Thursday, December 19, 2013

Edublob Happy to Reap Profits from Common Core Resources

Diane Ravitch points out the obvious and asks several pertinent questions. We wonder what the answers are for the Charleston County School District:

Common Core: A Bonanza for Vendors

by dianeravitch
Education Week reports that 68% of districts plan to buy new instructional resources to meet the demands of Common Core.
That is, some 7,600 districts plan to buy new materials.
Most are planning to buy online resources, presumably to prepare for online testing.
I wish some researchers would estimate the shift of resources to pay for the new stuff.
As districts purchase more Common Core aligned materials, hardware and software, what do they spend less on?
Class size? Teachers? The arts? Physical education? Social workers? Guidance counselors? Librarians? 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CCSD's McGinley Attempts to Straddle BRIDGE She Created

Slick. That's the apposite adjective for Charleston County School District's Superintendent McGinley. No wonder she's in the running for CCSD's longest-serving top administrator.

Allegations regarding the district's BRIDGE program are flying fast and furious. Teachers are outraged. Well-known education experts such as Ravitch are taking pot shots on the national stage. Time to call a meeting.

According to McGinley's latest insights, "there might be another way" to assess good work by students. There might be an "adjustment period." There might be uncertainty over results from a new statewide test. McGinley needs a "better confidence level" than what she has now.

These statements follow upon the heels of a surprise pay raise for a top administrator who attended the Broad Institute just to learn how to implement the BRIDGE. After implementing a pilot program in CCSD to reassure teachers that the following year their objections would have been dealt with. Of supreme confidence that BRIDGE was the way to go. After all, McGinley in her quest for Race to the Top funds has guaranteed the feds that the district would use such a program. She never hinted that she had any idea of the mounting evidence that value-added scores were bogus. After all, CCSD's paying Mathematica more than a million for its take on the formula. That's OPM.

Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst is the only local group vocally supporting BRIDGE. So you're not going to be surprised to find that Eli Broad gave that group half a million dollars in start up funds.

Your edublob at work. Now CCSD begs the feds to postpone what it asked for in the first place.

CCSD's Planning for Parking Fees a Joke

Evidently the reporter can't remember that part of the Memminger School property was sold off to the College of Charleston on a no-bid basis in April of 2012. Geeze, that's less than a year ago. What short memories we have.

Just think, that piece of property could have been used for parking. Instead, together with those from Buist, the Charleston County School District will spend almost $100,000 per year in parking fees for employees.

Speaking of Buist, district administrators, including Superintendent McGinley, wax poetic over the need for a gym and other spaces, expansion of the old footprint to bring the school amenities provided to other schools. That's the excuse for paying parking fees for Buist employees.

The reporter has also neglected to mention that parents in District 20 (downtown schools) proposed combining Buist and Charleston Progressive, another school being rebuilt at the old Courtenay campus only two blocks away. Several lower grades could have been assigned to the CPA campus and upper grades to the Buist campus, with the existing gym shared by both levels.

Oh, duh. That was just too logical, not to speak of putting a higher percentage of black students into the merged schools.

Here's one of those mathematical word problems:

The proceeds from the sale of the Memminger property went into the operating budget. The fees for parking come out of the operating budget. How many years will pass before the money gained from the sale will be exhausted by parking fees?

And another capital asset will have disappeared.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Communities in Schools: Buying Good Press or Money to Burn?

In the past week or so, Communities in Schools (CIS), the much-touted nonprofit headed by Mayor Riley's sister, has purchased not one, but two, full-color two-page ads in the Post and Courier. If you've ever purchased even one full-page ad, you know these ads don't come cheap.

The purpose appears to be raising community awareness or raising funds or both. The website advertised takes you to a very professional website extolling the work of CIS and asking you to get involved.

Is this really an effective way to raise money assist students? Wouldn't one page be enough?


Friday, December 13, 2013

CCSD and North Charleston's TIF: What Did CCSD Get?

Still the question remains, thanks to closed-door meetings!

The Post and Courier
North Charleston expands special tax-financing district
David Slade
Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2013 9:42 p.m., Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 10:12 p.m.
"North Charleston has expanded a special tax-financing district that will channel some future city, county and school district property taxes into the city's redevelopment initiatives.
"Initially, the funding will mostly support the ongoing development of the city-sponsored Oak Terrace Preserve subdivision near Park Circle. Funds could also be used throughout the designated areas for things such as street and utility improvements, and parks.
"The way it works is, the city has expanded what's known as a tax increment financing district, with the county and school district's approval. The deal extends by 10 years a TIF district that was due to expire in 2018, and increases the size of that TIF district to nearly 700 acres.
"Within the TIF district, for the next 15 years, property taxes generated by new development and rising property values will be used to pay for city-chosen improvements within that same area.
"The Beach Company's Garco Mill development and the former Naval Hospital are both within the TIF area.
"New property tax revenues from development and rising real estate values would have gone to the city, county and school district general funds, if there were no TIF district. The TIF concept is that public improvements will increase property values, which will create tax revenues, which will repay money borrowed to fund the improvements.
"The school district accounts for the largest share of property tax revenue, and will keep 12.5 percent of the new property tax revenues that it would have otherwise received, under an agreement with the city. The TIF district will get the rest.
A little transparency, please.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ravitch's Blog Tears into Broad-Trained McGinley

