Sunday, November 30, 2008

Feel-Good Hispanic Story Ignores Feds' Failures

It is the government's fault.

Failure to enforce immigration laws directly impacts students in public schools, no matter where those schools are. The Charleston County School District is one of the last to feel the fiscal brunt of an influx of non-English-speaking students whose parents came illegally across our borders. [See Sunday's P & C for a story that puts the best face on this latest anchor weighing down its schools, Embracing Diversity.]

A few statistics reveal the outlines of the problem:
  • "The number of Hispanic students in Charleston County nearly has doubled in the past five years";
  • "In [the last] eight years . . ., the number of ESOL teachers has nearly tripled";
  • "The district's Hispanic population growth has necessitated the hiring of a bilingual parent advocate and a bilingual administrator";
  • "Hispanic students make up nearly half of the roughly 750 students at Midland Park Elementary School in North Charleston, up from just 20 percent five years ago";
  • "[Midland Park] employs a translator, three full-time and 2 part-time ESOL teachers as well as bilingual teachers, psychologists and speech pathologists to work with its Spanish-speaking students and parents."
Schools are not allowed to ask the immigration status of parents or their children. Try getting a number out of district staff for how much these children have added in costs to CCSD? Won't happen.

Probably most of these children are American citizens by virtue of being born in the United States. Most native-born Americans do not realize that other countries do not have similar rules. Do you think you could claim citizenship for your child if he or she were born in Mexico or Guatemala? Even School Board Chairman Toya Hampton-Green seems to believe she could have claimed German citizenship by being born in Germany! Not unless one of her parents were German.

This influx of Spanish speakers adds to public schools' many problems. Is there any doubt in your mind that dollars that could have gone to raising achievement for the children of legal Americans now is spent coping with non-English-speaking students and illegal parents? We are paying through the nose for Mexico's and Guatemala's failures. Do we feel sorry for these struggling people? Yes. Should we be forced to support them? No.

Our local developments spring directly from our federal government's failures, but you won't see the federal government making up the difference.

You will.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

CCSD Special Meeting Called; Oplinger Hiding


Saturday's P & C reported the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees' vote on making Drayton Hall a charter school. The story had been held since last Tuesday. [See Drayton Hall Elementary in Limbo on $2M Charter Question.]

Perhaps the reporter spent those days trying to reach still-missing-in-action new Board member Ann Oplinger. According to the story, "Ann Oplinger, who wasn't at the meeting, could not be reached for comment." Meanwhile, member Gregg Meyers waffles.

The Board has scheduled a "Special Meeting" for December 3 at 4 p.m., presumably the one Green originally suggested for the 1st. That tidbit wasn't in the P & C, but CCSD's website now lists the notice.

Let's hope charter school supporters make it their business to be there.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Demography Rock-Hill Style for CCSD

[What follows is based on both FOIA requests and corresponding partial answers from Charleston County School District staff as well as the analysis by various members of the community not associated with district staff.]

When Bill Lewis, Chief of Operations for Capital Programs for the Charleston County School District, needed demographics for growth projection in the public schools, where did he turn but to Rock Hill, South Carolina, that well-known center for demographic research.

In fact, to save himself the hassle of a publicly-advertised Request For Proposals (RFP), he requested seven or eight separate reports, all for charges just below the CCSD policy on cost thresholds for requiring Board approval. Reasonable estimates put the total paid to McKibben Research Associates between $60,000 and $70,000, although it may be higher still. McKibben himself was paid $500 to attend at least one constituent board meeting in which he merely read from his report.

If that behavior isn't smelly enough for you, no one at district headquarters will admit who ordered the reports, although Superintendent McGinley has stated that they "belong to Bill Lewis." Yet the McKibben Reports ( as they are known) are the basis for a wide range of CCSD planning, from buses to facilities; school redesign rests on these unacknowledged step-children.

Apart from the money trail, other more worrying aspects remain. No one in CCSD seems to be willing to vouch for the quality and content of the reports.

To make matters worse, the reports contain no concrete data, no maps, and no hard evidence that the information supplied to McKibben by CCSD has been independently verified using US Census, City of Charleston, or SC Department of Education figures. For the amount of money, taxpayers would assume that McKibben would provide its own up-to-date data!

On top of that, McKibben's analysis consists of seven or eight reports that are boiler-plate documents, with standard wording throughout, almost verbatim copies of each other. [See blog posting below: the Fairfax County Citizens Task Force had already discovered this little "short-cut."]

