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.