I couldn't have said it better myself. In her blog criticizing the Charleston County School District's new BRIDGE program to use value-added scores to evaluate teaching, Diane Ravitch tells us what she really thinks:
"Surprise! The school leadership of Charleston, South Carolina, has come up with some stale ideas and branded them as “reform.”
"Nothing like copying what was tried and failed everywhere else!
"The district calls it a “new” program of teacher evaluation, pay for performance, and reconfigured salary structure BRIDGE but in fact it is the status quo demanded by the U.S. Department of Education.
"Every Broad-trained superintendent has the same ideas but is tasked with calling them “new” (when they are not), “evidence-based” (when they are not), and “reform” (when they are the status quo, paid for and sanctified by the U.S. Department of Education).
"Patrick Hayes, a teacher in Charleston, has launched a campaign to expose the destructive plan of the district leaders, whose primary outcome will be to demoralize and drive away good teachers."  [italics mine]

Funnily enough,  in this December 9th posting, Ravitch makes precisely the same points as I have in the last few months.

Too bad the CCSD School Board listens only to the Superintendent. When is it going to figure out that teachers are not the problem?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

North Charleston TIF Expansion Agreement with CCSD Murky at Best

What was the quid pro quo for the Charleston County School Board's agreement to forego future tax revenue in an expanded TIF district in North Charleston? The district has so much money that missing increments for the next 15 years don't matter?

Here is the problem in a nutshell: closed-door meetings raise public distrust. The deal was negotiated in closed meeting. Other than voting 4-3 for approval, the district has released no further information. How opaque can the district get?

Of course, that last statement assumes that the reporter didn't ignore statements about the agreement made in open session. You never know.

CCSD's Orange Grove Charter Expansion a No-Brainer

The standing-room-only Orange Grove crowd at Monday night's Charleston County School Board meeting cheered the CCSD Board's decision to allow the charter elementary school to add middle school grades 6 - 8. The Board had made proponents worried that months would pass before a decision due to its own inchoate plans for the two existing middle schools in the West Ashley district. Parents have so reviled those schools for the last few years that enrollment has dipped dangerously low, and district plans to close one and merge the two schools had been floated.

Orange Grove is a prime example of a charter school that can succeed with good leadership. As with James Island Charter High School, Orange Grove had the community's trust as a public school before it attained charter status. It also had a new building started when CCSD assumed it would remain under the control of Superintendent McGinley and the School Board.

Too bad more existing schools have been unable to takes themselves out from under CCSD's spell.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Teacher Sycophants on CCSD's BRIDGE

Who could blame them?

The only way to job security in the Charleston County School District is through bootlicking for Superintendent McGinley. Thus we have the pedestrian summation and defense of the BRIDGE program of value-added evaluation and compensation based on test scores by two ambitious CCSD teachers as an op-ed in Monday's paper.

Don't be fooled by propaganda. BRIDGE is a train wreck in slow motion.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

EdFirstSC Finally Comes to Its Senses over CCSD's BRIDGE

Blame Bill Gates and the Obama administration.

Even though EdFirstSC finally sees the train headed for the wreck, its spokesman tries to blame SC Education Superintendent Mick Zais for the genesis of value-added teacher compensation. Zais visited the Charleston County School District to discuss Superintendent Nancy McGinley's plan to change the way teachers are compensated. EdFirstSC's members must lean heavily towards teachers who are Democrats. Yes, Republicans want teachers to be accountable, but the machinations behind BRIDGE must be laid squarely on the shoulders of the edublob and the Obama administration, especially U.S. Education Department head, Arne Duncan. They're all liberal Democrats.

Blame McGinley for applying for Race to the Top funds and accepting them. Federal money always comes with strings attached, and she knew full well what they would be. As a result of winning the grant, the district must follow Common Core standards AND implement a teacher evaluation system based on the fatally-flawed value-added model pushed by the Gates Foundation and Arne Duncan. In preparation McGinley sent Audrey Lane to the Broad Institute just to learn all about the new teacher-evaluation system and then rewarded her with a nice fat retroactive raise. And the edublob, in the form of Mathematica, got a nice $2 million (of Other People's Money) contract to figure out how to make the system fair, a goal that even those mathematicians must know is impossible.

This new system will never be fair to teachers or students. Look at the abundance of research on just this topic that Duncan, and McGinley, choose to ignore. Going after these funds and implementing the value-added compensation system in CCSD is McGinley's personal effort at her own "race to the top."

If you think testing is overrated and too important now, wait till teachers' jobs hang on these unfair results.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

CCSD's Third Board Replacement: A Charm or a Strike-out?

Soooo many people want to get onto the Charleston County School Board without running for election. What does that tell you? With a non-partisan Board, each individual represents whom? Himself or herself, of course. Fortunately, the CCSD Board does not have the privilege of replacing its own members. Thanks to John Barter's unnecessary resignation, that responsibility passes to the Charleston County legislative delegation.

Twelve people have put forward their desire to be anointed by the Republican-dominated delegation. Now we just need to figure out which ones have been recruited by Superintendent McGinley and her minions. Whoever is selected and vetted by Governor Haley will have nine months of Board experience before running for re-election.

Who are these people? None of them are household names. Only Charles Glover has served on a constituent board (#23 in Hollywood). Two candidates probably have close ties to the Superintendent, Anne Sbrocchi and Carol Tempel. They are also liberal Democrats, so you've got to hope that the delegation has more sense.

