Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why It's Pointless to Write to the P & C

On Thu 08/31, Elsa McDowell <> wrote:
RE: Headlines
Thank you for your message. While technically "mosquitoes" and "mosquitos" are both acceptable spellings, AP Style calls for "mosquitoes" and a copy editor here should have caught the discrepancy.

As for the SAT headline, I respectfully disagree with you. To say "student scores perfectly" would indicate he is a scorekeeper who did his job just right. To say he scored "perfect" means he made no errors in taking the test. It's a bit like saying "he felt badly" when "he felt bad" is intended. If he felt bad, he was achey. If he felt badly, his sensory perception wasn't working well.Hope this helps!Elsa McDowell

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 12:52 PM
To: PublicEditor@postandcourier.comSubject:
RE: Headlines
Sorry, Elsa, but I respectfully disagree with that analysis of the phrase "scores perfect." You use the analogy of feels bad or badly, with which I am quite familiar. Try substituting the verb "to be" here. That is the rule for deciding whether or not you need bad or badly or perfect or perfectly. "Student is perfect" is not the same meaning, and "scores" in this context is not a linking verb. It is an action verb.

From: Elsa McDowell]
RE: Headlines
Thanks for your response. We'll just have to disagree on this one.

Let's look at the definitions of the verb to score:
v. scored, scor·ing, scores
1. To mark with lines or notches, especially for the purpose of keeping a record.
2. To cancel or eliminate by or as if by superimposing lines.
3. To mark the surface of (meat, for example) with usually parallel cuts.
4. Sports & Games
a. To gain (a point) in a game or contest.
b. To count or be worth as points: A basket scores two points.
c. To keep a written record of the score or events of (a game or contest).
d. Baseball To cause (a base runner) to cross home plate, especially by getting a hit: scored both runners with a double.
5. To achieve; win.
6. To evaluate and assign a grade to.
7. Music
a. To orchestrate.
b. To arrange for a specific instrument.
8. To criticize cuttingly; berate.
9. Slang
a. To succeed in acquiring: scored two tickets to the play.
b. To succeed in obtaining (an illicit drug): "Aging punks try to impress her with tales of . . . the different drugs they've scored" Art Jahnke.
1. Sports & Games
a. To make a point in a game or contest.
b. To keep the score of a game or contest.
2. Slang
a. To achieve a purpose or advantage, especially to make a surprising gain or coup: "They . . . score in places like the bond market" Mike Barnicle.
b. To succeed in seducing someone sexually.
c. To succeed in buying or obtaining an illicit drug.
[Middle English, from Old English scoru, twenty, from Old Norse skor; see sker-1 in Indo-European roots.]
You bet we disagree. One of us doesn't understand that adjectives modify nouns and pronouns.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Not Perfect on Headlines

To the Public Editor of the Newsless Courier:
Dear Elsa,

I tried to ignore "mosquitos" in a headline earlier this week, even though the first sentence of the article clearly spelled the word "mosquitoes" correctly. However, today's "Area student scores perfect on SAT" set my teeth on edge. Maybe the student's score was perfect, but the headline writer's wasn't.

FYI, either "Area student's scores perfect on SAT" or "Area student scores perfectly on SAT" would have been correct.

What is the possibility of getting someone who can spell (or can learn to use the spell check) and knows grammar to check the headlines before the paper goes to press?


Friday, August 25, 2006

Who's in Charge? Maria

Andrew HaLevi's op-ed piece in today's Newsless Courier makes interesting reading.
He believes one of the most important issues facing the Charleston County School District is the performance of its principals. No teacher would ever disagree with that. The principal sets the tone in a school and can make or break its progress towards improvement. And too many of them retire in place and/or are too timid to venture forth from their offices.

HaLevi's heart is in the right place, and he obviously has the best interests of students in mind. He brings up the topic in the context of school board races and their potential focus. However, he makes it sound as though school board members have control over principals. THEY DON'T. Oh, maybe they have a voice in hiring, but not in supervision, especially once a principal gains tenure.

