Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dear Anonymous #1

Dear Anonymous #1,
I spoke to your boss today. . . Like that?

[Those of you who are mystified, check out the comments on my previous post regarding Buist.]

Anon#1 wants to reveal who I am to my "bosses at Wando" in retaliation for my somewhat sarcastic remarks on the lack of information in the Newsless Courier prior to Tuesday's lottery drawing. As Anon#1 puts it, "I'll save that little 'exclusive' for another day." He/she doesn't even like my cute little third-grade picture from Mount Pleasant Academy!

Now, if I were a teacher at Wando, that would be a threat concerning my job security. Teachers aren't supposed to voice opinions, especially opinions that oppose those of the school district. My colleagues might begin to shun me; my evaluations might become nit-picking; my principal might call me in to "ask" that I not cause dissention; if I were a relatively new hire, I might not get a contract for the following year. My teaching career might become, well, downright unpleasant. In fact, it might be over. All of this might be, of course, if I were a teacher at Wando.

If anyone has ever wondered why more teachers don't blog about their experiences, both good and bad, with school districts, I think he or she has the answer!

Well, it didn't work this time. More later on Buist and lottery oversight.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Buist Vacancies: Run That by Me Again...

Question # 1: Why do the Newsless Courier's stories on Buist Academy always raise more questions than they answer?
Case in point: "Buist Admission Policy Still Under Fire from Parents." See for particulars.

The Charleston County School Board recently "organized" the "Buist Academy Task Force" to address concerns [i.e., complaints] of downtown residents. Question # 2: Organized? As in "appointed" surely? [I'm always open to new meanings for words.]

Question #3: Do those on the Task Force have names and affiliations? Apparently not, since none are mentioned in the article.

The Task Force can't "reach consensus on any issue"? Question #4: And those issues have been what? Too scary to mention, I guess.

The "lottery drawing" will take place in a bigger room to accomodate those appointed to have "some oversight" to "boost confidence" in the process.


Pam Kusmider, the observer from the District 20 constituent board, is quoted as saying that trust in the "process" is lacking "in part because it's done through a COMPUTER PROGRAM"?

So, Question #5: what will the observers watch, a computer screen?

Since when are "drawings" done by computers? Doesn't the word "drawing" conjure up a large container filled with, say, plastic balls, and someone's hand reaching in to get one? Or, how about what we see on TV with the SC Education Lottery--you know, numbered balls that get sucked into tubes?

I admit to being gullible when I was younger. Maybe that's why I'm so skeptical now, but who provides the "computer program"? ARE we talking about lottery software? If the results appear strange, will the observers say, "The computer did it"?

Sorry, I lost track of how many questions I had, they were coming so thick and fast!

When you think that officials have not been forthcoming on an issue as concrete as where a student actually lives, can you imagine the finagling on testing of potential kindergarteners? I don't even want to.

Most mysterious of all are the 11 vacancies in the school's seventh and eighth grades. Say what? Doesn't Buist have long waiting lists for all its grades? No denial here either.

Now, I want to get this next part straight. Buist's principal has known since last August that 11 vacancies existed, "since the beginning of the school year," as the article states, but she hasn't "been able to find anybody who wants to enter the school in the middle of the year [italics mine]." [Note to editor: Why don't you question discrepancies like this one?]

Her "process" doesn't "often" get her "to the end of the waiting lists." Process? "the process she uses"? The only "process" that makes sense to me is her starting at the top of the list with 1; then going to 2; to 3; etc. Maybe her process doesn't begin until the middle of the year? Who knows?

As long as address verification, lottery selection, testing procedures, and results are the sole responsibility of the principal at Buist, with no oversight from disinterested parties, rumors and anecdotes concerning the abuse of selection processes for this outstanding school will not go away. If the Charleston County School Board really wanted to fix the problem, it could.

As a saavy politician once remarked, "Trust but verify."

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Saga of Grade Inflation and the LIFE Scholarship

Today's Newsless Courier (aka The Post and Courier) provides yet another clue that our entire nation has become Lake Wobegone--"where every child is above average." This gem of information is contained in AP article about a federal study comparing results of NAEP math and science testing with the same students' transcripts for 2005 graduates. The overall average for high school graduates has risen to a B.

The AVERAGE is B--get it?
So A, which USED to mean "excellent," is the only "above average" grade left? And C, which USED to mean "average," now means "below average."

It gets worse, though. While the grade-point average has risen to B, actual knowledge, as assessed by testing, has dropped.