Do we need more attorneys on the Board? Seems unlikely unless one has some special qualification for the job. Three hopefuls are "self-employed" attorneys: Robert Ray Black, Elizabeth Hills (liberal Episcopalian, if that matters to you), and Tripp Wiles III. The rest are a mixed bag of experience, including a journalist (Edward Fennell), jazz musician (Ian Kay), life-long Charlestonian and synagogue leader (Burnet Mendelsohn), non-profit manager (Troy Strother), and marathoner and arts activist (Charles Fox).

Last, but not least, we have a private investigator, charter school organizer turned down by McGinley, and friend of Chris Collins, Howie Comen. We can assume he's not one of the chosen few! For his background go to

Feel free to provide more information on the suitability of these candidates.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Councilman Gilliard Stokes Mean-Spirited Rumors About Burke's Closing

Wendell Gilliard has the floor, or at least the op-ed page, Saturday to respond to ideas proposed by the District 20 (downtown) constituent board. Most of his ideas mimic the usual platitudes emanating from Superintendent McGinley. However, one vitriolic section reads as though NAACP President Dot Scott thought it up. 
"My constituents are saying that there is a faction in the community that wants Burke closed so that it can be reopened as an exclusive academic magnet school for a select few. This group has already suggested the name of “Academic Magnet-South.” Group meetings are being held with handpicked special interest groups that want to close the school, change the school’s name and re-open anew. 
"The general community feels that the school is being neglected — that so-called advocates appear to be involved, but that movement on any real plans is running at a snail’s pace. This actually would allow for a further drop in enrollment and therefore the school’s closing.
"Such actions are unfair and cater to those who wish to exclude children who have every right to be at Burke.
Conspiracy theories, anyone? Gilliard uses the classic "straw man" strategy: set up a false premise and then demolish it.

  • "so-called advocates" are unnamed because Gilliard didn't want to publicize Arthur Lawrence's support;
  • "exclusive magnet school" and "select few" suggest that any change is meant to exclude the present students;
  • "handpicked special interest groups" translates as community members not selected by Superintendent McGinley
  • "change the school's name" slops over into the "red herring" category, since no one has suggested doing that.
The "snail's pace" Gilliard complains about can be laid squarely at the doorstep of the very administration he claims is doing so well for the school as it is.

Nowhere does Gilliard state what he really wants: an all-black high school. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

P & C Ignores Sen. Scott's Points About Parental Responsibility

Read the State's account of Tim Scott's speech on education; then read that published by our own cherished rag. You'll wonder if they're writing about the same speech!

While the former's account emphasizes Senator Scott's emphasis on parental responsibility, using his own life and rise from near-poverty as an example, Charleston's reporter ignores this topic entirely. Instead, if you read the local paper, you'll think Scott spoke about the need to look abroad for fixes to our educational system.

Somebody's got it wrong. Why do I think it's the anti-Scott Post and Courier?

P & C headline: "Sen. Scott says education improvements can be learned from overseas."

State headline: "Tim Scott says parents, not government, hold key to education success."

Charleston County Superintendent's Fail-Safe Evaluation

You have to hand it to Superintendent Nancy McGinley: she wrote the rules for her own evaluation and then cowed the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees into signing them! Or perhaps her hand-picked Board members weren't too savvy with numbers.

The result? Despite what future elected Board members might think of her, unless the district suddenly implodes, she's safe for yet another contract renewal and another bonus. She's soon to become the longest-tenured superintendent in CCSD's history. Crafty!

The Board of Trustees has the responsibility to oversee the Superintendent's performance. Soon will come another empty evaluation process. What about evaluating the Superintendent on these burgeoning factors: increased busing, increased defacto segregation, and increased homeschooling?

At this point in her seven-year tenure, she can show us how many failing schools she has closed to improve her statistics and how many new and expensive school buildings she has facilitated. Where's the academic progress?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In CCSD, Broad Graduates Take Care of Their Own Audrey Lane

It couldn't wait. 

It was so important to reward Audrey Lane for her attendance at the Broad Institute, where she learned all about the components of BRIDGE, that fellow Broad-graduate Nancy McGinley insured an almost 19 percent raise for her prior to the district's own salary study report. And the raise is retroactive for 10 months.

Well, what can we expect in a district where at least 30 employees rack up more than $100,000 each and when the superintendent says "Jump" the Board of Trustees say "How high"? Needless to say, none of the most highly paid are teachers, who everyone agrees are the most important component in educating any child.

BROAD "a non-profit" = edublob at work 

Common Core Concerns from Washington Post Blog

As one commenter puts it in Valerie Strauss's blog, the following Common Core instruction from Student Achievement Partners attempts to teach students to read passages as they are presented in the context of standardized testing. Is that the goal of teaching?
   "Imagine learning about the Gettysburg Address without a mention of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, or why President Abraham Lincoln had traveled to Pennsylvania to make the speech. That’s the way a Common Core State Standards “exemplar for instruction” — from a company founded by three main Core authors — says it should be taught to ninth and 10th graders.
   The unit — “A Close Reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address“ — is designed for students to do a “close reading” of the address “with text-dependent questions” — but without historical context. Teachers are given a detailed 29-page script of how to teach the unit, with the following explanation:
 'The idea here is to plunge students into an independent encounter with this short text. Refrain from giving background context or substantial instructional guidance at the outset. It may make sense to notify students that the short text is thought to be difficult and they are not expected to understand it fully on a first reading — that they can expect to struggle. Some students may be frustrated, but all students need practice in doing their best to stay with something they do not initially understand. This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students as they seek to comprehend Lincoln’s address.' [italics mine]

The last statement presupposes that students of varied backgrounds socially, economically, ethnically, and racially will be tabula rasa, that is, blank slates in their knowledge. Now I will admit occasionally encountering a student seemingly fitting that category; however, to assume that will be the case with an entire class, no matter how homogeneous, is absurd. To put such a statement into written teaching materials as an exemplar reveals the utter stupidity of the writers and calls into question the validity of all 29 pages!

