the Arts.

CCSD ignored Elizabeth's legal Individual Education Plan (IEP) as "Thursday, August 3 Elizabeth and her mother returned to Wando High so she could finish her JROTC orientation week. . . . Eppelsheimer asked them to leave and had the school resource officer (Mt. Pleasant police) escort them off the campus. Anela Adamson said she would be back and was subsequently served with a trespassing notice."

Thanks to intervention by concerned individuals, Elizabeth is now attending Wando High School as her IEP instructs. 

What's going on at the Taj Mahal anyway? Biggity associate superintendents arbitrarily changing IEP's?

The Andersons should sue CCSD for damages.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Reading by Third" Sets Same Goal as No Child Left Behind!


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Down the memory hole.

George Orwell is looking more and more prescient.

How else to explain this week's reporting of local counties' enthusiasm for the Reading by Third initiative? Leaders from DD2, DD4, CCSD, and Berkeley School Districts signed up for  a "partnership between their districts and Trident United Way."

"Supported by $1.5 million in funding from Trident United Way, the districts have offered training to teachers in 12 pilot schools through the University of Florida Lastinger Center. The training was designed to help teachers address students' skill levels in small groups or one-on-one."

"During the three-year pilot program, the Charleston County School District will focus on pre-kindergarten students, while the other school districts focus on kindergarten through second grade. Teachers will try new instructional models and receive coaching from Lastinger employees throughout the school year."

"The pilot schools include: Clay Hill Elementary, Harleyville Elementary, College Park Elementary, Oakbrook Elementary, A.C. Corcoran Elementary, E.B. Ellington Elementary, Ladson Elementary and Midland Park Primary. Williams Memorial Elementary will begin the pilot program next school year."

"The initiative is beginning at the same time that a major provision of South Carolina's Read to Succeed Act takes effect. Starting at the end of this school year, third-graders who can't pass the literacy portion of the standardized SC READY will be held back in third grade unless they meet certain exemptions or make enough progress in a summer literacy camp."

All of this without mentioning NCLB or its leading proponent, George Bush. There's nothing new about research showing that all students need to read by third grade. Can the reporter be that ignorant of the past?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Can Wando Campus Handle 4700 Students?


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How crowded does a school campus need to be before someone in charge says, "Hold, enough"?  

CCSD's Board Chair Kate Darby thinks it doesn't matter how many students squeeze into Wando by 2020 because " a lot of 11th and 12th graders will want to finish out where they've been," rather than entering the new Beckham High School. What's really going on is worry over where the District 2 Constituent Board will draw the attendance-zone boundaries for the two schools. Can't be unbalanced, ya know.

Meanwhile, the Charleston County School District toys with competing with virtual charter schools already in existence. " Unlike the full-time virtual charter schools run by private management companies in South Carolina, this school would be run locally by the school district and would not be a substitute for traditional school." And would cost CCSD to run. How much? "According to a planning document distributed to the school board, district staff plan to determine the budget, technology and personnel required for such a program between October and December."

And the reason that what virtual charter schools offer must be duplicated? 

We can guess.

Filling the Taj Mahal with educrats is expensive, not merely because of their salaries. They must justify their jobs by promoting more spending.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We All Live Here: Charleston County Juvenile Crime and Schools


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A 14-year-old boy charged with two homicides in Charleston County attended Charleston County schools. Don't you wonder what went on when he was in the classroom? His father "has no comment" on his son's incarceration. Where is his mother? What about his extended family and friends? 

It's certainly unlikely that he will ever enter high school, much less complete it. So-called experts called to explain such criminality at this young age have suggested that he may have been bullied or that he doesn't know how to meditate or control his anger or that he just lacked role models. Really? I suppose it's not possible that drugs were involved. Certainly, the entire P & C article on juvenile crime in the state never mentions them!

Charleston County leads the state in juvenile crime. Charleston County also leads the state in the number of failing public schools. 

Golly, could there be a connection?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ban "Honors" Level in Charleston County Schools


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Is anyone else as annoyed as I with bumper stickers that say, "My child is an honor student at [fill in name of school]? What purpose does that bragging accomplish? 

Easy answer: it reinforces the stereotype that it is an honor to be in a particular level of instruction. Abolish the term "honor" for these classes. Call them "Advanced, Grind, Nerd, Irregular, Developed, Extreme"--in other words, anything but "Honor." 

Don't get me wrong. I'm probably more enthusiastic about leveling students in sections than you ever were, but something has gone wrong in its public interpretation. Hence, the letter to Jody Stallings from a frustrated mother whose school moved her child into regular classes based on test scores. His weekly column points out the dangers of misplacing students. Yes, on a continuum of test results there will be students "on the cusp," but the student in question doesn't appear to be one of them. Take it from this former AP teacher: putting students into Advanced Placement classes who cannot read on grade level does no one an "honor."