THAT would be the superintendent's job. No wonder the performance of the superintendent is under scrutiny. What progress HAS been made in the performance of PRINCIPALS under her tenure? I'd sure like to hear the results.

Why do I think the Newsless Courier isn't going to take up this topic?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Carpool, Anyone?

n. also car pool
1. An arrangement whereby several participants or their children travel together in one vehicle, the participants sharing the costs and often taking turns as the driver.
2. A group, as of commuters or parents, participating in a carpool.
v. also car-pool car·pooled, car·pool·ing, car·pools
To travel in a carpool.
To transport by means of a carpool: carpool the children to school.

The Newsless Courier tried to suck me into another rant on the Charleston County School District and its superintendent with a front-page love-fest interview with Maria Goodloe-Johnson, but I refused the bait. No one with half a brain, reading the copy, would seriously consider the reporter to be OBJECTIVE.

Also, the Newsless Courier broke new ground in its obvious push for local acceptance of illegal aliens with a truly slanted look at illegals in Charleston County, hence the title of my previous blog.

I don't know. Should we take anything they cover seriously? There were so many egregious statements and flaws in coverage of that issue that response would require several pages and I'm busy right now.

School has finally begun in Charleston County, in case you have been living on another planet. This morning's idiocy (maybe I should call it "Idiocy of the Day") has finally forced me to take some time for response. It didn't occur in the Newsless Courier! It was on local oldie rock station 102.5, which, yes, I know is sanitized Clear Channel, but is a port of shelter in a dearth of horrible choices on the FM dial. The morning team, who shall remain nameless, not out of kindness but because I have never been interested enough in their chatter to learn their names, asked carpoolers to call in, ostensibly to get numbers assigned to each carpool for a later contest, or something like that.

Now, you would like to think that people who are driving kids to school in a car know what a carpool is. Well, they don't. Or at least the first three calls taken were from women driving children to school who don't know what a carpool is. Jack and Jill, or whatever their names are, apparently were too polite to tell them (or, horrible thought, don't know what a carpool is EITHER). The first three calls were from mothers driving THEIR OWN CHILDREN, and ONLY their own children, to school. And they were assigned numbers and congratulated as though they were actually carpooling! I'm sure other commuters on the Don Holt must have noticed the faces I was making at the radio. Not a good way to start the day.

Now you see why I worry about education!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

"A Smooth Legal Path Is Hard to Find"--Illegal Alien
Great quote, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

ACT Results: We Did It! Forty-ninth out of Fifty-one!

Try . You'll need to go there to find out what the state Superintendent knows full well but did not put into her press release. That would be the press release that was the basis for

"State scores improve, but national average still a tough ACT to follow," by Mindy B. Hagen and Diette Courrege, The Post and Courier, Wednesday, August 16, 2006, Local & State section, below the fold.

"Focus on the positive" must be the message from the editors to reporters, or "follow the superintendent's lead." Otherwise, why would I be forced to go to the ACT website to find out which state South Carolina ranked above in its wonderful accomplishment? You won't find it on the website of the state's department of education. To its credit, the Newsless Courier did report that SC was the 49th of the states. And reporters don't write the headlines.

Gee, I don't see why we shouldn't brag about it--we beat those dummies again! That is, the ones in the District of Columbia and Mississippi! Yes, 49th out of 51.

Now, I know that apologists will say that these results are so low because so many of our students take the ACT (that would be 39 % of graduates this year), but the fact is that in some states well ahead of the national average 90 to 100 % take it. And why did we beat Mississippi? It turns out 93 % took the ACT there. Does anyone really think that, if 93 % of OUR graduates had taken the test, we would have come out ahead of them?

Or, maybe some will say that our results are so low because so few of our students take the test. GET SERIOUS! The ones taking the ACT are not going to be at the bottom of the class! Students who score below expectations on the SAT are encouraged to take the ACT because it is more of a measure of what the student actually has learned, rather than aptitude.