In fact, a teacher following these instructions will be making the playing field even more unfair for the least privileged students in the class. The statement also reveals the basic weakness of reading sections on standardized tests. E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum does more to level that field than any misguided attempt to teach in a knowledge vacuum.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Critical Thinking not Exclusive to Common Core Standards

Good grief! Some days I feel like Charlie Brown.

Today's Letter to the Editor from a retired teacher made me wonder what had been going on in her classroom for the last 35 years. In her 36th year, she states, using the Common Core standards, she required critical thinking from her students! She made this statement to defend the Common Core:
"I asked my students to critically read various pieces related to our curriculum and respond to given questions. Their responses were to be reflective of the reading, which meant they had to justify their responses based on evidence in the reading."
Apparently this social studies teacher got this strategy from collaboration with an English teacher.

Frankly, this admission is breath-taking. Why wouldn't this teacher have used such strategies previously? Does she believe that the writers of Common Core standards invented them?

Her letter is not the intended defense of the Common Core; it is an indictment of the cluelessness of a few (I hope!) teachers who don't understand how to teach. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shock & Awe in CCSD: Close Burke; Put in 2nd Mt. Pleasant HS

It's brilliant! Whoever came up with this outside-of-the-box idea should be running the Charleston County School District instead of Nancy McGinley!

Over the last 40 or so years, Burke High/Middle School has become a buzzword for failure. In hindsight, the die was cast when the powers-that-be determined under consolidation that the white High School of Charleston would close, and the black Burke High would take both black and white students, a tactic destroying any loyalty that white parents as graduates of the former would have for the new school district. Burke not only became the lone high school on the peninsula; it retained its name and loyal following. Probably this agreement was worked out between the fed's attorney, Gregg Meyers(later an influential member of the CCSD School Board), and the NAACP.

Superintendent McGinley's box of tricks that she learned at the Broad Institute have failed her and failed her. No one has confidence that Burke can become an integrated school under the present circumstances. By petitioning the constituent board for transfers, droves of parents have made the choice to send their children to high schools that have the advanced and career programs that all students deserve. As a result, about half of eligible students living on the peninsula attend Burke. It's easy to accuse these parents of racism, but the cause is one of district mismanagement after a stupid initial decision.

No one has confidence that Burke can even retain its recent standing as "average," a rating based largely on better record keeping and last-minute cramming. Other signs point towards the inevitable downward slide. The current principal, Maurice Cannon, does not sound as though he is a solution but actually part of the problem. His perception that Burke's students do not pay attention in class nor do their work because they don't like some of their teachers is asinine. The school clearly lacks good leadership; we all know who controls that variable: Superintendent McGinley.

When you have Arthur Lawrence, a Burke graduate and long-time community supporter of Burke, calling for the shut-down of the school, you know the situation has reached a nadir. Lawrence wants to close Burke and all its programs and take the overflow from Mt. Pleasant's overcrowded Wando High School into the building as a new Mt. Pleasant High School while the district builds the new facility for Mt. Pleasant. Why, look! That means that "Burke" will have an integrated student body and the programs that are impossible to sustain under the present structure.

Now, the NAACP won't like this because Dot Scott doesn't want an integrated high school; she clearly wants a de facto black high school on the peninsula. Of course, she lives in West Ashley.

CCSD's Barter Discovers Board of Trustees Position not Honorary

Another elected member of the Charleston  County School District's Board of Trustees has resigned only one year into his term. John Barter, a retired executive, claims to have found his duties too time-consuming. His attitude most likely stems from promises made by those behind the scenes who encouraged him to run for election. No doubt they told him all he had to do was to support Superintendent Nancy McGinley in whatever she wanted, no questions asked.

Barter has taken on another unpaid position, this one at his alma mater, a fact that he cites in his decision to quit. No one forced him to take it. Why would he accept when he already had an important commitment to fulfill?

We may never know, but it's just possible that after a year on the CCSD Board, Barter realized what a can of worms festered in the finances and management of the district. Being a person used to getting such problems under control, he probably saw that straightening them out would not only antagonize his previous supporters but eat up whatever retirement plans he had left and believed going along and getting along was reprehensible.

It's a thought. Let's hope our legislative representatives do a better job of selecting a replacement than they did last time. How about Henry Copeland?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Balog Needs Critical Thinking on Common Core

She's too young to remember high school and college students who skipped classes to protest the Vietnam War. That's why columnist Melanie Balog, while paying lip service to freedom of speech, denigrates families that will protest Common Core by doing the same. Why, they might even be (horrors!) tea partiers!