"Q. My middle school child was an honors student last year. She worked so hard to get good grades. She did hours of homework every night and went to a tutor for help in math. This year I’ve learned that, due largely to test scores, she will be placed in regular classes. Now she says she doesn’t understand the point of working hard when you’re just going to get dropped to a lower level no matter what. I’ve asked the principal to move her back into honors, but he wouldn’t. How do I keep her motivated if she has to stay in regular?"

"A. Your question seems to begin with the assumption that last year she was properly placed in honors classes and this year she is misplaced in regular. But it sounds to me like it could be the other way around."

"In general, children who are appropriately placed in high-level courses don’t require tutoring to succeed. Honors courses are designed for students whose minds are ready for going above and beyond the standard grade level material. Mastering the curriculum should be challenging for them, but it shouldn’t require professional help.

"Secondly, no student should be spending hours on homework every night. That is a used car lot-sized red flag that the material is too difficult. The rule of thumb is ten minutes of homework per night for every grade level. A sixth grader should have about an hour. No student in K-12 should average two hours except perhaps high school seniors, and I can hear the parents of those seniors laughing at that suggestion right now.

"So it appears to me that the principal is trying to right a wrong. Many principals find themselves in the middle of a constant struggle between parents and teachers. Parents want their kids in honors at all costs, often because they think it’s an actual “honor.” Teachers want kids placed based on their developmental abilities and achievement. It waters down the class when too many lower level students are plied into upper level classes. Imagine a high-intensity aerobics class where half the participants are recovering pneumoniacs. (Do they still have aerobics classes? Just change that to “Jazzercise” then. Or “Extreme Yoga.”) It sounds like your principal is siding with teachers, and for that I award him a digital star: *.

"It’s not surprising that your daughter would use the perceived demotion as an excuse to give up. Taking the easy way out is endemic to adolescents. If a doorway to comfort is opened, you can be certain it will be used. Your task as the parent is to slam that door as hard as you can, lock it, and throw away the key. A great start would be discussing with her the difference between setbacks and failure. A setback is when one doesn’t get what one hoped; it often requires determination to get back on track. Failure is when someone gives up. Failure isn’t an outside explosion. It is an inner collapse. We can’t control setbacks, but we can control failure.

"Most of all, setbacks are a bruise. Failure is a tattoo. Once children start down the road of giving up, it leads to a habit of failure, and that habit can be so hard to break that it becomes part of their identity. So candid discussions with your child about doing her best are definitely required.

"Also required is recalibrating your expectations. If she got B’s in honors math, expect A’s in regular and hold her accountable. If she already was an A student and she finds that getting A’s in regular classes is too easy, then at the semester talk to the teacher (not the principal) about possibly giving honors another shot. If she stays in regular, then use the money you were spending on a tutor last year to enroll her in extracurricular courses this year (like an art class, a language class, or a new sport). With the time she isn’t spending doing homework, she can expand her horizons.

"So far in my career I’ve never seen anyone given a college scholarship in middle school (and Doogie Howser doesn’t count because he’s made up). Don’t worry that your daughter will somehow fall behind her classmates. True, they may take algebra a year before she does, but so what? While many of them will be learning the benefits (if there are any) of spending hours every night struggling with material that will be totally forgotten by next August, your daughter will be learning habits and character traits that will keep her soaring for a lifetime.

"Legendary coach John Wooden said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Making the best of things is not a naturally occurring trait. This situation is a perfect opportunity for you to help your daughter learn it.

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992. He has served as Charleston County Teacher of the Year, Walmart Teacher of the Year, and CEA runner-up for National Educator of the Year. He currently teaches English at Moultrie Middle School and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance.

Personally, I'd like to call such classes "extreme." Then the bumper sticker could brag,

"My child is an extreme student at ____ elementary."


Friday, August 11, 2017

CCSD Bus Route Takes the Prize


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The Charleston County School District, renowned for its early bus routes, has finally scored a coup! No district in the entire state, heck, in the entire southeast will ask elementary school students to wait at an earlier time in the day for that ride to school. Make that an earlier time in the middle of the night!

Maybe the district wants to see if anyone actually reads the published bus schedules?

In these days of electronic submission, perhaps someone actually typed the wrong time four times?

Now parents of Goodwin Elementary students on Route 510 can brag about how early they rise.

The stop at West Montague and Floyd Circle wins the prize, however: how about 2:36 am?