Exactly. It would be nice if the Newsless Courier reporters would report ALL of the story. Well, if the editors would let them.

There's always hope.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

"Burke termed a last resort: Board questions open enrollment," by Diette Courrege, The Post and Courier, Tuesday, August 15, 2006, Local and State front page.

[Should have been front-page news: "County high schools caught using Burke as dumping ground for troublemakers."]

As I follow the doings of CCSD, sometimes I feel as though I've fallen down the rabbit hole with Alice. The latest expose, courtesy of constituent school board 20 (that's downtown), is one of those times. Yesterday's school board meeting (which appparently wasn't as important as the Newsless Courier's front-page news on the A-Team and its finances) was a shocker--at least to me and, I expect, to most people who do not have connections with the "in" crowd.

It seems that about five years ago, the school district "opened" admissions to anyone in the county, not just downtown residents, so, according to the chief academic officer, "high-achieving" students could transfer in.

Man, there must be a lot of gullible people in Charleston County!

Well, no, actually, just some who made a pretense of academics as the reason for the "open" admissions. After all, only students who were about to be expelled from other high schools knew about this policy. Gee, I wonder how they found out. Like, the guidance counselor (or school police liaison) said to them, "Go to Burke" and you won't be expelled for ... oh, drug-dealing, pot-smoking in the johns, fighting in the cafeteria, you name it. In fact, Burke has been used as a dumping ground for students unwanted by other schools, an "open admissions" alternative school, if you will.

Would any high-achieving student (and/or his or her parents) in his right mind transfer to Burke? We all know the answer to that. And so did the people who thought up this pretense.

With reasonable certainty, I can state that, whoever came up with this scenario guaranteed to encourage all gang members, druggies, and others who belonged in alternative settings to transfer into a school already on its last legs, did not have any children (or friends that had children) at Burke High School.

How dare the constituent board 20 complain! And no one admits to knowing how many non-residents have enrolled at Burke or even whether anyone looked at transcripts and records before they did!

Obviously, I don't need to worry about running out of material to write about. YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. WHO WOULD BELIEVE IT?

Then, as an afterthought it seems, the reporter mentioned a three-year contract of $430,000 awarded to the "executive director of the district's building program." SAY WHAT? That's over $100,000 per year, a nice chunk of change.

For what? Doesn't say. [Editors: where are you?] Aren't you as taxpayer even mildly curious?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

At Least It's on the Editorial Page This Time

"School board candidates should stand on their own," lead editorial, The Post and Courier, Sunday, August 13, 2006.
Showing its true colors, the editorial staff of the Newsless Courier blatantly revealed today that it would like to be in a blue state, or shall we say, a Democratic one. Under the guise of showing how a "slate" of candidates is unfair to the voters, they shot their second (or third depending on how you count it) salvo at the "A-Team" running for Charleston County School Board.

We are a loooong way from the days when the local paper was the FIRST in the nation to endorse Barry Goldwater for President. Then, believe it or not, most voters in the Low Country were Democrats. Unfortunately, many, if not most, Low Country residents (now Republican) still think of it in those terms, and the staff, nurturing that illusion, is careful not to go overboard in endorsing Democrats. Of course, nurturing Democrats is much easier when the election is non-partisan and candidates can hide their liberal opinions behind that label! Thus, the staff feels free to take aim at the "Republican" slate for the non-partisan school board elections.

Apart from being confused (the writer gives the impression that a bill can never become law in South Carolina unless the governor signs it), the editorial makes some rather duplicitious assumptions.