Balog has the mindset that, if Common Core standards are supported by CCSD's Superintendent McGinley and Executive Director Paul Krohne of the SC School Boards Association as well as the federal Department of Education, they must be great. She parrots Krohne's opinions:
"Neither of those things quite justifies pulling kids out of school. Just because it happens to be the federal government involved in trying to set up a uniform standard for math and English doesn’t make it wrong. The plan is there not only to ensure that what students learn in South Carolina is the same as what they learn in South Dakota, but that students from both states — and all the rest — are ready for what comes after high school.
“All we’re doing is talking about establishing world class standards, getting kids either career ready or college ready,” Krohne said. “To say that it’s more than that is a complete misinterpretation of the facts.”
Sounds like what these folks need is more education, not less.
No, it's Balog who needs more education. She accepts Krohne's judgment that the Common Core is "world class" and will accomplish "career or college ready" graduates, more so than the previous ones, despite ill-thought-out materials and serious testing questions. 
Whom do you trust?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

CCSD Goes a Bridge Too Far

At least Saturday's puff piece did mention some parents' concerns over the new teacher evaluation scheme that the Charleston County School District avidly races to pursue, thanks to a grant from the Education Department's Race to the Top. No CCSD teacher would dare criticize the district's plans to a reporter, and none did so. Don't assume that silence means consent here; it means intimidation.

Here's a lucid explanation of Common Core's problematic genesis and flaws from a Tennessee senior in high school: 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CCSD's Michael Miller: Naivete Showing on Orange Grove Charter?

The Charleston County School Board's "strategic education committee" must sign off on Orange Grove Charter School's request to add the middle grades. Committee head Michael Miller says he is in favor of the proposal but the school must delay, linger, and wait until the District 10 Task Force reports on a proposal (from Superintendent McGinley) that would merge West Ashley's two middle schools.

The "task force," as with all such committees formed in the district, is guaranteed to be stacked with those who will do whatever the Superintendent proposes.  Has the Superintendent not made up her mind yet? Or is Michael Miller so naive that he doesn't realize the report is a foregone conclusion.

Whichever is the case, postponing only decreases the chances that Orange Grove will get its desired result any time soon. And that's not good news for potential middle-schoolers West of the Ashley.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mason Prep Leads in English Education, Too

Pleased to see that the independent schools association has recognized the Kreutner brothers' contributions to Charleston-area education, one for leading Mason Prep, where he has taught for 24 years, and one for heading the new University School of the Lowcountry.

Never having had the pleasure of meeting either, over my years of teaching high school English, I developed a healthy respect for Mason Prep's language arts program. It's not much of an exaggeration to state that I never encountered a Mason Prep graduate who didn't know grammar backwards and forwards, and never met a student from any other local school, public or private, who did (although two or three came close).

Perhaps you may think grammar knowledge "old-school," but I defy anyone to teach students ignorant of grammar how to punctuate properly (another lost art, I suppose!).

Congrats to both!

P & C's Adam Parker Confuses Charleston with Newark!

Adam Parker's Sunday story about Charleston's developing visual arts community was interesting and informative--until I reached the last paragraphs. Then I wondered if any facts in the article were actually true.

What changed my opinion? This phrase near the end, "And as [Charleston] has recovered from the social turmoil of the 1960s and related urban decay, . . .

Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but Parker apparently believes that poverty on the peninsula was a result of upheavals of the 1960s, you know, much like the results of rioting and burning in Newark, New Jersey. Hey, for all I know, Parker is intimately familiar with Newark.

What is clear is that Parker, despite more than a decade of writing for the paper, is not intimately familiar with Charleston! Do you suppose he knows what started at Fort Sumter? Or even when the peninsula began to turn around? Painful, isn't it?

Common Core Hurried into Fruition Too Fast

Sunday's paper contained a Letter to the Editor about the experiences of one math teacher using the new Common Core standards. Sometimes it seems that this new fad was hurried into schools before opposition could build! 
"Daniel Ruth’s Nov. 4 op-ed on Common Core seemed to suggest that I am both illiterate and ignorant because I have reservations about Common Core. 
"I am skeptical for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Common Core is being implemented by government agencies, albeit not necessarily the federal government, and we all know what a stellar job most government agencies do in implementing complex programs. (Need I mention Obamacare?)
"But, the primary reason I have reservations is that I have a daughter who is in the first year of teaching Common Core (mathematics specifically), and it is an unmitigated disaster. The curriculum was issued late (with portions not issued even now), and for those who teach more than one math subject, that is a significant problem.
"When teachers complain to the administration, they are told to do the best they can since even administrators know you need lead time to prepare lesson plans with a new curriculum.
"Well-intentioned teachers are beyond frustrated since they are not able to teach the subject matter to the levels they had with the prior curriculum because they do not have the time to prepare study aids, support notes, etc.
"I would suggest Mr. Ruth talk to some teachers who are under Common Core requirements rather than the 45 governors and educators whom he references. My guess is few, if any, of the educators are classroom teachers.
Jeff Weiner
Legends Club Drive
Mount Pleasant

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Francis Marion University--Mt. Pleasant: Unpaid Student Loans in Job Seekers' Futures

Time will tell. Mt. Pleasant parents lulled into magical thinking by outgoing Mayor Billy Swails's desire for another four-year public campus in the Lowcountry will be taken for a ride, or we should say the ride will be taken by their children, who are too proud to attend Trident Tech and too academically unskilled to enroll in the College of Charleston. Apparently, they are also adverse to the Citadel option (or not accepted) and the thought of attending CSU in North Charleston (so far away and so declasse!) is an anathema.

