Thursday, January 28, 2010

Public Charter Schools: Time and the Law on Their Side

Why do CCSD public charter schools have so much community support? Perhaps the answer is as obvious to you as to me: because schools run by the Charleston County Schools Superintendent, Nancy McGinley, and the School Board have not been doing their job.

Proof? They just discovered that literacy should be their top priority.

The latest ruling in favor of CCSD public charter schools [see Charter Schools Win Ruling] must have these individuals weeping, wailing, and gnashing their teeth. The chickens done come home to roost. The handwriting is on the wall. The fat lady is beginning her song.

Such rulings may or may not be appealed successfully, but the day of the all-powerful local school board made up of self-aggrandizing individuals is over.

Time is on our side and that of our community's children.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unanimous Vote for CCSD to Teach Reading

Golly. The Charleston County School Board unanimously passed its own literacy policy at its last meeting. [See Literacy to Be Schools' Top Job in Tuesday's P&C.] They've discovered that schools should teach reading!

Superintendent McGinley says, "This is the hill that I'm going to die on because I feel that if we do this, if we stop the progression of children who move through the school system without reading skills, we will have done something very significant not only for Charleston but for the country."

She continued, "In addition, we're for God, Motherhood, and Apple Pie. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Oops, channeling Winston Churchill.

Big talk. Let's see the follow-through.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Boeing Brings CCSD Back to the Future

The academy announced for Stall High School reported in Monday's P&C [see Stall High School to Open Academy] mimics similar long-standing partnerships all over America--initiated not only by Boeing but also by other businesses important to the economy of each area.

The "new aeronautics academy" should be a boon to Stall High School students and others who wish to attend. Why does Superintendent McGinley insist that CCSD replicate it in her four "areas"? Aren't there other specialties needed for the local economy? Why has CCSD not pursued previous business partnerships?

Does it take someone from Seattle to see that Charleston's high school students could get training and certificates in high school instead of paying tuition to get them post-graduation at Trident?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kudos to P&C on Literacy Focus

Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley fools no one who reads the newspaper. Her op-ed in Sunday's paper [see CCSD's New Plan Draws a Clear Line in the Sand on Literacy ] shows that she has paid attention to the outrage expressed after a series of articles on the poor literacy rates of CCSD's students appeared last summer.

Does anyone believe that the CCSD School Board and its Superintendent would be focusing on literacy now if those articles hadn't run? What's been going on for the last forty years? Where was McGinley's focus when she came to Charleston to be in charge of academics for Maria Goodloe-Johnson?

Too bad the voters seem to forget these small items at election time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

PASS Fails South Carolina

Why do you think South Carolina replaced a test called the PACT with one named the PASS?

They had such high hopes for the PASS, South Carolina's replacement test to measure student achievement for NCLB. Jim Rex, SC's Superintendent of Education, fondly hoped that by lowering testing standards, he could show how much education in the state had improved under his watch.

Well, the jig is up. Despite such educrats' best efforts, not a single South Carolina school district made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) with the new test.

According to Friday's P&C,

When lawmakers replaced PACT with PASS, they moved to a three-level scoring system -- not met, met and exemplary -- and required students to score at the met level to meet AYP. That means more students could meet AYP because the standard for doing so was lower."

The result? "None of the state's school districts made AYP, and all of the local districts fell short in meeting AYP for its students with disabilities."

What went wrong? No doubt Jim Rex even now is hounding the test-makers about their failure to see that at least one district would pass. "Hey, stupid," he might say, "That was the whole idea behind the new name, PASS."

Those who created the tests must be really dumb.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

CCSD's Pyrric Victory over Drayton Hall

Pyrric--a battle that is won at too great a cost to the victor.

For now, the Charleston County School District can crow over the latest legal ruling against Drayton Hall Elementary's charter application. For now they can hope that no rebellion breaks out elsewhere in the district, say at Wando High School.

Parents at Drayton Hall excited about separating themselves from our esteemed School Board's guidance now are both disappointed and angry. And they have resources and influence.

Charter school supporters know that the winds of change are on their side. It's only a matter of time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

If We Close the Schools We'll Save Even More


I didn't catch where State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex mentioned cutting bureaucrats and red tape for his austerity program. [See Shorter School Year Under Study in Wednesday's P&C]

Rex has some truly educationlly-adverse ideas for saving money, though. How about lopping five days off the school year? How much difference could they make, reasons Rex?

Why, think big, Jim! Why not make it ten? How about 20? Maybe we could have a three-month school year instead of a three-month vacation? Wouldn't that make sense in these hard times?