  1. "This is a non-partisan election. Candidates for the board should stand on their own." Why? No rule exists that prohibits candidates running as a team, nor does the editorial suggest one. In fact, that it is non-partisan has nothing to do with running as teams (on a legal basis, that is).
  2. "The measure [to make the races partisan] passed the Legislature three years ago over the objection of groups such as the League of Women Voters ...." Wow! If they object, we know it must be bad [not]. I don't think they're complete idiots at the Newsless Courier; they know that the LWV has been a lackey of the Democratic party for DECADES.
  3. "[passed] without the signature of the governor." My previous point ... if not vetoed, and the legislature adjourns, it will become law. See, the Newsless Courier subtlely intimates that the governor [Sanford] did not approve. SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE.
  4. "... the U.S. Justice Department ... contend[ed] that partisan elections would make it more difficult for minorities to be elected to the board" and thus "thwarted" efforts at partisan races for Charleston County. Well, yes, because the bill set up races in exactly the same fashion that was struck down by the federal courts regarding partisan races for Charleston County Council, where now candidates run in partisan races from DISTRICTS.

The solution to this nonsense is so obvious that, of course, the editorial does not mention it. The editorial also does not mention that in FOUR counties in South Carolina today, school board races are PARTISAN, yes, PARTISAN. Didn't know that, did you? One of them is nearby Georgetown County. The editors don't want you to think about why it's okay there and not here.

You see, the CCSD already has eight constituent districts. Obviously, the Feds would have no problem with partisan school board races in DISTRICTS; that's what they approved for the County Council, which serves the same population!

Truly laughable is the conclusion of the ACLU in this matter (yes, the editors of the Newsless Courier wholeheartedly agree with the ACLU--check for yourself). THEY concluded that implementation of the legislation for partisan school board members in Charleston County would "insure white control of the school board."

As opposed to the black control we have now??? With ONE black school board member out of NINE? No, what the ACLU was worried about was that Democrats would lose control of the school board if they had to identify their true colors.

I'd like to see a school board election in 2006 where every candidate, running as a non-partisan, is forced to identify his or her political party. Then voters would at least have an inkling of what they're getting.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Biased Coverage? Surely Not the P & C!

Front page news: a non-story--"'A-Team' fundraising methods questioned," by Diette Courrege and Schuyler Knopf, The Post and Courier, Saturday, August 12, 2006.

Reporters Courrege and Knopf cannot be blamed for this one. They do not write the headlines, and they do not decide what goes on the front page. No, bias here clearly exclusively lies with the EDITORS of the Newsless Courier.

The headline SHOULD read, "Democratic activist questions 'A-Team' fundraising," because that's what the story is about. Wow! Front page news! A Democrat attacking Republicans! Will wonders never cease!

Herbert Hayden, the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, in response to a query by a local Democratic activist, Charleston civil-rights attorney Peter Wilborn, will do his job looking into the accusation that the Republican-backed slate of Charleston County school board candidates is illegally soliciting funds. Of course, the part about the "Democratic activist" did not make it onto the front page with the accusatory headline. What a surprise!

Even Hayden is quoted as saying, "'I don't think there's been any attempt to circumvent the law or receive anything that they shouldn't be receiving.'" Non-story. Belongs in Local & State section.

What is going on here is what has been going on at the Newsless Courier for years. Non-partisan school board elections are a joke, as I said before. Democrats do not have to declare themselves as such. When candidates DO reveal party affiliation, Republicans in most of Charleston's constituent districts have the edge. HORRORS! [at least from the EDITORS' viewpoint]
We can't let THAT happen--someone might upset the status-quo!

Thus a blatant attack. Even if a similar article appears on the front page clearing the 'A-Team,' the damage has been done.

Why do I think those who make editorial policy for the paper have no affiliations with Burke High School, Brentwood Middle School, et al? Their children most likely go (and went) to Buist Academy, local private schools, boarding schools, and/or the best schools in the county.

What do they care about those who must send their children to failing schools?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Appropriate Headline: "A Band-Aid over Melanoma"

"State board leaves Burke in school district's hands," by Diette Courrege AND "Trouble on 'A-Team': Engelman departs," by Schuyler Kropf, The Post and Courier, Thursday, August 10, 2006, front page, above the fold.