FMU's plans for awarding a four-year nursing degree are hardly the stuff of academic dreams, except for nurses hoping for higher salaries. These nurses with two-year degrees apparently can't get into the rest of our local programs. What other gaps in four-year programs will this unnecessary campus fulfill? Is it going to turn out bachelor's degrees in Psychology? That should be helpful.

A public university can spend OPM. No wonder its Board of Trustees was unanimous in its support. If it was spending its own money, the Board might have wondered if the move was financially justified.

Soon this uppity part of Charleston County won't need to step outside of Mt. Pleasant's boundaries for anything. And in years to come, those unemployed who complete four-year degrees by taking out student loans will be wondering how they were suckered.

CCSD's Stacking the Deck Decoded by BRIDGE Opponents

BRIDGE--another program introduced by the Charleston County School District that is directly encouraged and funded by federal grants in the Race to the Top national competition.

Whether you agree or not with Sarah Shad Johnson's opposition to standardized testing, her Letter to the Editor published Saturday shows she understands how Superintendent Nancy McGinley guarantees her intended outcomes in CCSD. Long-time watchers know how she has stacked community committees for her entire tenure.

Johnson's analysis shows that the Bridge steering committee deliberately omits "parents who are not CCSD employees" and "independent community members," while including only four teachers, one of whom represents StudentsFirst. The rest are administrators, and we all know whom they answer to in fear of their jobs.

CCSD claims to "'welcome input of our teachers, principals, parents, and community partners.'"

BRIDGE's goal is to replace current salary structures for teachers with value-added merit pay based on standardized test scores. In other words, each child is a product on the assembly line of schooling, and each teacher adds value until the student reaches the end of the assembly line, or graduates. Furthermore, that value can be measured from year to year.

What's wrong with this picture?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Put Horse Before Cart Before Changing Admissions Criteria at Academic Magnet

A student who transferred into the Academic Magnet from a magnet school in another state was surprised to see how few black students are enrolled at the school. We don't know what criteria the previous school used for admissions. We do know that, until now, Academic Magnet has admitted freshmen based strictly on its 15-point scale with the most qualified admitted first until the freshman class totals 160.

Now CCSD is puzzling over how to create a more diverse student body at AMHS. One proposal mimics the practice of the University of Texas in guaranteed admission to the top 10 percent of every high school, in this case guaranteeing admission to the top two students from each CCSD middle school as long as each scores at least 13 out of 15. The additional 28 students would not cut into the 160 admitted on the old basis.

Before the district plunges into the controversies bound to occur, it needs to collect hard data. Isn't the superintendent always saying her decisions are "data driven"?

  • Survey to find out why those 28 from each of the last five years did not apply;
  • Estimate how many of those 140 students would have had a score of 13 or above;
  • Track the records of those students to see what their high school achievement became;
  • Find out the male-female ratio of these 140 students;
  • Survey how many of the 140 applied to AMHS and how many were left on the waiting list.
One student is reported to have replied that she was afraid of being rejected, so she didn't apply. That's like saying, I won't apply for a job because they might not hire me! Apart from AMHS concerns, the district needs to nip this kind of negative thinking in the bud.

Maybe that's a good place to start the process.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

CCSD Should Build on Success at Orange Grove Charter

West Ashley has two middle schools, but their enrollment is so low that the Charleston County School District is considering closing one and combining on one campus.

Contemplate that for a moment. . .

West Ashley is a large area, replete with young families with children. So why has enrollment dipped so precipitously in its middle schools? Because families who can find other choices take them.

Parents who can do so choose a better school for their sixth to eighth graders. Who can blame them? Their children are not an experiment, no matter how much CCSD would like them to be.

Then there's Orange Grove Charter School. From its inception, it has been successful at just the criteria where CCSD's other schools fail. When its pupils leave Orange Grove after fifth grade, parents must choose among a failing middle school, a private school, a magnet school (such as School of the Arts), or homeschooling.

No one should have any difficulty in understanding why Orange Grove wants to expand to include grade eight. Given its successful track record, no one, even CCSD's School Board and its charter-hating superintendent, should stand in its way.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

P&C Reporting Bias over Zais's Class-Size Proposals

When a newspaper has an agenda, watch out. Not only do opinions wander into straight news reports, but bias leads to omitted facts. Such is the case with our local paper, The Post and Courier. Now apart from a few editorials and opinion columns, its approval of the liberal Democrat agenda becomes more obvious daily.

How many stories about shocking proposals from Mick Zais has the paper run? Too many to count. Their focus has centered on his proposal to devolve power from the State Board of Education. You might think that is the last action an educrat would desire. You would be correct. Zais is a Republican dedicated to devolving power closest to home, in this case, local school districts.

We have been deluged within its pages with horror stories of 50+ sized kindergartens and one counselor per 2000 students from the rest of the edublob, including EdFirstSC and what passes for a teachers' union in the state. Zais is the first Republican elected to the office of State Superintendent in decades, maybe ever. They are determined to get rid of him in the next election.

It's not hard to figure out that our local paper wants the same. What it has neglected to report is important to the entire issue. In fact, if the paper had reported all the facts in the beginning, there would have been no controversy. But the P&C wants to create as much bad press as possible surrounding Superintendent Zais.