Nowhere do the McKibben Reports mention the effects of transfers into and out of attendance zones, especially the effects of NCLB transfers. As one observer writes,
"A disturbing discovery was to learn just how much important and available information is missing from the reports. Some include student numbers that CCSD has so far refused to supply to anyone under previous FOIA requests. There is no mention in the district population and school enrollment reports of any NCLB transfers. Nor is there any analysis of what impact this mass movement of students out of their neighborhood attendance zones has had on the schools that are receiving these transferees or on the schools and districts those students are leaving.

Any attempt by CCSD to claim that NCLB numbers are low would be a confirmation that they are simply putting those transfers under a different heading. How else can CCSD explain the large number of students being transferred from other parts of the county to West Ashley High when that school isn't even eligible under NCLB?

If these numbers are buried within each of these eight reports as "students enrolled within their attendance zone," then all the numbers are skewed as much as 20-30% off the mark. That would make it even more questionable why Moultrie, St. Andrews, and James Island are left out of the redesign process. Their overcrowded schools have directly resulted from the abject failure of other CCSD schools. CCSD's added incapacity (or refusal) to verify accurate addresses for those attending schools in zones or districts where the students are legally assigned is only salt added to the wound.

On average, 10-20% of the students attending every school are either attending using a false address or transferring in under a policy other than NCLB. How have these numbers been considered by CCSD and their hired demographer, or have they been addressed at all?
At the CCSD Board of Trustees meeting on December 8th, ten days from now, Superintendent McGinley will present her proposals for school closings and redesign based on numbers in these reports. She is fully expected to ignore these nagging questions. Will the School Board ride along?

[BTW, McKibben's educational credentials make him more a trained sociologist than a demographer: "Ph.D. Sociology/Demography, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, 1990; MA Sociology, Syracuse University, New York, 1982; BA Sociology & History, State University of New York at Geneseo, 1981." Prior to starting his own business, he taught in several university sociology departments, presumably where he got the idea to become part of the edublob.]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

P & C Ignores CCSD Board's Drayton Hall Vote

Despite an early on-line posting regarding the November 24th meeting of the Charleston County School Board, the P & C pulled from publication its coverage of the tie vote on approval of charter status of Drayton Hall Elementary. Non-coverage included Ann Oplinger's suspicious nonattendance and/or vote and Toya Hampton-Green's call for a December 1st meeting to reconsider the charter when all members would be present.

A quick look at the on-line minutes of that meeting posted on the CCSD website confirms the story. However, noticeably missing is Green's call for a December 1st meeting. Instead, the minutes show Superintendent McGinley's self-serving report of the five "partial-magnet" schools being created for parental choice. She does not mention that these schools must be restructured in some way because their NCLB results require it! The minutes neglect to report her comments against Drayton Hall's choice.

The P & C has reported all previous CCSD Board meetings. Why ignore this one? So much local news is being covered that there's no room? Has our local paper become like the economically failing New York Times--"all the news that fits [our agenda], we print"?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Members Show Colors on Charter Schools

Where was Ann Oplinger Monday night? Somewhere so far into the galaxy that she couldn't even reach a telephone to vote? Maybe the color of her flag was yellow.

So it would appear from the 4- 4 tie vote from the Charleston County School Board on the granting of charter status to Drayton Hall Elementary School at Monday night's meeting. Having failed to get a majority, the Board will meet again on December 1. [See School's Request to Convert to Charter Denied]

Will Oplinger attend? Will she be able to use a telephone?

Following CCSD Superintendent Nancy McGinley's lead to vote against charter status were staunch charter school supporters (not!) Toya Hampton-Green and Ruth Jordan and newly-elected members Chris Collins and Chris Fraser. Golly, what a surprise.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Data-Driven McGinley Forgets Data on Schools

Data-driven. Isn't that what Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley claims for her every decision, for every waking moment as she contemplates the future of CCSD's schools? Thanks to an eagle-eyed former educator, she has been called on the carpet for forgetting the most basic of her mantras.

From Monday's P & C's Letters to the Editor:

"School defense lacks statistics"

Monday, November 24, 2008

"I am a retired educator and am always interested in education in our state. I regularly buy The Post and Courier in my hometown and keep up with the education issues in Charleston.

"I enjoyed the Nov. 14 article about the single mother, Candace Capers, and her commitment and sacrifice to ensure that her three children get a responsible education and better life than she has experienced. I greatly admire someone independently taking responsibility for one's life situations.

"I was perplexed to read in the Nov. 19 issue the superintendent's response to Candace's situation. While I appreciated reading about the fine credentials of her administrators, I had expected Dr. Nancy McGinley to address more specific issues — mainly statistical information.

"What do current statistics show when comparing the reading grade level of peninsula students to students in Mount Pleasant schools?

"What do current statistics show about personnel turnover rates in peninsula schools compared to schools in Mount Pleasant? For example, what percentage of teachers leave the peninsula schools within the first or second year compared to Mount Pleasant schools?

