Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mt. Pleasant Police Legalize Prostitution

Well, what else would explain the statistics in Sunday's P & C? [Prostitution Persists Despite Police Efforts] (click on picture for clearer answers).

In case you can't read the table, it says that "Mount Pleasant police have made no prostitution arrests during the past three years." That would be, of course, because there is no prostitution in Mount Pleasant. This statement is provided next to an article about police efforts to curb prostitution!!! Give us credit for having half a brain, please.

Not only that, numbers of arrests in the City of Charleston are suspiciously low. Only 24 in all of last year was the city's best effort. Effort at what--pleasing pimps?

At least North Charleston police decided in 2007 that they were going to crack down, thus doubling the rate of arrests well into 2008.

I hate hypocrisy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Scientific Common Sense on "Learning Styles"

Just in case you've been in an alternate universe for the last decade or so, addressing students' learning styles is just one of the fads that have (not) fascinated teachers at in-services:

video

Thanks to "Scenes from the Battleground"[see left] for posting this video.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

CCSD's SAT Woes: Playing Catch Up

Here are the CCSD high schools that managed to meet or exceed the national average of 1511 on the 2008 SAT:
  • Academic Magnet 1855
  • School of the Arts 1,608

  • James Island 1,513

  • Wando 1,569

That's four out of 15 high schools. Not surprisingly, South Carolina retained its seat in the bottom four in the nation, surpassing only DC, Hawaii, and Maine (where every senior must take the test). We can make excuses for this poor showing by saying that more than 50 percent of seniors take the test in only 22 states, but don't forget--that's students who make it to their senior year. What would happen if the dropout rates for the states were factored into the equation? Why do I think SC and DC would be vying for last? And where does Charleston rank among those 22 states where more than half do take the test?

Speaking of questions, SC's two-point increase overall includes the scores of ALL students, not just those in public schools. What was it without them? If the P & C prints the scores for all public high schools, why does it not print those for others?

Parents might be interested in this paragraph from the report in USA Today:

"But the College Board released data Tuesday suggesting that scores on the newest portion of the exam [Writing Skills] are the most accurate gauge of first-year success in college. Studies by the University of Georgia and the University of California support the group's findings, it reported."
No surprise there to English teachers. Those who can write clearly can think clearly.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Buist? You Can't Make This Stuff Up

CCSD Superintendent McGinley has regained her memory and gotten her story straight. [See Current Students at Buist Can Stay in today's P & C.]

For all true believers, it goes something like this:
  • Last year Janet Rose put in writing that students entering on the downtown list could move elsewhere as soon as they had enrolled. [This behavior is known as CYA in the vernacular.]
  • As a result, 35 families immediately pulled up stakes and headed for Mt. Pleasant, Sullivan's Island, and the Isle of Palms. Or, at least, that's their story and they're sticking to it.
Thirty-five slots that could have gone to actual residents of downtown were stolen over the last few years, pure and simple. Now the miscreants get to keep the spoils. Who would dare to investigate, rather than take Rose's statements at face value? Certainly not the gutless wonders on the CCSD School Board who voted to grandfather these students.

Now the question should be, who's looked at the openings in grades 1 through 8 to see how they were filled from the waiting list this year? Janet Rose? Oh, well, then that's all right. Who's going to oversee the "lottery" system? Janet Rose? Oh, okay.

What a relief!

Monday, August 25, 2008

NYC Public Schools: Stopped Clock Makes Home Run

When everything taught by teachers' colleges has failed, NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein decides to try what works:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/25/literacy-experiment-at-10-schools/

Core Knowledge is also part of the curriculum at Charleston Development Academy Charter School [see previous postings on CDA below].

Thursday, August 21, 2008

CCSD Not Sweating Small Stuff at Wando

The Wando school building is four years old. That's FOUR. The gymnasium's air conditioning has given out. HOW MUCH was spent in building that gym? What's wrong with this picture? Plenty. [See Not so Cool in Thursday's P & C]. In fact, it's the old "the contractor has gone out of business" story.

