Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reading at Fourth-Grade Level? CCSD Welcomes You to High School

If you set the goal low enough, almost everyone can achieve it.

However, the Charleston County School District struggles to meet its own criterion that all incoming ninth graders will read at the fourth grade level. Despite focusing on literacy for the past few years, nearly 13 percent of the district's students read at or below the fourth-grade level. That would be bad enough if those students were spread evenly among CCSD's high schools. An additional problem is that they are clustered, often up to 40 percent of an entering class, in CCSD's lowest-performing schools. a

Below is an example of a fourth-grade reading worksheet. Remember that this is the goal for these students.

We don't know what percentage reads below the fourth-grade level. Here is third-grade level. Can you imagine this student reading a high school textbook?

It's way past time to get serious about reading. If students reading on this low a level pass their freshman classes, what does that suggest about the difficulty of what they are learning? What percentage of these students will actually graduate?

Time to fish or cut bait. Either put all students reading at fourth-grade level or below in the same classes in the same school and keep them there until each reads at least on the sixth-grade level or distribute them evenly over the district's high schools so that students reading at grade level or above need not face a class with a majority of poor readers.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Who's in Charge: CCSD Superintendent or School Board?

Amazingly, the Charleston County School Board has done something not first pushed by Superintendent McGinley: moved Lowcountry Tech from the Rivers building and voted to allow the Charleston School for Math and Science the use of the building instead of multiple trailers. It's a nightmare!

Well, it's a nightmare for McGinley. What this sensible vote suggests is that her long domination of the Board that is legally her boss may be ending. When did the Board last go against her wishes? Not in my memory.

McGinley is beholden to special interest groups who have no real interest in the education of Charleston County's students. They have a political agenda instead. That political agenda does not allow for a fully-integrated school on the peninsula that they do not control through the superintendent.

It would be nice to say that this disagreement with the elected school board is the handwriting on the wall, but don't hold your breath waiting for McGinley to resign, even if she's reduced to stating idiotically that Burke doesn't have room for the tech programs.

So now CSMS must wait for passage of the not-a-penny sales tax extension?


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

CCSD Disconcerted by Its Own Policies Regarding School Transfers

I'm not sure anyone has counted how many programs Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley has instituted to entice students to attend school outside their attendance zones, but those programs are legion.

So it's all the more puzzling why CCSD administration last month claimed to be "disconcerted" over this trend. Maybe it thinks the "wrong" students are heeding the siren call of magnet and partial-magnet schools or petitioning for curriculum offered only at the other end of the county?

Actually, one reason for concern is that, while North Charleston's elementary and middle schools are full, numbers are exiting North Charleston for high school, perhaps to avoid ninth-grade classes where up to 40 percent are reading at the fourth-grade level or below. Another concern is falling enrollment at de-facto all-black Burke, the only high school on a majority-white peninsula. Could Burke's celebration of its all-black hsitory have anything to do with white flight?

Seriously, does anyone wonder why students who can choose to go elsewhere do so, even opting sometimes for "gasp" private schools?

Board Vice-Chairman Ducker worries that too much parental choice will send some schools "into a death spiral." Some parents, on the other hand, think a death spiral might be the solution for the ones with dismal records.

CCSD has decided to throw another edublob consultant at their perceived problem: for $16,500 he or she will "study school choice trends using a two-pronged approach--an online survey and focus groups." With all the fine administrators already on board at 75 Calhoun, you'd think this could be an in-house job. Apparently not.

Let's at least hope that McGinley resists tinkering with the focus groups.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Grooms Gets an A for AP History Analysis

When the College Board first instituted the Advanced Placement American History curriculum, a five-page guide was enough direction for its small cadre of teachers.

Flash forward thirty years or so to the spread of AP classes to the masses and the problems the CB faces with teachers not fully prepared to teach them, perhaps not even capable of making a "3" on the test itself. Of course, through AP conferences and training many not-so-well educated teachers have become adept at challenging their students. However, recently the College Board decided that the younger teachers now taking over needed more guidance.

Hence, the genesis of the 142-page guide ,or "framework," provided to today's history teachers. The necessity for such a guide reflects the dumbing down of American high schools over the last thirty years. The America-bashing of the guide merely reflects the liberalism of today's educational establishment. The furor has occurred because they put it in writing. The College Board is surprised at the controversy because it doesn't know anyone who doesn't think the way it does.

