Thursday, August 25, 2016

SC's ACT Results Reveal Dark Underside of Higher Graduation Rates

Image result for groups of rabbits

In South Carolina a major disconnect exists between high school student achievement and college success. In the first year that all juniors took the ACT, only 14 % met the goals for college success, while over 80 % planned college attendance. In order to keep their classes full (and help those who lack adequate academic skills), many community colleges and other institutions of higher learning have bred remedial courses like rabbits over the last decades. 

People argue that the ACT's biases work against black and Hispanic students and the poor, but the reality is that the ACT does measure success. How many of these poorly-prepared students starting college in remedial courses end up not graduating, stuck with thousands of dollars in student loans to be paid off working at McDonald's? In fact, one recent authoritative report on remedial college courses called them "The Bridge to Nowhere."

As districts such as CCSD continue to focus on graduation r.ates as a measure of success, they forget the purpose of high school: preparation for college or work (increasingly requiring further education). 

What does it matter if the graduation rate is 95 percent if only 14 percent have achieved at the high school level?

See        only-14-percent-of-sc-graduates-are-ready-for-college-according-to-act

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why Is CCSD Playing Catch-Up in Mt. Pleasant School Construction?

 The design for Lucy Beckham High is being modified to allow 1,500 students instead of 1,200.

Common wisdom relates that generals are always fighting the last war. It should also teach us that school districts are always one generation behind in school construction. 

After more than a decade of massive school construction in Charleston County costing millions upon millions of dollars, why is it that Mt. Pleasant will have overcrowded high schools for the next decade?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Why wasn't construction for a new East Cooper high school on the agenda as soon as the new Wando campus opened? It's not like it wasn't full from the get-go.

Why haven't district lines been redrawn to alleviate overcrowding in Mt. Pleasant? How far away is practically empty Burke? What about practically empty North Charleston? Are they any farther away from Wando than Lincoln? 

Hasn't the district spent thousands on population studies? No one could tell that Mt. Pleasant was growing rapidly? Reminds me of the weather forecaster who doesn't look out the window to see that it's raining.

Monday, August 22, 2016

P&C Puts Lipstick on a Pig with Lincoln-Wando Story

We all appreciate "feel-good" stories. That's why the nightly news always ends with one. Murder, mayhem, the sky is falling--then let's close with what a good neighbor did for a stranger. 

That's really the tenor of our local rag's take on the integration of 75 former Lincoln Middle-High's students into the morass of 4000 Wando kids. 

See from-lincoln-to-wando-a-student-learns-to-adapt-to-her-new-school . 

We admire the grit of the featured transfer, Sharome Stafford, for her upbeat take on what her dream of senior year has become. As the article relates, "at Lincoln, Sharome boasted a 4.029 grade point average, the second highest in her class of 15 students.  She was class president, a member of Junior ROTC, a volunteer tutor and obviously college-bound." 

Now what? "On her first day of senior year, Sharome Stafford was late to every one of her classes: Drama 2. Architecture and Civil Engineering. English 4. Honors Calculus."

You really should be on the scene when classes change to get the full flavor of a 4000-student school. Talk about being lost in the shuffle! Stafford mught as well have entered another planet.

Then there are the hours. Getting up at 5 to take an hour-long bus ride? Taking another hour-long bus ride home? Let's hope she still has time for her part-time job in McClellanville. 

Yes, the district has hired an assistant to look out for these students. Yes, courses are available that the district could never have offered at Lincoln, but to be forced to go from being class president to not knowing where her second-highest average places her in Wando's hundreds of seniors must be unnerving.

Wishing her and other former Lincoln students a smooth transition.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hicks's Idiotic Comments on Teachers' Rights


Brian Hicks reads minds--or at least South Carolina teachers' minds. That's why he can assert that "they want a system that both protects then but doesn't leave them stuck pulling someone else's dead weight." Nevermind his tortured syntax.

The bee in his bonnet is public school teachers' right to a hearing if contracts are not renewed, the law meant to protect them from being fired without cause. Evidently, Hicks believes that these rules drag down public school results because public charter schools need not follow them. It's a plot, you see, that state lawmakers hatched to make public schools look worse than public charter schools!

Gee, Brian, maybe you should check under your bed while you're at it.