And why require all those courses to graduate? In fact, let's use this excuse to cut high school to a two-year program and save millions, probably tens of millions!

Just think of it! So much would be left to hire educrats and purchase the latest edu-programs that we could cut property taxes in half.

It's utopia in the making!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

An Answer on Sanders-Clyde Delay

Would you believe that "vendors who provide furniture, install fire alarms and security and set up technology and equipment were overloaded"? Thus goes Bill Lewis's excuse for the delayed opening of both Sanders-Clyde Elementary downtown and Haut Gap Middle on Johns Island. See 3 School Construction Projects Face Delays in Tuesday's paper.

You mean that the vendors that Bill Lewis contracted with were incapable of handling all of the business he gave them? So what rocket scientist scheduled all four schools (including North Charleston's renovation and the new School of the Arts) to open at the same time?

Could it be that the other schedules had slipped, and everything piled up at the end? Such thoughts are never "thunk" by reporters at the P&C. Beyond the pale.

And if Sanders-Clyde parents were told months ago that the school wouldn't be ready until February, why is the announcement of the delay in the news on January 19th?

Yes, I know, more damage control from the Charleston County School District.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CCSD Marketing Disguised as Themes

Divide Charleston County into four sections. Give each section its own set of themed schools so that parents can pick which is best for their child. It's the latest in edublob thinking (can you say "arts-infused"?) about marketing public schools in an atmosphere that supports public charter schools instead. See Plan for Themed Schools Endorsed.

Well, I'd endorse it too, if I thought it wouldn't take dollars away from literacy programs. Such is not the case. At the very least these themes will add to costs of renovations proposed for the next building campaign, already acknowledged in the article. We must have themes in order to have equity? Why?

Are the school board members going to fund the programs out of their own pockets?

Memories are so short. Wasn't it just at the end of 2009 that the CCSD School Board finally managed to focus on a literacy policy for the school district? Has that little problem already been fixed? Has the School Board found the funds to put it into full effect?

Superintendent McGinley seems to be convinced that dazzling the School Board with one program after another is the way to keep her job. How many different ones has she now introduced and dropped a year or two later?

Let's keep the focus on literacy alive. Reading well is by far more important than having a theme.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Change Is Coming for State Charter Schools

Whether the present bill in the SC State Legislature passes in its present form or not, charter schools have become so popular with the public that sooner or later the right changes will be made. See Changes for State Charter Schools? for details on the bill sponsored by Rep. Phil Owens of Easley.

Among those asked for opinions on the bill, Larry DiCenzo, principal of Orange Grove Charter, pointed out that the school is so popular that a lottery must be held for kindergarten slots. Then, Dot Scott of the NAACP made her usual noises about charter schools "leading to less racial diversity." Yeah, right.

Hey, Dot, make visits to the Charter School for Math and Science and then to Burke. Then answer which system leads to less racial diversity, that is, if you can see what's in front of you!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Whatever Happened to the New Sanders-Clyde?

Remember when those District 20 schools were closed last year? Remember questions about the size of the school being used temporarily while a new facility was being built? No? Here's a clip from last August's P&C:

"Changing the identity of a school doesn’t happen in a day or a week, but downtown Sanders-Clyde Elementary plans to do as much as possible this year to begin transforming into an arts-infused school.

"The genesis of the idea to take the highest poverty school in Charleston County and give it an arts makeover dates back about three years to the tenure of former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and a partnership she developed with nationally known artist Jonathan Green.

"They hatched the idea to give Sanders-Clyde a new arts-related focus that would coincide with the opening of its new building, slated for January 2010."

Okay, it's January 2010. Where's the news about the move to the new building?

Where's the P&C story about why the building is not ready?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Surprise! Expectations for Students Make a Difference

What every teacher knows:

Without order and discipline in a school, academics suffer. So Ken Burger's column in Thursday's P&C on the turn-around at Haut Gap on Johns Island surprises only in its common-sense approach. See Order Is a Product of Expectation.

Burger touts Haut Gap as a magnet school (although statistics would prove it). And a new school building may be just the opportunity to shake off old stereotypes of poor academics and daily mayhem. (Haut Gap was originally built in the 1950s during segregation to show that black schools could be "separate but equal.")

The magnet program and new building are just the icing. What really makes the cake and drives any school's improvement is a good principal. Principal Paul Padron and Ed White, his "PBIS instructional coach" (i.e., head disciplinarian) are to be commended, as well as the rest of the staff who are making a difference in the lives of students who aren't always expected to succeed.