Larry Grooms's op-ed in Tuesday's paper, a reasoned analysis of the fuss over the framework, bears reprinting:
There was a time when American exceptionalism was as much a part of a student's education as Jamestown, Manifest Destiny, and the Wright brothers. In his 1989 farewell speech, Ronald Reagan described America as a "shining city upon a hill... a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds ... a city that hummed with commerce and creativity."
The American experience is not this tidy. Our history includes plenty of mistakes, but we've overcome plenty, too. As Bill Clinton observed, there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.
This highly American ideology - the can-do spirit, the casting aside of differences when history demands - does not resonate with the historians who recently rewrote the College Board's Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. The College Board is a nonprofit that helps students prepare for college through programs such as the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program.
Claiming that the existing five-page guide prevents students from studying "the main events of U.S. history," the board's scholars poured out their collective genius, releasing a new 142-page curriculum they call a "framework." Their self-proclaimed landmark project presents a consistently negative view of America. It also reveals a left-wing, radically flawed reinterpretation of history.
The framework does not include questions about the Mayflower Compact, Thomas Jefferson, the Gettysburg Address or the Truman Doctrine. Neither are students asked about Dwight Eisenhower, Jonas Salk or Martin Luther King, Jr. The valor of our soldiers who ended Nazi oppression in World War II and the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust are omitted. Instead of focusing on resilient personalities and extraordinary achievements - the history most of us learned - the framework centers on controversy. Identity group grievances, conflict, exploitation, oppression, unresolved social movements - these are presented as our nation's foundation.
We do a great disservice when we gloss over these injustices. But while America's means haven't always been laudable, our ends most often are. As Churchill observed: "The United States invariably does the right thing - after exhausting every other alternative."
It is this uniquely American approach that the framework ignores. Students should be taught facts - triumphs and tragedies. Instead, the framework consistently focuses on all that was ever wrong with this, the most generous and progressive people in the history of mankind.
Now that commonsense folks are calling them out, the test's writers are falling all over themselves to defend their work. They say that teachers are free to discuss George Washington, the role of capitalism, the Holocaust and other topics that may be required by a particular state's standards. South Carolina's education officials also assure us that our state's standards will safeguard students from negative biases.
Both assurances ignore page 2 of the framework: "Beginning with the May 2015 AP U.S. History Exam, no AP U.S. History Exam questions will require students to know historical content that falls outside this concept outline." Teachers face the difficult, if not impossible, task of finding time to teach both the state standards and the framework. Why teach topics that are not on the test?
The College Board knows this. Its stated goal is to "train a generation of students" to become "apprentice historians." The hope is that these apprentices in turn inculcate another generation. This is the same strategy used to promote controversial Common Core state standards. It is no coincidence that David Coleman, chief architect of Common Core, is also president of the College Board.
In the same remarkably prescient speech, Reagan warned of such schemes, cautioning that "we've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important. ... If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."
Reagan concluded with a challenge to students: "... if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do."
These historians are not teaching what it means to be an American. They are teaching victimization and social politics.
It is time we call them out on it. That would be a very American thing to do.
Larry Grooms, a Republican, represents Berkeley and Charleston counties in the S.C. Senate.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Educrat Spearman Opposes School Choice Program for Special Needs

In 2011, MollySpearman in an op-ed in The State newspaper declared, “SC can’t afford fool’s gold
of private school subsidies.” In this editorial, she argued that private schools wouldn’t accept
students that the credits would help.

How's that working out for you, Molly?

Of course, Molly was a lobbyist for Democrat Inez Tenenbaum for a number of years. She claims she didn't vote for the former state superintendent, but she did contribute money to Tenenbaum's campaign. Could Spearman be a RINO? Nahh.

When the School Choice bill for special needs children passed the SC House for the first time in
2012, Spearman, while serving as the Director of the SC Association of School Administrators,
said “This isn’t going to do anything to improve our education in this state. At a time when we
can’t fulfil our state requirement for public schools, we’re diverting resources to places where
there is no accountability, where we aren’t sure the type of education students will

Looks like this year's race for state superintendent of education is between tweedle-dee-dum and tweedle-dee-dee.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Kovach Indictment Cramps CCSD's Style on Not-a-Penny Tax Extension

When the Charleston County School District last kicked off its Yes4Schools campaign in 2010, the initial press conference was held at Sanders-Clyde Elementary. What a difference a little fear can make!

This time the press conference's appearance in a vacant lot opposite Dunston Elementary School on Remount Road shed any perceived impropriety that the tax is being pushed by CCSD. The Chamber of Commerce spokesman carefully pointed out that "no school employees were at the campaign kickoff."

Crimping Nancy McGinley's style. Too bad.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Opportunity for "Critical Thinking" Missed by Hard-Line Educrat Darwinists

Perhaps retired Bishop Allison's measured letter can contribute to the debate over evolution versus intelligent design. Note the irony of the anecdote at the end.

Sep 30 2014 12:01 am
                                                            Not so random
Frank Wooten's Sept. 27 column on "Natural selection: Keep faith in science" is based on popular misunderstandings regarding issues of 100 years ago. The issue confronting us today is whether random chance can account for the created order or whether there is scientific evidence for intelligent design in nature.

Biologist Michael Behe has more recently shown that cilium, a microscopic hair-like organism that keeps foreign objects out of our lungs, is so irreducibly complex that it takes an act of credulity to believe it just happened by chance given the limited time of the planet's existence.

Of course, this does not prevent such credulity on the part of scientists already committed to a natural self-explanatory world.

But Wooten seems unaware of Behe, Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, all (and many more) credentialed scientists that, on the basis of science, perceive intelligent design in creation and not mere random chance.

Last year's "Mere Anglicanism" conference featured famous scientists who believe nature discloses more than random chance. (CDs of these addresses are available through the office of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina on Coming Street.)

Especially interesting and even delightful are the addresses by Dr. John C. Lennox, professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. Dr. Stephen Meyer related a telling anecdote:

A Chinese paleontologist was lecturing at the University of Washington on the astonishing findings in China from the pre-Cambrian era, turning Darwin's bottom-up assumptions to top-down developments.

One American asked if he were not uncomfortable speaking skeptically of Darwinism coming "as you do from an authoritarian country."

The Chinese scholar smiled and replied, "In China we can question Darwin, but not the government. In America you can question the government but not Darwin."

C. FitzSimons Allison
Retired Bishop, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Indigo Avenue