Let that sink in for a moment. . . .

We can fudge around on this as much as we like, but the reality is that grades are rising and knowledge is dropping.

Well, it makes sense to a teacher. The harder a student must work and study to get that A (or B), the more the student has learned. You think?

Now, look what has happened to the Life Scholarship here in SC. I'm sure when the State Legislature made one of the criteria a 3.0 GPA [the others being a SAT minimum of 1100 and top third of class] it had no IDEA that would qualify the AVERAGE high school graduate. Now, it turns out that so many students qualify that the program has become a victim of its own success. The latest proposal is to change that criterion to a GPA of 3.25!

[Notice they're not proposing raising the SAT score!]

Ask yourself, how many average SC high school graduates with SAT scores below 1100 receive the LIFE scholarship based on their "above-average" B in high school and then go on to lose the money because they are unable to maintain a B in college? Is that a good picture?

And the pressure is on teachers to provide many of those B's [don't grade too hard!] so that middle-class students can get their LIFE scholarships.

The statistics show it: administrators like Inez Tennenbaum and Maria Goodloe-Johnson can fuss all they want over standardized testing, but it's the only measure that keeps them honest. Not grades.

Oh, and if you think that 11oo seems like a stretch, keep in mind 1100 is only slightly "above average" and doesn't begin to measure the ability it did 10, 15, or 30 years ago, after its multiple downward recenterings.

The average SC high school graduate has a B average and an SAT score WELL BELOW 1100.

What does that tell you?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Valentine's Day: Charleston Versus Brooklyn


Monday, February 19, 2007

Power Grab: Get Rid of Those Troublemakers!

The Charleston County School Board and its Superintendent must be mighty pleased with themselves these days. The most vocal non-obsequious members have gone. The thoughts of new members are generally unvoiced, except for those of Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who seems to be reveling in his role as good ol' boy instead of focusing his mind on the issues.

Time to consolidate power!

To the point, under the guise of wanting more efficient methods of hiring principals and teachers, they have proposed (1) getting rid of constituent school boards; or (2) appointing instead of electing their members (!!!)--as if that isn't a dead giveaway as to the real purpose of the charade.

Those of us unwilling to ask "how high" when told to jump see this issue just a bit differently.

I wasn't in Charleston when the consolidated district was set up with constituent boards, so maybe someone who was can set me straight. They appear to have been set up to give local communities a voice in the large and somewhat unwieldy district that was formed in response to desegregation. These communities no longer need a voice? Why is that? Because we're all one, big, happy family now?

No. The Superintendent wants to get rid of some very vocal critics, especially those on the District 20 constituent school board downtown.

Look what Marvin Stewart has done: in the last year he has managed to make enough noise to get Buist Academy's fake-address issues on the national TV news. How embarrassing! He has forced CCSD into addressing the fake-address issue, albeit with penalties whose teeth aren't very sharp [see my post about "Habitual Liars' Business Fees" of January 25]. Who invited him to the party?

While they're at it, they can get rid of the authority behind voices in North Charleston and Mount Pleasant that are asking why CCSD can't be broken up into smaller, more manageable districts.

Stewart's response to this naked grab for power? He says that CCSD should be abolished and the constituent boards should take over their own districts.

I like your style, Marvin!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

We Still Have Tennenbaum to Amuse Us

Saturday's Newsless Courier provided yet another chuckle for those of us who are underimpressed with the sayings of former State Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum. Apparently Berkeley County invited her to speak to their educators (at a "district staff development workshop").

After congratulating South Carolina on its showing ("approaching" average) on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), Tennenbaum pouted that "critics only harp on [italics mine] the state's low SAT scores and abysmal graduation rate."

"Harp on": "To talk or write about to an excessive and tedious degree; dwell on."
[definition courtesy of the online]

Let's see--what would be more important to the futures of South Carolina's students--
Their NAEP scores or their SAT scores? Their NAEP scores or graduation from high school?


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Out of Africa: Corruption and Hope

A Nigerian scam-artist brings down a small-town treasurer in the Midwest and the fate of the Anglican communion lies in the hands of seven African bishops, the most outspoken being from Nigeria.
Think globalization doesn't affect all of us?
Oh, and there are 10 times as many Anglicans in Africa as there are Episcopalians in the United States. Times do change.
Missionary-doctor David Livingstone would smile at the thought of Nigerians keeping the English on the straight and narrow. Me too.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Update on Wando Football Players

Passing practically unnoticed in today's Newsless Courier is the announcement that during the month of January all of the Wando students who were arrested in last September's robberies, including the seven football players, were indicted by the grand jury.