"How many schools on the peninsula offer foreign languages (other than Buist) compared to the number of schools offering foreign languages in Mount Pleasant?

"To me, these are significant issues that would entice someone like Candace to seek education off the peninsula for her children. Unless the statistics can show comparable standings, I would expect more individuals to seek educational opportunities for their children elsewhere, and I would commend them for doing so.

"Nothing should be more important to parents than the education of their children.

Alston Court

Thank you, Ms. Griffin. You've eloquently made our case!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Stacking the Deck on CCSD School Redesign

Charleston County School District staff recommendations regarding community input on criteria for School Redesign (taken from CCSD website):

Survey Results in Rank Order

Criteria Total % (Important and Very Important)

Building Condition 93%

Program Standards 91%

Time and miles to nearest school 87%

Available space in nearest school 87%

Improvement Rating 86%

Population & Enrollment Trends 86%

Enrollment vs. Building Capacity 85%

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) 85%

Campus Size 83%

Enrollment Decline 81%

Absolute Rating 81%

Building Use 77%

Fidelity of Mission (Magnets) 75%

Per Pupil Cost 75%

Minimal School Size 75%

Transfers Out 69%

Shaded criteria represent the staff’s recommendation.[in bold here]

So why did "staff" consider "Fidelity of Mission (Magnets)" and "Per Pupil Cost" more important than "Building Use"?


Without public discussion the new School Board approved the twelve criteria selected by "staff." Transparency rules?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

McGinley's Predictable Reaction to Candace-the-Mother

In very nice words, of course, an op-ed piece by Charleston County School District Superintendent Nancy McGinley informs Candace-the-Mother that she doesn't know what she's talking about. [See Five-year Climb: From 'Below Average' to 'Excellent' in Wednesday's P & C.] Perhaps McGinley is worried about too many copycats?
  • "Five years ago, our state improvement rating was "Below Average." This year, it is projected to be "Excellent" — the highest improvement rating the state can award, and the first Excellent rating the district has earned since report cards began in 2001." Try not to count those chickens before they're hatched, even if the School Board has already given you a raise for this "projected" rating.
  • ". . . Five years ago, there was great variation in what children learned from school to school. Today, we have a high-standards, district-wide curriculum that spells out precisely what teachers need to teach in each subject and grade level." Surely McGinley knows the difference between teaching and learning! Talk to any teacher.
  • ". . . All of these elementary school principals — along with Cecelia Rogers at the Charleston Development Academy on the West Side — are working tirelessly with community partners to move schools forward and give parents the kinds of attractive education choices they can be proud of. They will never go back to where we were five years ago. The most attractive "education choice" is still mastering a basic curriculum.
  • ". . . Downtown and all across the county, we are making the goal of a high-quality public education for every child — the heart of our democracy — a reality in Charleston. I invite Ms. Capers — and any parent interested in their children growing up prepared to succeed in a diverse, competitive world — back into our schools to see what a difference five years can make." The improvements are so great that today Ms. Capers's child would not be able to see the difference? Really?
One of the unsolicited comments on this blog provides a relevant counterpoint to this paean of praise:
"There are capable teachers in the downtown schools, and there are students who could be equal to any student East of the Cooper; but every day, they have a classroom in which one, two, or three students are able to create chaos and no one does anything about it. The administrator tells the teacher, "Have you called the parents?" The teacher says yes, and the principal sends the teacher to see someone else who is successful in a classroom East of the Cooper. Meanwhile, the one, two, or three students are undermining the classroom because we have to accommodate them. The only real accommodation they need is some discipline, bottom line, and I don't mean paddling. I mean that when a student goes to the principal's office, [it should be] like the old days. There is not an investigation on who was right, the child or teacher. Bottom line, the adult is being paid and not the child. Today we have put the children on an equal footing with the teacher. We must hear the child's point of view, and then we decide if the teacher was right or wrong. What ever happened to the thought that the adult in the classroom is right? Children today know how to work the system so that they are not ultimately held accountable for their actions until it is to late.

"Now, on the other hand, a principal tries to do the right thing, and downtown tells them that they cannot do it because it will lower the marks for the school in the ratings game. So downtown creates a document that looks like they are addressing the issues of a failing school, but it is a paper tiger. It looks fantastic in theory, but when theory hits the pavement, it gets run over.

"And then those who want to destroy the public school system use the negative school press to push their political points, and at the end of the day, the adults do not lose. They go back to their nice homes. The only losers are the children because they are growing up and not getting the education they deserve.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why Statistics Matter to School Districts

The McKibben Report. What is it? Why does it matter?