What is the reason behind these ancient rules protecting teaching jobs? We usually hear "academic freedom," but it doesn't seem to apply. Why don't principals have the power to fire failing teachers? Why should teachers be more protected than any other comparable worker who can be fired at will? 

Teachers' salaries are too low and working conditions often horrible. Once tenure applies, salary scales reward each equally for experience whether capable or not . You have to wonder what would happen in public schools if these old ideas disappeared. Teachers as independent contractors? Teachers treated as employees of any other business enterprise? Charter schools seem not to have any difficulty finding teachers.

Mind boggling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

School Board System Broken in CCSD and Elsewhere

In his great wisdom (yeah, right) Brian Hicks today smirks over the vagaries of being a school board member in our local school districts. Why, six incumbents chose not to run for another term! Horrors.

See running-from--not-for--the-school-board

School districts such as Charleston have outgrown what started as a small, local enterprise. The totality of money spent by districts has burgeoned without the necessary oversight of those qualified to do so. In Charleston County we have a district that spends more money than the county government. We have a district superintendent who makes more than the mayors of Mt. Pleasant, Charleston, and North Charleston combined. She's not elected but selected. 

Who picks her? Self-nominated, supposedly nonpartisan county residents who have no specific skills that qualify them to select a superintendent or advise her concerning the district's enormous budget. They get elected countywide by those who have no idea what those qualifications should be and by a majority who don't know them personally. They need to have plenty of spare time and spare money, given that they can barely cover the expenses of meetings with what they are paid.

Ever attended a school? You must be qualified to be a school board member.

Want to run for higher public office? You must be qualified also.

Want to save the world? This probably isn't the place.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Funding Another TIF Not Wise for Charleston's School Budget

Haven't you ever wondered about the willingness of the Charleston County School District to forgo income in order to revitalize parts of the county? Well, I have and wrote previously of my doubts. Now Steve Bailey has weighed in as the school district looks to sign up for yet another TIF to revitalize West Ashley.

Don't get me wrong, I grew up in West Ashley and would love to see it blossom again the way it did in the 1960s and 1970s. However, Bailey's figures should give anyone pause. As he stated in his op-ed earlier this week, (see education-champion-rittenberg-would-not-have-approved  )
Take the Charleston County School District. It currently participates in six TIFs in Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant. The district by far “invests” more in the TIFs than the municipalities that use them to promote growth. [italics mine] 
According to Mack Gile, the county budget director, the school district deferred $10.8 million in tax revenue for operations and $2.8 million for debt in the fiscal year 2016 alone. Leave the meter running for years and it adds up to real dough. You will recall this is a school district that had a budget shortfall of $18 million last year. 
Mount Pleasant’s TIF produced $12.6 million in fiscal 2016 to fund or pay off debt for infrastructure improvements. Of that, $7.8 million in operations and debt revenue came from the schools; the town and the county kicked in about $2 million each. 
North Charleston’s four TIFs netted $9.6 million in 2016. The city deferred $3 million and the county $1.4 million; the school district about $4.8 million.
"A million here; a million there: pretty soon it adds up to real money." 

Don't you wonder if the School Board members really understood the financial loss with their participation in these TIFs? 

Monday, August 15, 2016

CCSD Must Replicate MSA@Brentwood's Good News

Imagine a Charleston County where the poor entered middle and high school reading as well as or better than the rich. What a huge difference that would make in schools known for their top-heavy loads of students reading below grade level and dropouts.

Imagine: almost all teenagers would be able to read their own textbooks!

If the Charleston County School District knew how to bring this phenomenon to fruition, it would be criminal not to do so. That's why the early results emanating from Meeting Street Academy @ Brentwood are so important. While some find any private-sector involvement in public schools suspect, the latest test results from the takeover of Brentwood, a notoriously failing school, should give them pause. The results give the rest of us hope.

If the  two years of reading scores from MSA@Brentwood hold up to scrutiny, the school will become one of the highest-achieving in the district. These are not "selected" students but those who live within the designated district lines. As a recent op-ed pointed out, 90 percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch, yet its kindergarteners scored in the 95th percentile for schools nationwide. Those students have always been under the management of MSA. The first-graders, who also have been under the aegis of MSA for two years, scored in the 92nd percentile. The third graders, who began school under CCSD's program and then switched two years ago to MSA's, ranked in the 78th percentile.

If these figures continue to hold up, CCSD must face a decision regarding the least among us. Let's hope that it's the right one.