According to the report, not one of them is still at Wando.

So, my question is, where are they? What are they doing, aside from awaiting trial, as their classmates are receiving their college acceptances and football signings?

Such stupid behavior. Such a sad story.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Who Is Related to Whom--Ware Shoals Version

When I wrote several posts ago about knowing who is related to whom and politics in the South, I was contemplating state and local politicians. Little did I realize when I first wrote about the scandal at Ware Shoals High School that it was a microcosm of my point. This time, however, knowing who's who on the local scene (2,300 people in Ware Shoals) seems to have worked against common sense.

When an article appeared recently in the Newsless Courier about the punishment of the guardsmen involved, out of curiosity I did my bit of Googling to find out what had happened to the civilians--that is, the cheerleading coach/guidance department clerk (Moore)and the school's principal (Blackwell). Moore has resigned her position. Blackwell has been arrested and charged with obstruction of justice by the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office and is suspended from her duties as principal until that issue is settled. So far, so good. That's when I found
the Rest of the Story (apologies to Paul Harvey).

  1. Accusations regarding the cheerleading coach and misconduct (concerning an entirely different incident) were actually reported to the local police chief LAST SPRING. The gist concerned her relationship with a 16-year-old male student.

  2. Presumably Ware Shoals's police chief investigated the accusations, although it's unclear what he might have done. Given the size of Ware Shoals, he may not even be a full-time employee, but chances are that he at least spoke to Blackwell and was given "we'll look into it" and Blackwell was given a denial by Moore.

  3. Now, why wouldn't Blackwell continue to pursue the matter and instead rehire Moore for the following school year (this one)? Is she that gullible? Or was it town politics?

  4. Believe it or not, Moore's father was a member of the school board, yes, the same one that Blackwell reports to for her livelihood; but--wait, it gets better!

  5. Moore's father is also the pastor of the big Baptist church in Ware Shoals and a well-respected member of the community.

  6. Now, Moore's father has resigned from the school board at this point, and in all fairness, no reason exists to believe that the poor man knew anything of the whole mess last spring OR that Blackwell might have tried to put a lid on it.

  7. Even if the police chief had his suspicions that the accusations were true last spring, if Blackwell stonewalled, what was he to do? Wait to see if anything else happened?

  8. It did. And this time the story was too big to be squelched so easily, although apparently Blackwell tried, according to the arrest warrant. So, will this native of Ware Shoals get her job as principal back? Seems unlikely, but--wait,

  9. The Ware Shoals School Superintendent is her first cousin.
UPDATE: Sunday, February 18th
  1. Jill Moore's mother also works for the school district.
  2. The 2006-07 school year was only Blackwell's second as principal--meaning that her coverup of behavior (or inability to ferret out bad behavior) at the end of last year occurred during her first year as a principal.

Friday, February 09, 2007

USC: Top 10: "Oh, Brave New World"

Okay, there had to be more to the signing-day story.

When I heard of USC's glory on high-school signing day, my first thought was, wait a minute--isn't Clemson the football power in SC? I waited for the other shoe to drop. Now today's Newsless Courier stories, one an interview that took place last July and the other regarding the successful and not-successful recruiting efforts of the two rivals: see
"Building 'A' Championship," and
"Clemson President Discusses Academic Standards,"

Back in the dark ages when I was in high school in Charleston, Clemson was the place for engineers and football; USC was for liberal arts and sciences--and those more interested in academics. In town after my long hiatus, I thought the balance had remained the same.

Then, reading further into the "'A'" story, I encountered this information:

"Two players the Tigers missed out on were Dwight Jones, a talented receiver out of Burlington, N.C., and Broome High School receiver Markish Jones. Markish Jones signed with Florida State, Dwight Jones with UNC. Both could have been casualties of the school's new tougher academic policies. Dwight Jones was the top-rated player in the state of North Carolina.

"We talked with Dwight (Tuesday) and he gave us every indication that he was going to sign with Clemson," Farrell said. "I don't understand how he could get into North Carolina and not get into Clemson. That doesn't make any sense."

If you go back to my blogs on LaRon Dendy and NCAA academic standards versus diploma mills, it all begins to make sense. Clemson has gotten religion after being hit hard with the repercussions of recruits who were "helped" out of high school.