McKibben Demographic Research [see ] is a part of the edublob servicing the needs of public school systems, in this case estimating the school population that may reside within particular boundaries. These numbers, used for planning purposes, project whether schools in 10 or 20 years will be crowded or empty. Sometime in 2007, the Charleston County School Board authorized a report on the population of District 20 (the downtown schools). So far, the district has refused to disclose how much it paid McKibben for that service.

The looming recommendations for school "redesign" and closings depend on the projections in that report. But how accurate is it? Downtown residents have been considerably annoyed at what they perceive to be ill-treatment concerning its dissemination. A copy of the report given to the District 20 Constituent Board in February 2008 was missing two thirds of its pages!

When McKibben met with the D20 Board in September 2008, he was insulted that his conclusions were challenged, even though he (and the district) "made [the report] virtually useless by its lack of a cover letter, client instructions, supporting data and maps. . . [and] Though he was asked to present supporting documentation, he didn't." As one "stakeholder" has pointed out, "Without creditable documentation, Dr. McKibben’s assertions are unsupportable and should not be used as part of the school reorganization plan."

Yet, that is exactly what is happening. No supporting documentation.

Just for fun, let's turn to the experience of the Fairfax County School Board, found easily on the Web. [See
Fairfax County Public Schools Enrollment Proj ection Task Force.] Fairfax also used McKibben for planning purposes. Although the district used his findings, the final report of the Citizens Task Force noted the following shortcomings:
Appendix E-Shortcomings in Dr. McKibben's Final Report
The contract with McKibben stipulated the items listed below from Sections5 .2 and 5.3 of the RFP. The Task Force carefully considered the SchoolBoard's stated requirements in its review of the final deliverable [sic]. Some of these requirements were not provided in the final deliverable; these are annotated below. McKibben did discuss several of these issues in his meetings with the Task Force. If McKibben had the opportunity to meet with the School Board, after final report submission, many of these items may have been addressed at that time. The Task Force is not suggesting that McKibben's recommendations would change by adding this information to the final report; . . . . "

I won't bore you with the requirements--just the annotations.
  • He certainly analyzed the current methodology but did not document his analysis in the final report.
  • This information was not provided in the final report.
  • This information was not provided in the final report.
  • The case analyses were completed but not documented in the final report.
  • This information was not provided in the final report.
  • Ditto.
  • Ditto.
  • Ditto.
Getting bored? Here's the clincher:
"The Task Force would also like to advise the School Board that this report is essentially identical to the ones he submitted to Kershaw County Schools (South Carolina) in August 2005 and West Noble Schools (Indiana) in February 2006."
Say what?

Perhaps we can surmise what annoyed McKibben when he was asked about the documentation he gave the district--and why the district hasn't provided documentation to the constituent board.

There isn't any.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Replace Joe with "Candace-the-Mother"

If she didn't exist, we probably could have theorized her existence, but what Candace Capers discovered about elementary education in downtown Charleston bears repeating--in fact, merits becoming a symbol of the failures of the system, a system that fails those with the most meager resources.

Whoever introduced reporter Diette Courrege to Ms. Capers is owed a debt of gratitude (I have my own candidates for this person, but I'll let you think about it.). Not only did Saturday's P & C decide the story merited front-page news, but Courrege wrote it with nary a comment from any educrat in the Charleston County School District. That must be a first! [See A Mother's Sacrifice. Photo from P & C online.]

Gleaning facts from the article leaves the following items revealing CCSD's failures, both past and present, and Capers's endurance:
  • Capers herself finished the eighth-grade, but at 25 she is unable to assist a third-grader with a math problem;
  • Her 11-year-old daughter "reads books to her that she can't read," a situation that reveals that when Capers finished the eighth grade in downtown Charleston (presumably in 1996 or 1997), she was not reading on a sixth-grade level. Her chances of succeeding in high school were minimal at best;
  • Even with this inadequate background, Capers recognized that in 2003 students in the first grade at Sanders-Clyde (our infamous model school) were not learning; unlike many downtown parents, she was able to see the difference because her child had been educated for two years in Mt. Pleasant--and her child saw the difference;
  • Capers managed to negotiate the system to transfer that child and Capers's subsequent children back to schools in Mt. Pleasant, although what basis she used is unclear, as are many transfers unclear to the general public; apparently the reason she used precludes her children from getting transportation from the district.
What excuses will Superintendent McGinley and cronies make for this revealing tragedy? That things are getting better? Tell that to MiShawna Moore's victims.

I do have one bone to pick with Courrege, however. The article cites the anonymous statistic that about 1000 students resident on the peninsula travel to outside public and private schools. Source, please? Does that include magnets? Is the figure realistic? What about home schoolers? How many are elementary students? How do we account for all of the students bused into the peninsula to non-magnet schools?

