Sunday, June 04, 2006

It's All About the Local Paper

Welcome to the Newsless Courier! My inspiration arises from "The South's Oldest Daily Newspaper," now a combination of the Charleston Evening Post and its better half, the News and Courier. The editors of the latter should be whirling in their graves over what passes for a standard of reporting in 2006.

"They Called It the ParaPro."

"Hope pays off for educator; 54 others might lose jobs" by Diette Courrege, published below the fold on Thursday, June 1, 2006

Sounds ominous, doesn't it? The eponymous "they" strikes again.

Never fear, however; a quick Google turns up the well-known name of Educational Testing Service (ETS for short) as the source for this standardized test.

THE GIST: A "teacher assistant" since the early 1980s at Stono Park Elementary took and passed ParaPro after her husband's death of lingering illness. The Charleston County School District (CCSD) had provided review classes "to help people prepare"; she took the classes, reviewed, and passed. But 54 other teacher assistants may be laid off because they have not yet met the "federal requirement."


  1. What "federal mandate" is this? Surely this is an appropriate question under the circumstances! And, while we're at it, when was it mandated? This year? Last year? Two years ago? Three? Could this mandate be the fruit of the No Child Left Behind Act?
  2. How many teacher assistants (TAs) are employed by CCSD? It should matter greatly if the answer is 55 or 550. So, of those who took ParaPro, what PERCENTAGE passed?
  3. What does the test "test"? That is, does it test for skills that are essential in a TA? Which brings us to unanswered question No. 4 (see below).
  4. What grades do they assist? What are their duties? So, elementary schools use teacher assistants. What about middle and high schools? What do these TAs do? Okay, so I checked the ParaPro website for information regarding test content. ParaPro tests basic skills in reading,writing, mathematics, and questioning. Sounds appropriate to me.
  5. What percentage of CCSD TAs were required to take the test? Aha, another detail I learned from the ParaPro website that should have been in the article: those having an associate's degree or higher are not required to test. Hmm.
  6. How many TAs took the test and failed to meet its standards? Those would be the same standards required of TAs in, say, North Dakota, California, or Vermont. Yes, national standards. So, what has been the experience in Greenville or Irmo?
  7. Why is the number of CCSD unqualified TAs so much higher than in Berkeley (17) and Dorchester District 2 (1)? Now you can see why knowing how many TAs in total makes a difference. Does DD2 employ more than one TA? Do the rest have associate or bachelor's degrees? Did they take and pass the test? It's a mystery not answered here.
  8. What is "passing" on the test? Just curious. How far below passing were the scores?
  9. How long have TAs known that they needed to qualify on the test? An important detail. Did CCSD just tell them this year? Last September? How many chances have they had to pass?
  10. Why would CCSD employ 54 TAs who could not qualify on the test? Now, that really opens a can of worms (see below)
  11. What level of education had the featured TA completed? Certainly relevant to the article's emphasis on her fears. "She hadn't studied some of the information (italics added) since high school." Did she graduate? What kind of information?
  12. What are the educational requirements to become a TA in CCSD in 2006? Good question. I'll check its website to see if I can find out.
  13. How do those requirements differ from those of 30 years ago? Have they changed? Maybe not.
  14. What will CCSD do for those who have been satisfactorily employed as teacher assistants for 10 years or more who did not pass the test? According to the article, they will be laid off, one with "25 years of experience" and "three years shy of retirement." I encourage that individual to sue for age discrimination. If his/her work has been satisfactory for CCSD but does not now meet FEDERAL standards, CCSD should be obligated to offer employment in another capacity.

As Paul Harvey would say, "And now, the REST of the story..."

The can of worms: If salaries are so low for so many years and positions are filled for so many years on a "whom-do-you-know" basis, is it any wonder that TAs cannot meet federal minimums? If academic standards in the classroom are so low because of overwhelming discipline problems, is it any wonder that more qualified TAs are not employed? These are rhetorical questions, of course.

1 comment:

Babbie said...

this is a great post.