Did the P & C reporter ask the obvious questions when Bill Lewis, the person responsible for the district's building program, made this statement?
"It should be a simple problem to fix, except that the manufacturer who created the massive pieces of equipment has gone out of business. To replace each of the gym's three units will cost a total of $450,000."

That's right. What is the name of the manufacturer? When did it go out of business?

How about this statement: ". . .the Wando high school gym is the only one [in the district] with this type of faulty unit."

How about this question: Why? Who chose this unit?

Then there's the question of timing:

"The district last year hired a third party to do an engineering review and troubleshoot the unit, and the company found that a number of bad decisions were made when the machines were assembled, Lewis said."

Question: Was the manufacturer already out of business at that time? And, more importantly, who assembled the machines? [note the use by Lewis of the passive voice to avoid naming the responsible party].

And then the punch line (that would be a punch of $450,000 in the wallet to taxpayers):

"The school district has ordered new, nearly 2 1/2-ton machines, which are expected to arrive at the end of August. Lewis expected the new units to be installed by the end of September.

"'These are not window units,' he said. 'We have to structurally reinforce the roof, and all that is being finalized."

The roof is deficient also?

According to the story, "The 4-year-old cooling system has been working inefficiently since it was installed."

Well, did the installers gone out of business too?

If it worked poorly from the beginning, did Lewis contact the responsible parties, or did both go out of business as soon as they were paid?

How about some accountability?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sez Who? CSMS Community Support Obvious

Brainwashing? Must be the case with the P & C's reporting on the operations of CCSD. How else to explain that, in the middle of a factual story about the first day of the Charter School for Math and Science (CSMS), Courrege writes the following: "The volunteer group behind the charter school has faced heavy opposition from the community." [See Summer Vacation's over.]

Excuse me? No, it hasn't. Not unless Dot Scott and the Meyers majority on the CCSD School Board are the "community" of which she speaks.

Stop reading the PR from 75 Calhoun, Diette. In fact, try asking the first 20 people you meet on the street. They're in favor of ANYTHING that will produce better choices for CCSD's parents.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

CCSD Costs Not Creditable Without Details

The opening salvo in the latest attempt to abandon neighborhood schools was fired across the bow in today's P & C. See Pricing Our Schools. Too bad the ammunition being used was seriously flawed. That would be the price-per-student as reported by Michael Bobby, the district's new chief financial officer. Bobby's reputation is on the line with this set of statistics, but it's not clear what orders the Superintendent gave him.

What IS clear, from looking at the article, is that the mandated expenditures that must be given to individual schools for their economically-disadvantaged students are bundled with the district's discretionary spending. Talk about muddying up the waters!

Let's get that spending out first before we even discuss any other aspects of closing schools.

Oh, and remember, you can bank on it that no final decisions on closings will be made prior to the November election. We all know why, right?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Confusion Reigns in P & C Headlines

What's wrong with these?
  1. DAR Fracas: Blue Bloods See Red,
  2. Whites May Be New Minority in 30 Years, and (sorry, I can't find this one on the web version of Saturday's edition,
  3. "FDA: Chemical Used in Plastic Safe"
First, the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) headline. What is a "blue blood"? A term first used by the Spanish in the early part of the nineteenth century to indicate, as dictionary.com says, "an aristocrat, noble, or member of a socially prominent family." Rumors and legends to the contrary, those who can trace their family lines to someone who fought on the Patriot side in the American Revolution (required to be a member of the DAR) are NOT blue bloods! In fact, the converse is likely true. The large majority of those on the Patriot side were privates with little to lose. Gee, I had a Dutch but American-born ancestor who fought for the Virginia militia and then for the North Carolina militia as a private. Does THAT make me a blue blood?

Second, whites as the new minority. I'll bet there were no small number of Hispanics from Columbia, Venezuela, etc., not to speak of Argentina, who were surprised to find out that they weren't white. Maybe "non-Hispanic whites" will be the new minority? Try living in a place like Corpus Christi, Texas, and THEN suggest that many, if not most, Hispanics aren't white. In fact, try to sort out the non-Hispanic whites from the Hispanic whites! There is NO Hispanic race.