One statistic. We need more reliable information.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flying Blind on CCSD School Closures

Community meetings will begin within the month on yet-to-be-named proposed school "restructuring" and closures. New Charleston County School Board member Ann Oplinger managed to get dates out of Superintendent McGinley at CCSD's last meeting: "Charleston County residents who want a say in which schools are closed and restructured should mark their calendars for Dec. 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17."[See School Closing Hearings Planned in Tuesday's P & C.]

One aspect that district staff have refused to share without FOIA is their projections on the school population for the district, data that should loom large in any decisions made. For example, what if two elementary schools downtown were closed and only five years later the remaining school (Sanders-Clyde) became too small to serve its community?

Think it can't happen? You might check out what's been going on in Seattle District 1 for the last few months. Other parts of CCSD, such as McClellanville and Awendaw, should be equally nervous. Undoubtedly, McGinley and Bill Lewis would say "oops" and try to convince the taxpayers that more schools needed to be built. Naturally.

Here follows the labyrinth of excuses produced so far by district employees to emails from a concerned "stakeholder":
  • to Clara Heinsohn on October 9th: "I wait for your response to the request I made on Monday [October 6] for the data CCSD intends to apply to its "school redesign initiative"; . . . It would seem specific data should be presented to the public at some point and in time for those who attend to develop specific responses to the challenges the superintendent said the county school district is facing. . . . At what point will the public have a chance to discuss the appropriate data? If the public is to be part of this process, the process appears to have been set up to allow participants at the next meeting to discuss and apply that information in support of the criteria that was discussed at the last meeting. Ultimately the goal would seem that the superintendent should want the public to make some sort of recommendation to the administration before she presents her report to the full board. . . .When is the meeting where the public will be able to review the data and make its recommendations based on factual information and reliable measurement standards?"
  • to John Emerson on October 13: "I am resubmitting my original request for specific information and data in accordance with FOIA.. . .Most of it relates to a request that was made through the office of communications on or before April 21, 2008. . . I am asking that you make available via electronic transfer the data Nancy McGinley, Bill Lewis and Elliot Smalley have officially said, on several occasions, was available and being used by their offices in preparation of the proposed redesign, reorganization and/or closure of schools."

    "The information requested involves demographic and financial data relating to each school within the county system. Nancy McGinley said in mid-September at the Burke meeting this information was already being tracked, so no trouble or additional expense should be associated with this request."

  • from John Emerson on October 16: "I am still reviewing your request. In the meantime, I wanted to make sure you know that, consistent with the FOIA, you will be charged for the costs incurred in gathering and copying any documents and information we provide."
  • to John Emerson on October 16: ". . . the superintendent and other members of her staff have said this information was already available. I requested an electronic transmission of the same data and documentation because the administration regularly moves this type of information internally. . . . It would be reasonable to assume that no costs should be associated with this request since the information is already available. These documents and the described data have been referenced repeatedly by administration officials during their presentations to the public and the board relative to the reorganization plan. It's not unreasonable for a member of the public to be given access to the same information the superintendent says she is using. I hope you aren't attempting to invoke this feature of the FOIA in order to get me to withdraw my request."
  • to John Emerson on November 4: " With an attached copy of my original message to you for your reference, this is to mark the passage of 15 business days since I submitted this specific FOYI request. Since I have received no notice to the contrary, I will conclude that all of the information originally requested will be forthcoming."
  • from John Emerson on November 5: "I recognize that you want electronic copies of these documents. I am rechecking to verify the cost for a PDF copy. The quote I have is for hard copies."
  • from John Emerson on November 5: "I am sending you a package of documents. I am still waiting on some of the information. Please note that it will cost approximately $60.00 to photocopy the documents responsive to question #12." [Note: see below]
  • to John Emerson on November 6: "I suggested electronic transfer in order to save time and reduce costs in time and paper. The requested information was for data that should already exist in some assembled form. I may have described it differently, but I am open to any suggestion that might save time and effort. This would include a presentation in a different format."
What was request # 12? Here it is:
The McKibben report has been described as only applying to District 20. If population trends are being considered as part of the county-wide school reorganization plan, then it is requested that population and demographic data CCSD is using to measure every school and attendance zone within the county also be made available as part of this request.

The delay-linger-and-wait strategy rules in CCSD, the intent being to hold meetings for public input without giving the public the ability to make informed comments or decisions.

So will the Superintendent and School Board be making informed recommendations? Who knows?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Can Green Surmount Past as Ventriloquist's Dummy?