It's hard to say which of these stories dealing with the future of public education in Charleston County is more disheartening.

  1. Is it worse that Joe Riley, after being mayor of Charleston for 30 years, during which time Burke High School has gone from a poor high school to an abysmal one, has the temerity to suggest NOW that he will make it a "renowned national model for excellence" so that it will not be taken over by the state? or
  2. Is it worse that the self-named "A-Team" running for the CCSD school board promising true reform turns out to be headed by "good ol' boy" Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who somehow believes that making millions mixing real estate and politics and having his name on a bridge gives him the right to be the new school board chairman?

It's a close call, but I have to go with # 2. After all, in the case of Burke, we have a DEMOCRATIC mayor putting on a good show for a DEMOCRATIC state supertintendent. If you believe politics wasn't a factor, well, you must have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday! But more importantly, the status quo will be changed ONLY by a change of personnel on the CCSD school board and in the state superintendent's office. Certainly not by Joe Riley, who has no control over what goes on in the school district!

AND, politics was also the factor for the "A-Team," the "Republican" slate in this non-partisan election. "Non-partisan" is a joke, and all those involved know it. It's "pig-in-a-poke" voting. This expression refers to buying a bag supposedly holding a valuable pig while trusting that the unseen pig actually exists. When the sucker opens the bag, it turns out to hold ... a worthless[substitute some worthless animal here].

For those of you not familiar with South Carolina before it elected its first Republican governor in a century, it used to be that all white folk were Democrats, Southern ones that is [think of Dixiecrats], with only a few "Post-Office Republicans" (liberal) hanging on by their fingernails. That's when Arthur Ravenel, Jr. was a Democrat. Now, the large majority of whites in South Carolina have moved into the Republican Party with the rest of the conservatives in the country. In fact, for most offices in the state, you must now be a Republican to get elected, and thus Arthur Ravenel, Jr. is a Republican. But, he's still a good ol' boy who believes that Charleston should be run by the same small group of old Charlestonians and their hangers on. That belief is the true cause for the public disagreement between him and Sandi Engelman.

Is there any way to fix the train wreck? Not this year. Talk about counting your chickens before they're hatched--arguing about who's going to be board chairman even before running, much less before being elected?

Whence my quote, "a Band-Aid over melanoma"? That's from the only sensible member of the state school board (one out of 12!), Ron Wilson, in regard to the district's presentation of how it will fix the Burke problem, "smoke and mirrors," he rightly names it. Apparently he CARED that Marvin Stewart, chairman of the downtown constituent school board, presented a "unanimous vote of no confidence in Charleston administrators." Why should anyone pay attention to them? They only live in the district and send their children to Burke!

By the way, if you are wondering who these state school board members are, apparently four of the 17 did not vote. Were Terrye Seckinger (Isle of Palms), Kristin Maguire (Sanford's appointee), Patsy Pye (Summerville), and Joe Isaac (Pawleys Island) voting "Yes"? Or were they too timid to be there?

If so, let's hold these lackeys of the state superintendent responsible! They're appointed by your legislative delegation. You can email them at .

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Oh, No! Not in South Carolina Too!

I first encountered this insanity in Texas. In order to con parents into thinking how well its students "earned" scholarship money, the private school solicited from each graduating senior the amount of scholarship aid from each college or university applied to, added them all together, and multiplied by four (for the four years of college). Amounts for all students were compiled and the total released to show how much monetary value parents received in return for paying four years of high school tuition.

