Thursday, June 11, 2009

Meyers, the Poster Boy for Chutzpah in CCSD

English words have failed me (effrontery, gall, arrogance, brass, nerve, audacity, cheek, hubris--oops, sorry, that last one was Greek), so I must fall back on the little Yiddish I know to describe Charleston County School Board member Gregg Meyers's reactions to CCSD's literacy problems: chutzpah. At least, that was my reaction toThursday's newest article on literacy problems in the district [Literacy Requirements Debated].

How many years has our erstwhile friend served on the School Board?

How many years has the problem existed?

Meyers should be forced to resign in shame.

Think of the major role he played in creating safe-haven magnet schools for his own children (both Buist and Academic Magnet) while allowing deterioration of schools for poorer students downtown (District 20) and elsewhere during his "service." Apparently, Meyers lives by the motto, "Them that has, gets." Imagine the nerve that went into the following Meyers statement: "If we don't stake out what is most important, then this [learning to read] simply becomes one of many important things." If any one person could be held accountable for CCSD's literacy failures, it would be Meyers himself.

On the other hand, Board member Ruth Jordan's remarks reveal that she still doesn't understand the problem. The article quotes her as saying, " it's not acceptable for students to be so far behind when they reach ninth grade, but [. . .] some district teachers are ineffective. Tying promotion to reading ability would penalize students for their teachers' ineptitude."

So, Ms. Jordan, under that politically-correct condition it would be okay to send students "so far behind" that they can't read their textbooks on to high school? Isn't that what caused the problem in the first place? Use some logic here, please!

To top the CCSD's committee meeting off, "community member" (see previous post) Jon Butzon was allowed to sit in deliberations and provide his two cents. When was he elected to the School Board? Why isn't Elizabeth Kandrac on the committee? Isn't she the board member who has the most direct experience in teaching students who can't read on grade level? Where are Butzon's credentials (besides being a friend of the Mayor)?

Nowhere in the article does the reporter mention that the original goal of No Child Left Behind was to make sure that every third grader was reading prior to entering the next grade. Not relevant here, among NCLB-bashers? Or were the reporter and School Board members even more ignorant than we thought?


Anonymous said...

The ability to read begins at birth or soon after. Children whose parent read to them on a daily basis are more likely to know their letters and many sounds before they enter kindergarten. At that point, teachers have a degree of prior knowledge to work with.

On the other hand, when students do not reach kindersarten knowing even the letters, the kindergarten teacher must basically teach those at the expense of other students, unless there is a pull-out program available for reading (with trained reading specialists)

When students are behind by the second and third grade, the odds are very good they will not catch up whether they are retained or not. Retaining an elementary-aged child does nothing in catching them up, and has the negative effect of starting their overage status which they bring with them throughout their educational years.

The problem in our NCLB world is that rather than understanding that this child will have to take an alternative route (usually taking longer), our schools must bring them along no matter how frustrated the child and the teachers get. If these students were given resources to catch them up a bit at a time, without retaining them until they reach high school, you would solve several problems:
(1)the student would not have the stigma of being retained.
(2)Middle schools would have 12 year-old children going to class with 12 year-old children rather than 16 year-old children.
(3) High Schools would at least get children who are 14 or 15 and have not given up all hope because they are 17 in the ninth grade, thereby potentially reducing disciplineary infractions/drop-outs.

No evidence I have ever seen points to retention as having positive outcomes.

The bottom line however is understanding that high schools cannot accelerate children reading at the third grade level when they enter high school to a level that will allow them to pass the HSAP.

Just following the news reports and school report cards, I find it actually rather miraculous that some high schools receive a class of freshmen in which upwards of 40%read at 4th grade or below, yet over 60% pass the reading HSAP (supposedly written at the 8th grade level)

Reading cannot be taught at school alone. Parents are legally responsible for the external learning environments of their children. Expecting schools to be solely responsible for the reading prowess of children is ludicrous.

A doctor suggests you should stop eating fried food and puts you on a low fat diet. You ignore it and die of a heart attack. This is the doctor's fault? Schools can only do their best with what they receive. I think some schools that are creamed in the community/media are doing just that.

Anonymous said...

Four years ago, Mr. David Colwell became the new Principal at North Charleston High School. I remember he immediately understood the urgency of hundreds of low-performing/reluctant readers coming from the feeder schools, most notably Brentwood and Morningside Middle Schools. Days after he was named principal, he began involving his leadership team in serious dialogue regarding Lexile scores, Scholastic Reading Inventories, reading across the curriculum etc. Shortly thereafter, with the consultation of his wife (who I believe is a certified reading teacher), he researched READ 180. I remember sitting in on several meetings (with the READ 180 representative from Scholastic) with him as he asked for specific research-based data to demonstrate that the program had an established track record of success in schools with demographics similar to North Charleston's. He then made the bold move to invest in four READ 180 labs at NCHS. Then he hired four new English teachers, Scholastic trained them, they followed the program exactly as it was supposed to be followed, and the Lexile gains were phenomenal, some as much as three grade levels in less than one year. In his second year at the school, the EOC and HSAP scores jumped. But what always bothered me was his concern and disappointment that Nancy Mc Ginley, Chief Academic Officer at the time, never bothered to spend time in any of those classrooms, despite his invitations to her to tour the classrooms with him. I do remember that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and Patricia Yandle (our Associate Superintendent at the time) both continued to visit those classrooms and speak with teachers (and me more than once) and students who, for the most part, were actively engaged in their learning. So, yes, I definitely remember at least one school, one principal, one group of teachers who not only acknowledged the literacy problem but also were bold enough to do something about it...despite a Chief Academic Officer who continued to bury her head in the sand.