Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wanted: Copy Editor for P & C

Newspapers are dying. The internet is taking over, and on-line news is the future; for some, even the present.

Teaching students how to distinguish an authoritative website from one that is uninformed includes checking to see if spelling, grammar, and usage are correct. Another way to distinguish a bad source is its inclusion of misinformation. In the last few days, the P & C has failed on both counts. Blogs don't have copy editors; newspapers must.

For example, it was discouraging to read in Tyler Simpson's article, "Juneteenth feted in N. Charleston: Brief history": "On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all the slaves in the country." Really? Even Wikipedia, hardly an unchallenged source, states the slaves were freed "in the ten states in rebellion."

Recovered from this disappointing ignorance of history and  reading Charleston Scene in Monday's paper, I discovered ignorance of grammar as well.
  • On the German biergarten: "There also was beer school classes, cornhole, a photo booth and more." "There" is never a subject; clearly the subject is plural and the verb must be plural in agreement.
  • On the Carolina Billfish Classic: "And with the fishing comes parties." "Fishing" is the object of the preposition, not the subject, which is "parties."  Thus we have another example of incorrect subject-verb agreement.
I'm sure there are readers of this blog that will think that such mistakes don't matter, After all, they would say, we know what they meant.

My students ask, "Does spelling count?" Only if you want to be taken seriously.

Copy Editor needed ASAP.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

CCSD Run on Soviet Model

Authority rules with an iron hand. Elected oversight committee members bend to will of unelected leader. Those who report problems or abuse of any type face inevitable retaliation. The reputations of those who ask unapproved questions are smeared. The organization approves one ephemeral five-year plan after another with little accountability for progress.

We thought we'd left such institutions behind after the Wall came down in 1989, but expensive billboards advertising "Vision 2016," devoid of further content that might legitimize their use, remind us that the discredited Soviet model is alive and well in the Charleston County School District.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Buist Waiting List Housecleaning Overdue

Buist Principal Sally Ballard has retired. Now the housecleaning begins, especially in regard to its much bally-hooed waiting lists. CCSD Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Fraser has put forth the idea that perhaps methods of maintaining waiting lists for the districts' county-wide magnets should be standardized. Buist's bloated list stands out like a sore thumb.

Funny, isn't it? While Ballard remained principal no questions were raised, at least by McGinley supporters. Fraser does what McGinley asks him to do; therefore, Superintendent McGinley now wants to straighten out what has been a disgrace ever since Ballard took over the magnet school.

Makes you wonder what favors Ballard had granted McGinley.

At any rate, Buist's 2000+ waiting list is a mirage. Ballard's idea of how to fill vacancies is a joke: the old "delay, linger, and wait" routine. If waiting lists were not purged and parents did not need to apply again after kindergarten, don't you wonder what Ballard did with students who moved into the district afterwards? Added them to the end of the list? Not likely. The whole process was inept, tainted with cronyism, and corrupt.

Let's hope that while changing its method of keeping waiting lists Buist also sheds some light into the dark corners of how it fills spaces and why some spaces remain vacant.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Unintended Consequences at North Charleston High

Brian Hicks's column Friday outlines the basic problems at CCSD's North Charleston High School. Never mind that merely 88 of a potential 251 graduates made it to a diploma: the school's problems have been exacerbated by district leadership over the last decade.

First of all, any parent of a student reading at or above grade level has wisely chosen to enroll that student (if at all possible) at one of the many magnet schools that are in--wait for it--North Charleston. Total enrollment at NCHS has dropped by half in the last few years.

Second, in her wisdom, the superintendent has been unable to keep her hands off the principals she has appointed. Grimm is new to the job this year--why? Because McGinley took a principal who had good rapport with the NCHS community and appointed her to oversee Head Start. Go figure.

Third, the district claims that the percentage of non-readers (i.e., reading below the fourth grade level) has dropped from 20 to 12 percent. Wouldn't you like to see the actual numbers of students involved? Not many. We should be asking what percentage read below the sixth grade level (the lowest level for which high school materials are published).

If it weren't for NCLB, district administration wouldn't even bat an eyelash at the dropout rate at NCHS. The statistics keep the superintendent honest. We wouldn't be hearing about the school from Hicks except that under NCLB rules, after all else has failed, the school faces a potential state takeover.

Here's the reality. Following the same model of schooling used for other high schools does not work in a dire situation. It's time for the superintendent and the state superintendent to "think outside of the box." Keep a section of students reading more or less on grade level, say sixth and above, to follow the traditional curriculum. Make sections of the rest based on reading ability and teach them to read. They may take five years to graduate or more. Maybe once they can read, they can catch up with on-line courses in the summer. Maybe someone else has a better solution. I would suggest to start by asking the teachers at NCHS what would work.

Chances are that they know and would love to do what ever it takes.