Finally, who knew? They're making safes out of plastic these days. And the FDA has a chemical used inside. WOW.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Who Knew? CCSD's Black Teacher Minority

I'll admit my ignorance. After all, when I moved back to Charleston several years ago, it took me a year or so to realize that all of downtown Charleston's schools (of course, with the exception of Buist, which I remembered as a black school) were de facto segregated. Now I've learned more by reading Superintendent McGinley's latest missive on the CCSD website.

According to McGinley's August 15th letter, 34 percent of CCSD's principals are black. That's no surprise for anyone who's been following their musical-chair assignments. What is a surprise is that only 17 percent of CCSD's teachers are black! I just assumed that after segregation ended, their numbers would reflect the racial makeup of the district. Silly me. After all, segregation didn't end.

Don't misinterpret my meaning. I certainly don't believe in quotas, although I detected a whiff of belief from McGinley's stated goals.

I've been educated on how District 20 (on the peninsula) became segregated again. Maybe someone can explain to me why so few teachers in CCSD are black while so many principals are.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

State Superintendent Flunks Everyday Math

Today's P & C story on ACT scores provides both the good news and the bad news. [See State ACT Scores up 5th Year in Row.]

First, the good news: "The composite score for the Palmetto State's 2008 high school graduates was 19.9 on a 36-point scale, which is a .3 improvement from last year."

Now, the bad news: "'This is pretty remarkable to see a three-fold increase in one year,' [Jim Rex] said."

Mathematicians of the world, unite! Most readers won't even see the problem.

By the way, although CCSD did finally manage to beat South Carolina's average, the only non-magnet high school to match the NATIONAL average was Wando.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Buist Policies Safe for Another Year

Cheaters can breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks to several cowards on the school board, its attendance policies, such as they are, will continue to be treated like the "third rail" of CCSD politics. That's why discussion of Buist disappeared from the agenda of Monday night's CCSD school board meeting. [See Board Delays Decision on Buist Attendance.] This time there was no "ohmygoshIforgot" moment but bald-faced prevarication on the reason for its non-appearance.

Remember the Board's famous "the minority rules" rule: it takes four members to put an item on the agenda but only one to take it off. Don't you wonder who that was? The most appealing aspect of this rule (to cowards) is that voters never find out who did it, but we can "round up the usual suspects." It's probably a good thing for Hillery Douglas that he was interviewed afterwards by phone when he said that the Board wanted "to ensure everyone has a shot at being treated fairly." I'm sure he couldn't have kept a straight face in public.

Here's the skinny: it's an election year. The Board is going to putz around on Buist until it is too late to deal with this year's students. Then it will take up the policy seriously AFTER THE ELECTION.

If Gregg Meyers's toadies win, expect District 20 to be shafted again. At the very least, all cheaters now at Buist will be grandfathered.

Well, there's always the lawsuit. (Does anyone wonder why they keep happening?)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Does Washington Post Letter Sound Familiar?

Reluctance to lease closed and empty school buildings to charter schools? Seems like it's more than a CCSD problem, according to this letter to the editor of the Washington Post:
Use the Empty School Buildings

Saturday, August 9, 2008; A14

Across the nation, charter school operators report that finding adequate space is their single biggest challenge. Fearing competition, officialdom often hoards surplus property that could house these independently managed public schools.

One might think that things would be different in the District, where charter schools have been a lifeline for families more than they have been just about anywhere else in the United States ["Respect for Charter Schools," editorial, Aug. 4]. Long a model of education failure, Washington has a chance to be an exemplar of urban education reform, largely because of its charter schools, which now serve almost one-third of the city's schoolchildren. Yet D.C. officials are being super-stingy about letting charter operators lease the city's surplus school buildings.

Washington's families deserve better. School stewardship should be about what's best for children, not how best to conduct turf wars.