"She's hoping to make changes to the board's meetings and agenda, such as allowing the board to have more say in what is discussed rather than [Charleston County School] district staff making those decisions." That's what newly-elected Board Chairman Toya Hampton-Green told the P & C's reporter in Tuesday's New School Board Members Installed.

District staff have been making agenda decisions? Why?

Let's see Green tear off the shackles of lockstep thinking with Vice Chairman Gregg Meyers. Too often her remarks have kowtowed to His Mightiness. That would be change.

She can signal that she's her own woman by proposing, and lobbying for, changing the Board's rules regarding adding and removing items from the agenda.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

P & C Won't Touch $1200-A-Day CCSD Consultant

It doesn't matter that the money couldn't be used to hire another teacher for the Charleston County School District or that other educational consultants are paid more.

The important question is, is any educational consultant so valuable that his or her time should cost $1200 per day in a school district that is scraping around for funds? What could that person be adding that would be worth that much? That's what WCBD Channel 2 reports: School Consultant Paid $1200 a Day

Sandy Brossard is an educational consultant who serves several schools in Charleston county, including Stall High School in North Charleston at a fee of 12-hundred-dollars a day. News 2 checked with Stall principal Dan Conner, she visited the school twenty days last year, and collected more than 24-thousand dollars. The average teacher in Charleston county makes 253-dollars-a-day. Conner says, “She has been in on us doing our reform on Stall High School. Whether it be curriculum change, instructional changes as far as how we teach, our assessment strategies, Sandy has come in and led our charge to move this school forward, which our data will show, we are inching forward. We’re a Title-One school, the money that we’re given from the state in certain categories, you have to spend a percentage of that on professional development, so it’s not like I can say I ‘de rather get a teacher with this money. There is a percentage that has to be spent on professional development.” [italics mine] It’s all a part of an effort to improve student achievement in the classroom. Conner says it’s money well spent. He says, “Our HSAP scores have improved over the last two years, our ninth grade repeaters taking HSAP has almost doubled and in passage rate.”

The district is facing budget cuts, and may have to close schools, and from the calls and emails we received, some people believe the fee is too much. Conner says, “People want to keep hammering in on that 12-hundred dollars a day. Her networking there is no amount of money you can put on how valuable that has been for us. [italics mine] She’s worth ten times the money that we pay her because of her night and day, 24-7 information from her. She’s the best tool that I have had to use to help our kids in this school.”

Wando High School in Mount Pleasant received a grant to pay for the educational consultant. Principal Lucy Beckham says, “Sandy Brossard came into our lives five years ago. We were doing pretty good already as a high school, but not as well as we wanted to do. We applied for a comprehensive school reform grant.”[italics mine] Beckham says the 12-hundred-dollars-a day fee is not the issue. She says, “Anyone should want educators to get continuous training. Our goal is continuous improvement as a school. It doesn’t matter where the money comes from. A doesn’t matter if I raise it from the vending machine, state money, federal money, whatever kind of money, that’s not the issue. [italics mine] The issue is are our high schools getting better, are we putting together the right amount of support to take them to the next level.”

Louis Martin, associate superintendent for high schools for Charleston County School District tells News 2 money to pay for education consultants comes from technical assistance funds from the state. Martin says consultants have to be approved by district administrators, who monitor how money is spent. [italics mine] Martin says, “The money that’s being spent is all directed towards improving student achievement.”

According to Martin, last year Brossard visited seven low and high performing schools 59 times. At a rate of 12-hundred-dollars a day, totaling more than 70-thousand dollars. This year, she’s contracted for 38 days at the same fee. He says high school graduation rates at four of the seven schools that use the consultant have gone up.[because the way they were figured was changed!]

News 2 took the issue to school board chair Hillary Douglas. He says while training is essential, there may be ways to make cuts. Douglas says, “I thought they were excessive.” When asked if he thought the money would be better off spent elsewhere? Douglas says, “It could be, could be. We have needs all over the district. The district is not only looking at consultants, we’re looking at every contract the a we have to make sure we can save money.”

Principal Dan Conner says they’ve lost a lot of money this year, half a million dollars at Stall High School. For that reason, he can’t afford to hire Brossard this year, but he still gets help from her. Conner says, “She’s the gift that keeps on giving. I have no money for it, but I still talk to her three or four times a week or communicate via email or phone call.”

School district officials tell News 2 that Brossard’s fee of 12-hundred dollars a day is low compared to other consultants who charge more than 22-hundred a day. [italics mine]

Nancy Busbee, director of Office of Federal and State Accountability for the South Carolina Department of Education tells News 2, through the Technical Assistance fund, below average and unsatisfactory schools get between 75 to 250-thousand dollars to improve schools. Of that money, there is no limit on how much schools can pay consultants, as long as the school can show the service is meeting the school’s needs assessment.

