Thursday, June 30, 2011

Uneven Results in CCSD Literacy Programs

Every time I read statistics put forward by Superintendent Nancy McGinley of the Charleston County Schools I remember the title of a mathematical classic, How to Lie with Statistics. as true today as it was when first published in 1954. Its author states, "The secret language of statistics, so appealing to a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify."

One reason that such tactics are so successful is that the majority of Americans, and that includes reporters, by the way, are incapable of interpreting them.

Take the latest statistics to emerge from CCSD's mandated literacy interventions (a result of actual investigative reporting from the P&C). At least McGinley does state that the "overall" report is encouraging; the reporter apparently couldn't figure out where the weakness in the program endures.

You tell me: does the following statement make any sense? "49.6 scored in the lowest percentile in the fall." See what I mean? Perhaps quintile? I don't really know.

Putting aside the shambles the reporter made with the statistics, several aspects stand out.

  • Focusing on literacy in the early grades does indeed pay off. That does raise the question of why it wasn't a focus previously, but whatever.

  • Except for the Third Grade Academies, the large majority of students receiving special attention were not on the pre-fourth-grade level of reading (two-thirds of first grade; one-half of third grade; and three-fourths of sixth grade)

  • Notice anything? Well, I did. The most successful programs had a larger percentage of students in the lowest category of reading! Someone could take a hint from this phenomenon!

Buried at the end of the article is the reality that the Sixth Grade Academy is failing to succeed in its mission--and it is the oldest of the bunch. To improve from 24.5 percent in the fall to 22.2 percent in the spring means that seven of the 298 students reached the fourth-grade level or better. While any advance is an improvement, this is something like an elephant laboring mightily and bringing forth a mouse!

Dare we ask what happened at the Sixth Grade Academy to the scores of the students who were already reading above the fourth-grade level? Why do I surmise that some of them regressed?

It should be obvious: to focus on the poorest readers means putting only the poorest readers together. Duh.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grimm's CCSD Future Predictable

Let's cut through the racist rhetoric of Dot Scott and her buddies of the Charleston NAACP (all five of them): the problems facing the newly-appointed principal of North Charleston High School, Robert Grimm, concern his lack of authority.

Make no mistake: Grimm is Superintendent McGinley's choice; the Board of Trustees was merely convinced to go along with it by a 6 to 3 vote. Apparently, in order to get those votes, McGinley decided to undercut Grimm's authority on the night of his appointment by agreeing to place some of it in the hands of Associate Superintendent James Winbush, former principal of Lincoln High School in McClellanville. Of course, we don't know what went on behind closed doors, but reading tea leaves and comments suggests that Grimm's record of enforcing good discipline at C.E. Williams probably garnered Elizabeth Kandrac's vote.

Was the Superintendent unable to find a qualified (according to the search committee's own parameters) applicant? Or did she decide by putting in someone who has never been principal of a high school of any size she was guaranteeing his failure, and, therefore, undercutting his authority made her long-term plans all the more possible.

Make no mistake about it. McGinley plans to combine Stall and NCHS as soon as it becomes politically correct. Such a merger will allow her record of eliminating failing schools to look that much better.

Still the mystery persists as to why McGinley decided to move former NCHS principal Middleton to the Early Head Start program. Did Middleton simply want out and desire a larger salary? Or did she comply with McGinley's wishes to stay on the superintendent's good side? Clearly, removing Middleton and putting Grimm in her place does not appear to be a move forward.

Grimm should be having second thoughts about taking the position; however, knowing McGinley's tactics, he may have no choice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Playing with Principals in North Charleston

  • A principal-selection committee for North Charleston High School, made up of CCSD district and school employees, interviewed applicants with no experience as principals and selected one of them as a finalist.

  • Some interviewees seemed to have seen the committee's questions in advance.

  • Poor, overworked Superintendent McGinley has taken on "an associate superintendent's job"to speak to employees and supervisors of the remaining finalists.