ROBERT HOLLAND

Senior Fellow for Education Policy

The Heartland Institute

Chicago




Sunday, August 10, 2008

CCSD's McGinley: Surfing as Metaphor

That cream puff I had for breakfast today was so sweet that it nearly made me sick. [See Q&A with Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley.] By itself it would have been fairly sweet, but then I just had to have a second helping! [See McGinley Lets Waves Carry Stress Away.] Maybe I should save the P & C for dessert after dinner.

When you think about it, however, perhaps surfing is a fitting metaphor for McGinley's leadership in CCSD during her first (and maybe last) year as superintendent. She's here for the ride. Her "leadership" takes the form of scouting CCSD to see which wave is the strongest (that would be the five-person tag team of Meyers to Douglas to Jordan to Hampton-Green to--usually--Moody), then applying the latest appropriate educational jargon (and sometimes Broad Foundation solutions) to whatever issue is at hand. There's no doubt she means it when she says that she wants to make CCSD an excellent district; that's her career on the line as well.

Under the waves, it seems, a possible rip current is brewing. What happens if, for example, voters replace Douglas with Kandrac and Hampton-Green with Stewart? Of course, that's why she negotiated a three-year contract. Election day will tell, but if McGinley's supporters are elected, prepare yourself for the closure of more than one elementary school in District 20 and continued prevarication over Buist.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

How About a Laugh, Charlestonians?


You'll need to click on the image to get the full effect. Thanks to Leonardo's Notebook [Blognet news] for finding this image.

CCSD Tosses Charleston Progressive a Hot Potato

What do you do with a hot potato? Drop it? Hand it off to someone else to deal with? Well, Superintendent McGinley has chosen the latter course. [See New Position Creates Concern in Saturday's P & C.]

The hot potato, of course, is the former principal of Jane Edwards Elementary, Christy Thompson. Thompson has created controversy from her first days at the school, with 11 of its 15 teachers leaving after her first year as principal (but continued backing from McGinley) culminating in a lawsuit brought by a teacher this last year that has not yet been resolved.

For background, readers may see past postings on this blog, but the lead in the P & C's story sums up the latest controversy nicely: "The principal accused of grabbing a teacher's arm during an argument has been moved to an assistant principal position [at Charleston Progressive Academy], and that decision has frustrated some who say peninsula schools should not be treated as a 'dumping ground.'"

Gee, those people downtown have some nerve objecting to a policy that's been in effect for the last 30 years or so! Who do they think they are? Taxpayers? Marvin Stewart needs to get a life. . . Can you imagine what will happen if he replaces Toya on the School Board? We'll have to deal with those people all the time!

[Sorry, I was just channeling Gregg Meyers, . . . or was it McGinley? Whatever.]

Actually McGinley's hand-off sparkles in its brilliancy. Kill two birds with one stone. Get Thompson away from Jane Edwards before the school implodes. Foist her on Charleston Progressive so that as the feds continue looking into CCSD's failure to provide magnet resources to its so-called [black] magnet school, she can point to its having an assistant principal that CCSD's "formula" doesn't call for.

Then, McGinley won't have to live with Thompson's apparently bristly personality at 75 Calhoun, and, if later developments force McGinley to fire Thompson, her position won't need to be filled.

I told you it was brilliant.

Who cares what happens at CPA anyway! Whatever it is, they deserve it for filing a complaint with the OCR!

[Sorry, channeling again. I'd better get off this topic.]

Friday, August 08, 2008

Reading CCSD Between the Lines

Want an item on the CCSD School Board's agenda? Find four members to support it. Want an item taken off the agenda? One will do. Well, that's only fair, isn't it?

That's the gist of Friday's P & C story on disagreements expressed by board members on its "gag" rule. [SeeAgenda Policy Under Review.] Apparently this cockeyed system was introduced solely to silence John Graham Altman, presumably some time between 1984, when he served as chairman, and 1996, when he left the board.

Let's take a hypothetical example. Suppose you, as a board member, managed to get three other members to support putting the leasing agreement for the Charter School for Math and Science on the agenda. Unbenownst to you a fifth board member comes along and takes it off the agenda.