News 2 checked with other school districts as well. Berkeley county has seven literacy and math coaches, who are employed by the district, but are paid according to the teacher pay scale, which range from 165 to 377 dollars a day. Dorchester district 2 does not use outside educational consultants.

Painful to read, isn't it?
The City Paper thought so and was contacted by Elliot Smalley in the district's defense after it published its questions--especially pertaining to what Brossard actually does and how successes can be traced back to her efforts:
The district’s spokesman Elliot Smalley got back to [Greg Hambrick] very quickly with his take on the News 2 piece.

“She’s one of the best high school consultants in the country, and she’s had a tremendous impact on our students,” he says. “That’s not ‘news’ — that’s a good investment, and one that progressive, high-performing districts all around the country are doing.”

Well, that explains all. One of the best in the country just happens to be located in Columbia, South Carolina.

I wonder what qualifies her to earn $1200 a day. She appears to be a school reform coach for High Schools That Work [see High Schools That Work] and at one time principal of Brookland-Cayce High School. Maybe we should call it job switches that work. $1200 per day.

Bureaucratic Idiocy of the Day

We wouldn't want to wear out the snow plows!

When it snows at beach, use a plow

Saturday, November 8, 2008

MYRTLE BEACH — It doesn't snow much in Myrtle Beach and the federal government has warned the local airport not to use its snow plows until it does.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently warned the Myrtle Beach International Airport that a dump truck, two pickups, snow plows and other equipment the agency provided two years ago must be used for clearing snow.

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports the airport had told the FAA it was using the vehicles for other jobs, such as general maintenance.

But the FAA told the airport that snow removal equipment must only be used for snow removal. But the FAA did say that a sweeper, included in the other equipment, could be used to clear airport grounds.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Democratic Stealth Campaign in CCSD

Under the radar. Well, at least it was under my radar, but as usual one commenter has made sense of Tuesday's results for Charleston County School Board.

Here's a snippet plus my take on why the analysis makes sense:
"Good old fashioned dirty politics based on rumor and fear[. . .]. Add Altman to the ballot and he became a target in an already high profile election. The others just became collateral damage."

"Despite this being non-partisan, the two political parties are working openly for certain candidates. This only causes further partisan divisions."

Those of us who don't travel in educrat or partisan circles wouldn't realize how carefully Mayor Riley managed to get the word out. Certainly the P & C wouldn't cover that. It's believable because of the GOP-sponsored ad in the P & C just before the election for four recommended candidates--Stewart, Engelman, Kandrac, and Lecque.

When I saw it, I was a bit mystified why it had appeared. I didn't view all these candidates as Republicans. Now I know they simply were the ones not being pushed by the Democrats.

Do voters in Charleston realize that, in the large majority of states, non-partisan positions are voted upon on a different date than partisan ones?

How did South Carolina arrive at this crazy "system"?

"It really is ironic that the Democratic Party has gone out on a limb by backing the candidates they have. [. . .] Why any political party would want to claim 'ownership' of this board is beyond me. Maybe we should give out the personal contact information so parents with problems might be able to reach the party leadership and the mayor at home. They can’t expect Toya Green or Greg Meyers to be much help."

Maybe the question should be, what does the Democratic Party have to gain by backing these candidates? Unfortunately, corruption comes to mind.

Where do Mayors Summey and Hallman stand in this "non-partisan" effort? Were they on board as well? Do they care?
"To some extent the Republicans have painted themselves out of the picture by never having gained any real influence on the school board. AR’s isolation on the current board proves the point."

Now, here I must disagree. They never had a chance. Republicans have never gained any real influence on CCSD's School Board because any school board is the last refuge of Democrats in a generally Republican area. Democrats can run as "non-partisans," and most Republicans are none the wiser. I saw this disguise work all too well in the New Jersey suburbs.

Add to the previous remarks another commenter's observation that the North Charleston results reflect two black versus one white candidate, and the total finally make sense.

How someone as sensible and well-educated on school policies as David Engelman could be defeated while at the same time Chris Collins, a novice who thinks that the student population in Charleston County is down because some students have decided to attend schools in Berkeley County instead (well, that's what he said!) is, in fact, an example of the world turned upside down.

How school board trustees are elected needs to be reformed if the Charleston County School District, especially its downtown schools, is to become truly excellent.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thoughts on Charleston County School Board Race

Why did Elizabeth Kandrac win when those who might have also questioned the district's problems lost? Here's an open thread for your comments.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Open Classroom Is So Over!