We can't count on all students' having interested, involved, and caring parents--even if each child deserves them!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

CCSD's Principle of Constant Principal Turnover

The other shoe dropped on the disappearance of Burns Elementary's third principal in three years: see Domino Effect in Tuesday's P&C.
According to the article, "Before schools dismissed for winter break, officials named Beth McCraw, principal of Burns Elementary School, as the principal on special assignment to oversee the splitting of Midland Park. Deborah Smith, an assistant principal at Drayton Hall Elementary School, was named interim principal for Burns."

Now, McCraw may be just the person for this new assignment; however, Stall's move onto a new campus and the resulting "domino effect" should have been foreseen for months. Why must Burns Elementary give up yet another stabilizing force at a school that, according to one parent, "has had 5 assistant principals, a whole new office staff, and 50% or more turnover."

That's a question that deserves an answer.

Monday, January 04, 2010

SOA Opens as Construction Site

A drive around the new Center for Arts and Academics last weekend made two facts obvious: the school buildings were not finished, despite the January 4th opening of the School of the Arts, and the entrance to the school campus should have been on Montague Avenue.

Academic Magnet students should be glad that more of the campus (dare we say all?) will be complete by next fall. Meanwhile, SOA students have much to contend with, as shown in Monday's article in the P&C, Inspiring Place:

"The vast majority of the school will be ready for students to use today, with the exception of the theater, costume design and musical theater classrooms. About 100 students will be shuttled to the school's former campus for those classes until construction is complete, which should be no later than March. Students will be able to eat in the cafeteria, but the kitchen won't be operational for another couple of weeks. Hot meals will be brought over from the school's former building." My favorite part is the "extra" gym, caused by poor planning regarding the addition of the Academic Magnet. And SOA doesn't even have any athletic teams.

At least the shuttle won't be going very far! Of more concern is the narrowness of the street that will now be inundated with buses and cars. Furthermore, CCSD has planned for major traffic jams next fall by putting two schools on the same campus.

Still, it's nice to see that these SOA students will have the performance spaces they deserve.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Arts-Infused School for Oak Terrace Preserve?

According to Sunday's P&C, the former School of the Arts building in the middle of North Charleston's Oak Terrace Preserve will become an "arts-infused elementary school." See Quality at What Cost?

Don't hold your breath on this one, homebuyers!

If nothing else, Bill Lewis will tear it down in case of earthquakes. And which nearby elementary school is bursting at the seams? Not one.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Economics Forces McGinley to Do Right Thing

Where are the new and improved statistics for the five "partial-magnet" schools in the Charleston County School District that received thousands of additional dollars and additional teachers this year "to improve [their] performance and increase student diversity"? See Partial-magnet Growth on Hold in Saturday's P&C.

What's that, you say? It's too soon to know if the programs work? Actually, it isn't--at least in regard to statistics on diversity, but I agree that only six months' experience with the programs is too soon to know if they will improve academic performance at those schools.

So why discuss creating more of them if we don't know yet if they work?

Because that's how Superintendent McGinley sees her job--creating one costly special program after another. You know, throw all of them out there and see which ones hit the fan. We're still waiting on the results of last summer's reading improvement experiment and this year's Sixth-Grade Academy.

Let's focus on reading!

If Sullivan's Island Elementary wants to use the marshes and salt water as assets for its science lessons, it doesn't need a special program to do so!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Size Matters; CCSD Buildings' Longevity Questionable

Bill Lewis feels apologetic that CCSD didn't tear down North Charleston High School. As he says in Friday's P&C, "The reasons officials decided to renovate rather than rebuild were that constructing a new building would've cost twice as much and that the 26-year-old school still had a good shell." See Same Outside, Brand-new Inside.

I'm almost afraid to ask: are the new buildings constructed under Lewis's watch planned to last for more than 26 years?

Was this 1983 school building so poorly constructed inside that it needed to be gutted? I want the name of the builder, if so. Would you buy a house constructed in 1983 assuming it needed to be gutted? Is this all about technology that changes so fast that as soon as you build for it, it's out of date?

Finally, in 2035 will Lewis (or his replacement) be telling us that the new "Center for Arts and Academics" (i.e., the campus of the School of the Arts and Academic Magnet) needs to be gutted "but still has a good shell"?

NCHS did need improvements, security being paramount. And there is one great aspect to retaining those 26-year-old walls: the school will hold only 1000 students.

That's an optimal size for education, a big improvement over the monster-sized schools built elsewhere in the district.