Maddening, isn't it? After all that work getting four members to agree?

Of course, you understand this example is only hypothetical, right?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

If Lawsuits Are the Only Way to Get Results

Some thoughts on Wednesday's report in the P & C titled Buist Battle to Continue in Court.
  • CCSD brings lawsuits upon itself by its lack of transparency; Superintendent McGinley has not helped matters by her forgetful memory (twice!) regarding verifying addresses properly for Buist.
  • The waiting list at Buist, complete with all the rumors swarming around it, is the stuff of legends; it is not public. Principal Ballard's foot-dragging in filling vacancies at Buist from the waiting list last year merely exacerbated distrust among District 20 families.
  • Families in District 20 (and out) believe that CCSD has deliberately kept high-achieving students from entering on the waiting list so that the PACT scores wouldn't be too affected at D20's other schools.
  • The article fails to explain the reason for "the appeal's also tak[ing] issue with the school district's denial of a 'fair, prompt and impartial hearing' for the appellants." This complaint comes from a hearing where the impartiality of legal counsel (Alice Paylor herself) and other members of the committee formed by the CCSD school board was questionable. It also derives from CCSD's slowness in response--the hearing's taking place more than a YEAR after the original constituent board ruling.
  • CCSD (Alice Paylor again) wrongly claims that there aren't enough qualified District 20 students to fill slots at Buist. Many parents never tried to get on the waiting list because they knew the deck was stacked and they didn't have influence. Let's see if CCSD is correct! Demographics show that a hefty proportion of children living on the peninsula are NOT in CCSD schools at all. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why.
Every time the subject of filling classes at Buist arises, CCSD obfuscates the reason for the school's existence. They know full well that Buist's origin was to satisfy civil rights challenges by guaranteeing a school that would be integrated. It worked.

Now the chance that Buist would become all black like all of the other schools on the peninsula has dissipated (thanks to those demographics again). The reasoning behind its four lists went with it. The fact remains, students who live in District 20 are frozen out of magnet schools in the other constituent districts, while the students who live in other constituent districts are NOT frozen out of the one magnet school in District 20.

Those who live in other constituent districts should look carefully at how District 20 has been treated. It could happen to you.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mr. Bell at Charleston High School

Dr. Thaddeus J. Bell's eloquent letter to the editor in Tuesday's paper rightly asks why the Post and Courier did not report the AMA's July 16th apology for racism, which included allowing state affiliates to refuse black members among its more benign past practices. [See Apology from AMA for Racism.] Surely, some of the points he makes should have occurred to the paper's staff. After all, the P & C happily cherry-picks AP stories every day. Have staff been cut back so much that they can't recognize the value of a report that might apply to a well-established medical community with a long history in Charleston?

Bell's letter prompted an email from a reader of this blog with fond memories of Dr. Bell prior to his becoming a doctor. They date to the early days of integration on the peninsula.
"More than 40 years ago in August of 1967, Thaddeus Bell was the first African-American teacher to join the faculty at Charleston High. For two years he taught eighth- and ninth-grade science, leaving when he was accepted as a medical student at MUSC. Charleston High had been integrated for the first time four years earlier. The eighth-grade class in 1967 was the first to reach roughly 50-50 racial parity.
"He was a good teacher and role model, but that first semester was a rocky one! The poor guy was from Rock "Heel" and had an awful time understanding the Charleston brogue. Black students understood his Southern drawl even less. Seeing black students misbehaving, white students joined in on what we thought was fun, though cruel fun, without realizing that it was a slippery slope. The young teacher, not surprisingly and despite his desire to teach, was losing control of the class.

"There was a moment when everything came to a head early in his first semester when it looked like his students would run him out. The principal, known more for his practical thinking than his civic vision, ordered the white students to the auditorium with the threat of expulsion if they made any sound. . . and then he ordered the black students to remain in the classroom. I can't remember where Mr. Bell was.