The "open classroom" wars of the seventies have given way to the closed classroom ideas of the fifties. How many school districts in the country built these monstrosities? I can recall whole communities practically coming to blows over these controversial designs, school board elections lost and won. Afterwards, if the open-classroom adherents won, teachers and students were stuck with unworkable schools perpetrated by educrats. The teacher in this picture must use a microphone to be heard over the voices in the wall-less classrooms around her.

According to an article in the Baltimore Sun [see Across Maryland, a Call for Classrooms with Walls], this educratic mess finally is sinking into the oblivion it so richly deserves. According to the article,
"The open-space school model, a British import, was embraced in the United States amid shifting social, cultural and political dynamics - the civil rights movement, the rise of feminism and anti-war protests - of the 1960s and '70s, according to Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University. Americans were increasingly questioning notions of societal norms, including traditional thoughts on classroom and school organization and teaching methods, earning the model acclaim, he said."
Speak for yourself, professor! Parents and teachers knew at the time it was a crock, but in most cases they were powerless to stop it.

Parents of the twenty-first century face similar stupidities, one being the idea that neighborhood schools are outdated. Another is the ideology perpetrated by Bill Ayers and his ilk as "constructivist" learning. A third is the push for every student to take a college prep course in high school and get a college degree.

When will they learn? THEY won't. The edublob is too busy soaking up funds from well-meaning (usually) non-profits and government to listen to common sense. And common sense is not being taught in schools of education.

Parents and teachers unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains.

CCSD's Love Affair with Broad Ending?

The Charleston County School District's new chief academic officer will be a 29-year resident of Charleston instead of a hired gun trained by the Broad Institute, as were Superintendent Nancy McGinley, who served as chief academic officer prior to her promotion; Randy Bynum, fleeting academic officer under McGinley; and Maria Goodloe-Johnson, former superintendent.

Doug Gepford, who has served in several different roles in the district, recently as overseer of verifying addresses in the district and culling the infamous Buist waiting list, has been appointed. Let's wish him good fortune.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why Tell Districts About Cheating on Tests?

Half a brain, that's all we ask. Do we get that? Not from Jim Rex's SC Department of Education. See Test Police Monitor School Results in Sunday's P & C.]

The Education Department did set up a watchdog committee (the "test police") over testing results used to answer the requirements of NCLB. Thus, to our list of unsung heroes we must add the name of Joe Saunders, one who figured out how to catch cheaters, an aspect needed given the stakes involved:

"Joe Saunders spurred the state's exploration into this aspect of testing. He's a number-crunching expert for the state who wrote a computer program that analyzes eraser marks.

"The state's testing company provides individual students' answers to every test question, including whether tests contained answer switches. A computer can tell when an answer has been erased.

"Saunders' program flags districts, schools and classes that have high numbers of answer changes, and it shows whether correct or incorrect answers ultimately were chosen.

Now Saunders clearly has a whole brain, but his program has been used by brainless wonders. Here's what the Liz Jones, the state's director of assessment, has to say about what has been done with the results of the computer analysis in the past:

"State officials plan to continue analyzing eraser reports, but Jones, the state's assessment director, said the attention on Sanders-Clyde and The Post and Courier's interest in the state's eraser analysis have prompted conversations about expanding the state's efforts to identify cheaters.

"Officials are considering the possibility of letting districts know when schools have higher than normal numbers of eraser marks in an effort to share the load in catching potential educator misconduct, Jones said.

"This case has caused a lot of discussion in the office," she said.

Ya think? We should be grateful, I suppose, that they took Sanders-Clyde seriously.

Golly, why tell districts about patterns of cheating? Shouldn't that be a secret? Someone's reputation might be at stake.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Shock and Awe, Post-and-Courier Style

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Is it the new leadership of the P & C's editorial page that has made the difference? [See Charleston School Board: Lecque, Kandrac, Engelman, Fraser, Stewart.]

SHOCK:Saturday's P & C endorsed CCSD school board candidates Lecque, Kandrac, Engelman, Fraser, and Stewart. If you think that's business as usual, you're wrong.

First of all, the editors snubbed Toya Hampton-Green, an incumbent and favorite of Mayor Riley. Second, they also ignored Ann Oplinger, a former CCSD principal. Those two facts taken together signal a sea change.

AWE: When you add to that the endorsements of three candidates--Engelman, Kandrac, and Stewart--the least likely to slavishly follow the machinations of Gregg Meyers--well, what further can be said?

Granted, the endorsement of Fraser is no aberration. He's simply the designated Chamber-of-Commerce guy replacing the old Chamber-of-Commerce guy, Brian Moody. And it would have been bizarre had the P & C endorsed John Altman, one of its most unfavorite pols.

Gee, I'm in the position of actually hoping all those folks in Mt. Pleasant follow the P & C's lead, for a change. Is the temperature dropping in hell?