For the last four years on a yearly basis, the state legislature has given exactly the power to the districts that Zais proposed to make permanent. As Zais has pointed out, "the state hasn’t heard any complaints from teachers, school boards or parents about misuse of that authority, and local leaders are better equipped to make staffing decisions than those in Columbia."

"'This misinformation is motivated simply by pure, partisan politics.'”

Welcome to your local Democrat newspaper. It's wondering why its paid subscriptions are falling.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Future Perspective on the Clemson Monstrosity

Another architect has added his unqualified approval to the "pierced concrete" Clemson building proposed for the corner of Meeting and George Streets. Mark Sloan, of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston, believes that the proposed design is just dandy. In fact, it "will win over any detractors within its first year of operation."

No doubt, Sloan would have approved knocking down one of the old mansions surrounded by its peers, say this one, for example:

and replacing it with a nice mid-century modern such as this one:

Wouldn't that have been great? Who would want a row of houses that resemble each other?

That change would have been "relevant" in the 1950s, just as Sloan wants to be "relevant" now. 

Okay, sixty years later, who (besides Sloan) would want it in the middle of lower King?

Beware of those who want change to remain relevant. If Charleston had gone down that road in mid-century, it wouldn't be the tourist destination it is today, living museum or not.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Common Core: The New York Fiasco

Now that New York State has rushed to implement the Common Core standards, parents, teachers, and administrators are appalled. Here is a quote from a principal, in fact, New York's High School Principal of the Year in 2013:

I am amused by all of the politicians and bureaucrats who love the Common Core and see it as the salvation of our nation.  I suspect they are supporting standards that they have never studied. I wonder if they have ever read the details that ask first-graders to “compose and decompose plane and solid figures” and “to determine if equations of addition or subtraction are true or false.”  It is likely that much of the support for the Common Core is based on the ideal that we should have national standards that are challenging, yet the devil in the detail is ignored.
When one actually examines the standards and the tests like the sample I provided, it quickly becomes apparent why young students are crying when they do their homework and telling their parents they do not want to go to school.  Many New York children are simply not developmentally ready to do the work. Much of the work is confusing. When you add the pressure under which teachers find themselves to quickly implement the standards and prepare students for standardized testing, it becomes clear why New York parents are expressing outrage at forums across the state.
It is time for New York State to heed, at the very least, the New York State United Teachers’ call for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing, thus providing time for New York to re-examine its reforms, and change course.  New York, sadly, has been a canary in the Common Core coal mine, and if we do not heed the danger a generation of students will be lost.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CCSD Board Members' Sour Grapes over Lowcountry Leadership Charter

If for some reason the state inspection of new and renovated facilities for the Lowcountry Leadership Charter School finds construction problems, four members of the Charleston County School Board want to throw its 400 students into the snow. Well, not into the snow; in Hollywood that would be into the sand.

The mean-spirited message sent by members Coats, Ascue, Collins, and Miller is typical of those who see a racist under every proposal they didn't make themselves. Here all the school wants is to remain in the same place from month to month until its own building is ready. And it pays rent that would revert to $0 if the building is unused. Revenue from this lease even goes to other Hollywood schools.

The situation is too reminiscent of the old jingle used by the John Birchers to defeat fluoridation of water: "It's all a Commie [insert racist here] plot, you see, / To get us internally."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

SCEA: Mayhem Meet Chicken Little, aka Jackie B. Hicks

As president of the South Carolina Education Association, Jackie B. Hicks, a math teacher from Clover, can't stand Mick Zais. No doubt she's still puzzling over the election of a Republican to the post of State Superintendent of Education, one usually claimed for Democrats. Her latest salvo appeared in the local paper today as an op-ed. Interestingly, she strongly resists the devolution of power from the State Board of Education to local school districts. Of, course, that's not how she characterizes it!

Don't you wonder why? Easy--she's a big-government fan. She believes that the state should tell local districts what they can and cannot do. She doesn't trust local voters, but she does trust state educrats, almost all Democrats, that end up on the unelected State Board of Education. 

That's why, in an Obama-like fashion, Hicks tells us that sending power back to local school districts means the end of effective education in South Carolina. We'll have 50-student kindergarten classes as the sky falls. 

Hicks picks on two provisions of the 40 that she calls "essential." Don't you wonder about the other 38? 

Hicks sees Zais as attempting to destroy the state's schools. She also calls his recommendations "a thinly-veiled attempt to pave his way to re-election." Logically, she is suggesting that destroying the state's schools appeals to the majority of voters.

Well, nothing about this op-ed is logical anyway.

Friday, October 25, 2013

South Carolina Education Association Meets to Denigrate School Choice

Who is the SCEA, and why is it making such wild accusations at a North Charleston meeting of a senate panel? It's a liberal organization that fulfills the part of a public school teachers' union in a state where there is no teachers union. And it's hysterical over the idea that a tax-credit bill promoting some minor school choice will pass the South Carolina senate.

How hysterical? Here's a direct quote from the president of SCEA, Jackie Hicks: "“This seemingly innocuous measure opens the door to subsequent pro-segregation laws diverting taxpayer money to the private sector.” This attitude matches up well with that of Joseph Darby, who believes that every move to support choice is really a Ku-Klux-Klan-like plot to segregate schools. No doubt Darby agrees with Eric Holder, who wants to take choice away from black students trying to avoid failing schools in Louisiana.

These people live in la-la-land. How much more segregated could schools such as Burke High/Middle and Charleston Progressive Academy be? Would you please take the beam out of your own eyes?