  • NCHS has had seven principals in the last 10 years. No wonder.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hicks's Opinions Not Front Page News

How often do Congressional hearings take place in the Low Country? Once every decade or so? And how relevant might hearings on the new Boeing plant be to the future of the area?

Yet the news articles about this event, thanks to the P&C's editors' deliberate choice, landed on page 10A.

Instead, readers can revel in (or revile) the half-baked opinions of an unqualified, provincial pontificator named Brian Hicks, deliberately placed on the front page above the fold. Don't you wonder how the two reporters who actually wrote the news reacted to this travesty?

The News and Courier becaume the Post and Courier when it combined with the Evening Post. Finally we understand the symbolism of its name change. The placement of Hicks's column equals putting the lead editorial above the fold and pretending it's not an editorial.

It's one decision to play up local instead of national news on the front page. It's a horse of a different color to replace news with opinion.

Saturday's hard-copy edition proves that the P&C is no longer a newspaper.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cook-Meyers Duo in the News Again

What do former chairmen of the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees do for an encore? Perhaps the same behavior they exhibited when on the school board.

Attorney Gregg Meyers filed a lawsuit for Nancy Cook (don't you wonder what she has on him?) as a preemptive strike in a suit brought against Cook for taking advantage of monies she received from the Veterans' Association as director of a men's shelter in North Charleston. Among other items of interest, Cook doubled her salary to $130 thousand per year.

Quite a profitable nonprofit for Cook, wouldn't you say? Who knows what additional shenanigans occurred at 75 Calhoun when the two of them were in office? Someone does.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CCSD's 70-Employee Cut in Your Dreams

Most discerning readers would assume that cutting 70 jobs in the Charleston County Schools District means 70 fewer employees. Wrong.

The P&C's headline reinforces this error: "School District to Cut 70 Jobs." Sounds Draconian, doesn't it? And Michael Bobby points out that "the district doesn't have much in the way of extra administrative and overhead costs." In which alternate universe?

You see, cutting 70 jobs is not the same as cutting 70 employees. In fact, those who read past the headline find out that practically all of those 70 employees whose jobs were cut have found another position in CCSD.

Sleight of hand: now you see them; now you don't.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where Is Stall's Celebratory Article?

Stall High School in North Charleston has been taken off life support, thanks to its progress in meeting NCLB standards. It is the one school in all of the Charleston County School District that the State Superintendent has removed from the Palmetto Priority Schools Project due to its improvement.

So where is the front-page article extolling Stall's success?

Funny, Superintendent McGinley usually touts every little improvement in the schools. Could it be that she hasn't fed the information to the P&C because she doesn't want Stall's success to be widely known?

Well, if she's still planning to combine Stall and North Charleston High Schools, the reason may be just that. The so-called committee of interested community persons to discuss that plan still hasn't met. Hmm.

Time for a little investigative reporting, Diette.

Monday, June 06, 2011

McGinley Article Well-Meant But Flawed

Summarizing Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley's decisions and lack of them should be a service to the taxpayers who do not usually follow the twists and turns at 75 Calhoun. Yet--why do articles such as Monday's "Flexible or Flawed" inevitably sound as though they were written by McGinley herself?

I leave you to ponder that thought.

Meanwhile, a piece should follow that analyzes the effects of her decisions and non-decisions on the students involved and the community. Too often McGinley prizes appearance over reality. She has seven years in the district, seven years that should show some progress. The reporter needs to find out if the progress cited by McGinley is real and, in addition, if any progress results from the superintendent's policies or from outside factors.

That piece would be a community service.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Warning: CCSD's McGinley Puff Piece Monday

You may want to skip reading the P&C with breakfast Monday. Courrege has planned a McGinley profile explaining how the superintendent wisely makes her decisions.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Chief Academic Officer Out in CCSD

Not only is Doug Gepford retiring as Chief Academic Officer of the Charleston County Schools District, he's not being replaced.

It's a start--one layer of bureaucracy removed. How about the rest?