"We heard later that the principal chewed out our black classmates for their disrespect of a new teacher, their lack of fairness, and their being unwelcoming to a teacher who had broken a barrier that their older brothers and sisters had broken only four years earlier. Then he came to the auditorium and tore into the white students for going along with the bullying of a very good teacher. The most we could muster in our support was to complain about his accent. Considering that most of us were native Charlestonians with accent issues of our own, that didn't hold water with him. He made us promise to make sure that this teacher had no more problems from a bunch of newbies who were in effect still on probation themselves as eighth graders in the city's oldest high school.

"Mr. Bell eventually learned to say Rock "Hill," at least around his students. We were all fortunate that he stayed and eventually exposed us overly sophisticated city students to basic chemistry experiments such as how to make soap from scratch. In a much more restrained manner (so as not to be seen as undercutting the teacher) some black students showed mock disdain for making soap, like the rest of us clearly preferring the grocery-store variety. What a great lesson in human nature this whole experience was for all of us.

I can't go to a farmers' market today where eco-friendly and "green" cosmetic makers sell "home-made" soap that I don't think of what it must have been like to make your own soap in rural South Carolina more than 100 years ago. . . and how much chemistry these "uneducated" country people must have known and passed down.

Dr. Bell is a living reminder of the great public schools we have lost, not to mention the educational opportunities that have been lost with them.

Amen to that!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Children of Illegal Die at Construction Site

The award for "most newsless story ever to hit the front page" of the P & C goes to--drum roll, please-- 2 Boys Drown in Summerville [in Sunday's edition]. Our judges decided that, even if the reporter neglected to get some facts, the editors guaranteed that any gathered ended in the circular file prior to its publication. Why would a news source do that?

A horrible and preventable accident occurred. Two unsupervised preschoolers drowned late on a hot summer afternoon as a construction crew toiled on a new house.

Ask yourself:
  • Why are the ages of the two boys unknown? "thought to be ages 4 and 5"
  • Which worker brought them to the job site? "deputies think they were with someone working on the house"
  • Why don't the deputies know?
  • Why was their absence noticed? "Someone in the crew noticed the children were missing around 7 p.m."
  • How many of the crew knew the boys were on the job site?
  • How long had they been there, and was this the first time?
  • Who was in charge of the work crew?
  • Why did someone think the boys were in the water? "Deputies arrived and found a man standing in the water, probing the bottom with a long, narrow board."
  • Who was the man in the water?
  • Did anyone besides the deputies or EMS accompany the children to the hospital?
  • How do deputies plan to find the children's parents? Or have they?
Have you figured out why the paper ran such a fact-less story? Why the parent(s) remain unidentified? Why the children's ages are unknown? Why only names of deputies appear?

The headline on this posting is the only logical explanation. The P & C attempts to avoid mentioning the involvement of illegals in ANY situation, apparently with the idea that readers won't notice.

Still think illegals should be ignored?

**UPDATE**
Our fearless editors at the P & C have managed to print the names and ages of the children as of Monday's edition. They have added that both parents were at the job site. The State yesterday confirmed that the mother was from Mexico and did not speak English. [Boys Who Died in Water Pit Identified ]

Do you have any remaining doubts that the P & C is ignoring the ramifications of these being the children of illegals?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

CCSD Says It All

Any questions?

Must Be a Cold Day in Hell


In fact, it may be ready to freeze over. Yours truly actually agrees with an editorial in the New York Times! See Education as a Civil Rights Issue.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Arrgh! J. Rex's Fake "Scholarship" Totals

Graduation rates? No, we can't brag about them.

Highest school ratings for most money spent? No, that won't do.

Fewest unsatisfactory-rated schools? Nix that.

Best school buildings? Wrong again.

Hey, boss. I've got a good one. Let's use the fake scholarship totals that school districts put over on gullible and adoring parents at graduation ceremonies. You know, the
ones where few bear any resemblance to any actual scholarship but are based mainly on financial need? No one seems to know the difference. If we can get our poorest students to apply to many more schools, why maybe we could lead the nation in something after all!

What a splendid idea! Roll out the PR campaign.

[See the P & C's hook-line-and-sinker article at
State Students Earn Record $767M in Scholarships.]