Then I came back to Charleston to find that school guidance departments are insane here also (they would have been laughed around the block in New Jersey!). Now today's headline:

"Class of '06 proved very scholarly," by Diette Courrege, The Post and Courier, Lowcountry and State section, Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Scholarly about what? SAT scores? NO. Graduation rates? Heavens, no. It seems that, according to a release from state Superintendent Tenenbaum, this year's seniors "won" more funds than any previous class. The State Superintendent's office encourages this nonsense by keeping a running total of scholarship money on a five-year basis!
Now, if you have been suckered into believing that this total represents intelligent accounting practices, let me enlighten you. Here are the factors that make that total a joke:

  1. The more schools the student applies to, the higher his or her total; thus, Jimmy Joe, who applies to 12 schools, contributes 48 times his actual financial need, whereas Peggy Sue, who applies early decision to one school, contributes 4 times her financial need.
  2. Notice I said "financial need" not "scholarship total." A FEW scholarships are not based on need, it is true; however, most of what goes into the school's (or state's) total is based on need. That brings us to
  3. The higher the total amount, the more financially-needy the students. Got that? Thus, if all students applying to college were below the poverty level and all managed to apply to 30 schools each, the "scholarship" total would SKYROCKET! We sure would want to brag about that!
  4. Finally, unless the state is losing population [not] or graduating fewer students total [not], the NUMBER of students reporting scholarship aid automatically increases each year, whether they are more "scholarly" or not.

My proof?

  1. According to the reporter, "the state counts the value of scholarships awarded as opposed to those accepted." Exactly.
  2. "It appears that no organization tracks the state-by-state totals for public and private scholarships awarded." Did the reporter ever wonder WHY? They seem to track everything else. But then, why track nonsense?
  3. After it "improved" the way it "counted and reported" scholarship winners, Woodland High School TRIPLED the dollar amount from last year. Let's see: last year's $341,013 times 4 = about $1.4 million, roughly comparable to the $1.3 million reported this year. The report doesn't mention what the "improvement" was, but it seems fairly obvious to me! I bet they hadn't been told to multiply by 4 (years of college)!
  4. Notice, the principal at Woodland said, "more students applied for money," not scholarships. That's financial aid being added into the total.

I could go on, but I've made my point. The Newsless Courier needs to employ more critical thinking to the handouts from the state superintendent's office. This is the second time since I started blogging that Tenenbaum's nonsense has been taken at face value.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It's 1958 at the National Governors Conference!

"No easy fixes for states: Education," by Diette Courrege, front page of The Post and Courier, Monday, August 7, 2006.

Yes, it is true that when the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik (I heard about it at a friend's house in West Oak Forest when the story broke), a vociferous hue and cry emerged to get students into science. And a generation of astrophysicists (none from the Charleston public schools that I know of) emerged (although many through necessity have now transferred to other scientific fields), but to suggest that America's inability to "attract and graduate students in science" constitutes a new phenomenon is just plain wrong. And, poor preparation in math and science at the high school level has always been the cause!

The Newsless Courier's take on a Sunday session at the National Governors Association meeting might as well have been printed for the 50th meeting in 1958 as for the 98th this weekend! Who knows, maybe a bit of digging would show that the same comments and solutions recommended in 1958 have been re-proposed in 2006.

The reporter states that "[it's] a complex problem," probably mirroring the comments of the attendees. The complexity comes from how schools are controlled. States now (and have always) determined their own standards. That's a minimum of 50 sets of standards. "Think tanks and foundations" can propose national academic standards until the cows come home, or the next "Sputnik" appears, but as long as students are captive to attending the nearest public school that is captive to nonpartisan school boards and liberal state bureaucracies, standards, regardless of how high they are set, will make no difference.

Here's the statement that set my teeth to grinding:
"South Carolina has gotten a bad rap for achievement, but education officials point to studies that show that the Palmetto State's academic standards are higher than those in some other states."

Please don't insult our intelligence! Nameless "education officials"? Such as our State Superintendent, who apparently to this day still believes that Wisconsin high school graduates need only 13 credits versus South Carolina's 22?

If South Carolina's academic standards are higher than any state that you know of, I'd like to know it so that I can send that state a condolence letter.