The converse appears to be true of Chapel Hill, worse luck (at least from the point of view of this alumna). Yes, "get into Clemson and not into Chapel Hill" would have made sense in past years. However, after its scores of years of mediocre football teams (surely over the last 40 years they have occasionally been successful, but I have very vague memories that this is true), UNC has decided to go BIG TIME, damn the academics!

One step forward, two steps back!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Truculence over Buist: The Cat Is Out of the Bag!

Inadvertently, one of the parents on an advisory board to the superintendent let the cat out of the bag when she was quoted in today's article on the [horrors!] fine and/or jail time that parents will get now for signing affidavits lying about their children's place of residence.
See "Lying Parents Face Jail or Fines":

To quote the NEWS from the Newsless Courier:
"Wendy Burkhardt, a member of the superintendent's parent advisory council, said she thought the new policy was appropriate and fair - and a double-edged sword.
"She knows parents whose children attend Sullivan's Island Elementary, an excellent-rated school where her daughter goes, who don't live in its attendance zone. But the majority of those parents are active members of the school community, and the school would suffer for their loss, she said.
"'Who are you keeping out?' Burkhardt said. Regardless, she said she understood that the district couldn't make the rule for some but not everyone."
Here's the secret that has been revealed: all over the district, not just at Buist, saavy parents are sending their children from low-performing schools to higher-performing schools. Probably everyone who has a child in a higher-performing school is well aware of this phenomenon and condones it--after all, who would report a parent for wanting a better education for his or her child?
In other words, what critics say the voucher system would do to low-performing schools--better students leaving--is ALREADY HAPPENING, just illegally! And those obeying the law are getting the short end of the stick. If parents who do so are comfortable enough to be active and strong participants in the school's community --as they are at Sullivan's Island Elementary--then clearly the district has been looking the other way.
Seems harmless? Think again. Think of the school district those mendacious parents do live in and the "school that [does] suffer for their loss." Multiply that times all other parents who are participating in the same scam. What do you get?
Higher-performing schools get higher; low-performing schools get lower!
BUT a more sinister side exists: I would suggest that majority-white schools get whiter and majority-black schools get blacker. In other words, re-segregation through the back door. What else can explain the virtually 100% black population of Burke High School?
I'm not going to hold my breath until the first parent gets put in jail for this!
Don't agree? Show me where I'm wrong.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Don't Wait for the Research: Publish the Conclusions

It's not my imagination. I searched each of the three articles on global warming in today's paper ("The Sky Is Falling I," "The Sky Is Falling II," and "The Sky Is Falling III"--oops! sorry, sometimes I get carried away):
See the following (although if you suscribe to a newspaper or listen to news on radio or TV, there won't be much new news here!) ; ; .
The first is local; the second, AP; and the third, from the Seattle paper.

Not ONE of them managed to report that the IPCC was sponsored and financed by the United Nations. Maybe they thought it wasn't of interest? or unimportant? or maybe they didn't see any purpose to putting it in?

The articles also do not clear up the implications of publishing the summary BEFORE the report is finished. That's like saying your thesis is proven without finishing the research! How did they manage that? Obvious.

The source of a report with such tremendous political implications should be identified so that readers can consider the authority and/or bias behind it. We're treated to stories every day telling us the dire consequences of ordinary behavior. Frequently, the next day or week or month or year reveals that the opposite is true. The article even references the predictions of 30 years ago that we were entering an Ice Age.

Global warming happens. Global cooling happens. Perhaps we have contributed our bit, but it is just that--a "bit" that is a drop in the bucket. Yes, let's use flourescent bulbs and lower our electricity bills, Mayor Riley, but please, please, don't imagine that doing so will halt global warming. It might make voters feel better, but . . .

That would be hubris.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

CCSD: It's Only Money

Another lawsuit settled by CCSD takes one-quarter of a million dollars out of funding for schools. No wonder they proposed delaying the building of a middle school in North Charleston!

AND it's another case of associate superintendents run amuck.
See "Suit Costs School District $250,000" in Thursday's Newsless Courier.

One of the characters named has now cost the taxpayers of Charleston County a judgment last summer when sued by a teacher and now this settlement made with an ex-school librarian. We must wonder, if we add the costs (or even half of them) to his salary, would he be the most expensive employee of the district?

He apparently still works for CCSD. To quote Goodloe-Johnson [using the favorite weasel-word passive voice] "'Unfortunately, there were some poor decisions that were made.'"

BY WHOM, we ask?