Disillusioned Again: Dorchester 2 No Better than CCSD in Planning

"Fort Dorchester Elementary grapples with massive growth: School has doubled in size, to 1,500 in span of 4 years," by Mindy B. Hagen, front page of The Post and Courier, Monday, August 7, 2006

It turns out that CCSD isn't the only school district that needs to return for a brush-up in Planning 101.

Rows of "trailers" stretch neatly away into the distance, just like a prison, on Monday's front page. There are 28. Twenty-eight classrooms. Classrooms that stand alone, have virtually no windows (I hope none of the students or teachers suffers from claustrophobia), and separate all third- and fourth-graders from the main school building. Even if the students had windows, they would look upon the walls of another of these small prisons. Some are clearly far enough away to be in Outer Slobbovia, so lack of contact with the outside world is probably just as well. Imagine YOUR third-grader trekking from the farthest "learning cottage" (don't you love the jargon?) to the school's library (oops, sorry, I mean media center) in the rain, heat, or cold.

Perhaps this scene could be excused if the school itself (Fort Dorchester Elementary) was OLD. According to the reporter, it is: "the school has expanded by staggering proportions since those early days in a different era [italics mine]--the time before rapid growth found its way to Dorchester Road's subdivisions."

The different era? We must be speaking of the 1960s? the 1970s? the 1980s? Could it be the 1990s?

Would you believe that this dangerously overcrowed school, twice the size recommended for best dealing with students this age, WAS COMPLETED IN 2002?

Any of us can understand the difficult process that a school district must endure to finance and produce a new school. That said, apparently no one could foresee in 2000-01 that in 2006 a school TWICE the size of this one would be needed, that it was necessary either to increase the size of this one or to build two schools.

Perhaps they consulted the same people who built Wando High School, completed in 2004 and now adding three "learning cottages." Everyone could see that Mt. Pleasant wasn't growing very rapidly, right? Ditto Dorchester Road.

Did the reporter question the district's planning "issues"? We'll never know.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Law of Unintended Consequences: NCBTs

"Summit to address where top teachers would be best used" by Diette Courrege, in the Lowcountry & State section.

This report in the Newsless Courier this morning set me to thinking about the policy of South Carolina in regard to paying bonuses to teachers who gain National Board Certification. The article concerns a meeting in Columbia sponsored by the NEA (that's National Education Association), bringing together SC National Board Certified teachers to discuss "the best ways to get more accomplished teachers into schools struggling with high teacher turnover and poor student achievement."
South Carolina's policy provides yet another example of the law of unintended consequences--that is, a policy that attempts to engineer one outcome but results in another. Hoping to improve schools overall, the state legislature is now unwittingly moving state resources out of low-performing into high-performing schools. To put that another way, them that has, gets.

How so? Let's start with the following questions:

  1. What IS NBC (apart from well-known broadcasting network)? A certification process about 20 years old that addresses the perhaps less-than-stellar outcomes for potential teachers graduating from our nation's (and, yes, our state's) schools of education. It requires two years of substantial effort to complete the required portfolio and complete the vetting process. One has to wonder why this two-year effort should not be part of getting certified in the first place, but, oh well.
  2. What would entice hard-working, underpaid teachers to complete this time-consuming process? Clearly, several years ago the South Carolina State Assembly asked this very question, having decided that NBCT's would improve SCs abysmal educational standards, not an unreasonable opinion. The answer it proposed and passed, at least for today's teachers, is $7,500 per year over a period of ten years (that's $75,000 for those of you who need a calculator to multiply) PLUS loans to pay for the process that are forgiven when the candidate completes the process favorably.
  3. Why does South Carolina rank third in the nation in NBCTs when it ranks fifty-first in graduation rates? Did you read the answer to # 2? For younger teachers, especially, $7500 per year means a rise in yearly income by 30 percent or more! Who wouldn't go for that?
  4. So, how is the consequence "unintended"? That's easy. Where do these NBCTs teach? Did the State Assembly attach any strings to its program of rewards for hard work? NO. Most of these teachers continued to work at the school from which they came if the school was a good environment to teach in, and those who now had a "ticket" out of bad environments bailed to good ones. Who could blame them? That means that state resources are moving from"high-needs" schools (I'm using the latest jargon here) and sent to high-performing schools once again, thanks to this brilliant strategy that probably originated with our state department of education.
  5. Why don't we get a breakdown of NCBTs by school? It would be too embarrassing for CCSD to publish. I mean, what if it shows that 50 percent of Wando High School's faculty is board-certified compared to one percent of Burke's? (I'm making these figures up, of course, although they might be not far from the truth.)
  6. Why does the NEA's associate director of teacher quality think that "strings" requiring NBCTs to teach in "high-needs" schools are '''stupid policies'"? Umm, pandering to her constituency, perhaps? Carmon says that what Georgia did on this very question--"tying the supplement ... to a requirement to teach in high-needs schools" won't work. SHE says "money is not the trigger" to get good teachers into those schools. Really? What's her evidence?
  7. Why do a few NBCTs remain in the poor schools they were teaching in before? Actually, those are the saints, such as Barbara Hairfield, who was the ONLY NCBT at Alice Birney Middle School (maybe my statistics aren't off so much in # 5 above after all!) and is now (God bless her!) at Brentwood Middle School, which probably is the most difficult school for teachers in CCSD.
  8. And, the $64 question: Why is the NEA holding these "summits" (six counting South Carolina's) now? Ms. Carmon tips the careful reader off to that one! It seems that Georgia has just changed its policy in order to get more NBCTs into "high-needs" schools--in fact, every teacher certified after July 2006 must teach in one of these schools in order to get the 10 per cent salary supplement. The handwriting is on the wall.
  9. That's right--South Carolina is soooo much wealthier than Georgia that each NBCT gets $7500 regardless of salary. In order for a teacher in Georgia to get that much she would need a base salary of $75,000! Not too many of those, I suspect.
  10. Can we use some common sense here? The local school districts need to plan to encourage teams of NBCTs to teach and mentor at low-performing schools.

We don't need a summit to figure that one out! CCSD, that's PLANNING ...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Buist Again & Update on Illegal Alien # 1

BUIST: The Newsless Courier continues to ignore the Buist kindergarteners fiasco, and indeed it is one.

Aside from not reporting what has happened at constituent board 20 meetings, it also has not reported that three of the students supposedly coming from districts with "low-performing" schools are NOT. That is, for the 10 slots reserved for students from low-performing schools, 30 percent are fakers.

Isn't this a great story?

  • First, the list of those residing in the district is faked;
  • Now the list of those from low-performing schools is faked.
  • Next I suppose we will learn that the students on the county-wide list are not living in the county.
  • Maybe the children on the list of siblings of present students includes students who are cousins and not siblings?

HELLO! The lists are a joke, and the Newsless Courier decides this is a non-event. Perhaps Mr. Big works for the paper?

And, how you ask, do I know these facts? Believe it or not, the local TV news is covering the story. Wonders will never cease!

ILLEGAL ALIEN #1: More "facts" come to light

  1. The mysterious purple van supposedly driven by the victim (obviously he wasn't driving it THIS time) has been located parked at a "local migrant labor camp," presumably on Wadmalaw Island.
  2. Mr. Ortiz has been identified as a "native" of Guatemala. Actually, today's article identified "the man" as a Guatemalan, not using the name Ortiz.
  3. Sheriff's deputies are searching the van.

Ask yourself, where would you begin here? The van? Whose is it? Did it have plates? Fingerprints? What do you do? Start with the FBI & then send them to every Central & South American country? Interviews? I hope the deputies are fluent in Spanish. Oh, yes. I'm sure the illegal aliens will be happy to talk to them! Has there been an autopsy? What are the results?

We can hope that the Charleston County Sheriff's Office is doing more than going through the motions. No death is a throw-away.