My favorite quote comes from Kathi Regalbuto, who reports herself as a "former Berkeley County educator and parent of children who attended public and private schools": she states that "private school vouchers are 'a retreat from our collective responsibility to educate our children' in public schools."  

"Collective responsibility"? Speak for yourself. You're not speaking for parents. Their private responsibility is to get the best education possible for each child, even if that means a private school. Make your own children guinea pigs, if you wish.

EdFirstSC put in its two cents as well. According to its leader, Drayton Hall teacher Patrick Hayes, the evil one, Howard Rich, of New York, is funding conservatives who support school choice. Maybe Hayes hasn't heard yet of Bill Gates and Eli Broad on the other side? And the League of Women [read: liberal] Voters agreed that Larry Grooms's efforts are designed to avoid "a free and quality public school system" in South Carolina.

Maybe these ideologues were in the majority at the meeting, but they don't represent the majority of parents.

Architect's Dream Building Misplaced, Citizens' Nightmare

According to well-connected local architect Dinos Liollio, nothing could be better for the Charleston landscape than the "pierced concrete" monstrosity Clemson wishes to build near Marion Square. To quote the "expert," "There is no question that with the continued evolution of its design, the Paolozzi Center will become a modern masterpiece, in the same context as our U.S. Custom House and Old Exchange Building are historical masterpieces. . . .The Paolozzi Center is a great concept, the detailing will make it a great building, and the dialogue will continue to make us a healthy community."

Good. Then let Clemson build it next to your house, Mr. Liollio. Did the U.S. Custom House and Old Exchange Building disrupt the character of their communities? No. Context is everything.

BTW, the Liollio firm has hidden the Courtney School building, a well-known landmark, behind the more generic facades of Charleston Progressive Academy on King Street. 
At least it's not made of "pierced concrete."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Clemson Architecture Thumbs Nose at Traditional Charleston

The Washington Light Infantry Building sits on one corner of Meeting and George Streets. A typical College of Charleston building sits on another; a newer but traditionally designed office building sits on a third.

Clemson wants to put a modern architectural monstrosity made of glass and "pierced concrete" on the remaining corner, replacing a one-story traditional building ironically named "Graduate Program in Historic Preservation."

Some of us remember the controversy over the pink marble library building on King Street.
We were told it was an exemplar for the future. Yeah, right. 

It appears now that Charleston's Board of Architectural Review (BAR) has been so compromised by links to Clemson that it couldn't find a quorum Wednesday night to vote on architectural details.

Don't you wonder how that happened?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Common Core Proponents Rejoice over Spending Surge

The latest edition of Education Week, cheerleader for the Common Core, touts the surge in spending that has already begun.

According to the reporter,
The market for testing products and services is booming and could continue to surge over the next few years, according to industry analysts and company officials, who say that growth is being fueled by the shift toward common-core tests across states and the use of new classroom assessments designed to provide timely and precise feedback for teachers and students.
Guaranteed to go the way of the open classroom, new math, etc., after millions have been spent, and coming to a district near you!

Berkeley CSD Honors Daniel Island Commitment: Why Doesn't CCSD?

Imagine. Ten years ago the Berkeley County School District agreed to keep a K through 8 school on the property donated to it on Daniel Island. Superintendent Thompson recently was reminded of the agreement. That means that Daniel Islanders have won their battle, at least temporarily, to keep those grades on the Island.

Too bad that the Charleston County School District doesn't stand by its commitments in a like manner. The property that contains Memminger Auditorium, now used by the city for performance events, was given for the purpose of educating students in perpetuity. In fact, the remaining auditorium was built as part of the original Memminger School.

Let's hope there's more long-term honor in Berkeley County!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Balog's Odds on Improving Education Need Critical Thinking

Melanie Balog needs to opine on subjects she understands. Education is not one of them.

First, she startles readers with the idea that "nearly half of public students" in the United States live in poverty. She bases this misleading conclusion on a report that in 17 states, mostly southern, a majority qualify for free or reduced lunch. Apparently Balog has ignored that no one checks that those who apply for such lunches are in fact eligible! As with other well-meant programs with no checks and balances, such applications have soared.

Balog also doesn't seem to understand that school enrollments rise and fall periodically due to demographics. What a shocking thought, apparently, that more students are in southern schools than a decade ago! Somehow Balog buys into the idea that this growth means resources are spread too thinly. Doesn't she realize that those very school districts she worries about are spending more per child than they ever have before? How does that translate to "thinner resources"?

She also seems surprised to find that "'many families with school age children have not yet reached their maximum income potential,'" as quoted from Joan Lord of the Southern Regional Education Board, and so, young families must be "boosted."

Shock and awe? Balog must have come from an unusual environment where families with the youngest children were the highest earners. La-la land, perhaps.

In a report on achievements in southern states in the last decade Balog was able to find one bright spot for South Carolina: graduation rates rose faster than the national average. Now South Carolina is up to 66 percent graduating, or to put it another way, only one-third of students entering ninth grade drop out of high school. Should we brag about that?

Most of SC's "overage" is due to a drive for better record-keeping, not necessarily more graduates. If Balog had been paying attention, she'd know that.

CCSD's McGinley's Tunnel-Vision Diversity

Really, it's a hoot to see our local rag touting the push for diversity within Charleston County's magnet schools. Under the leadership of Superintendent McGinley the district has become almost as segregated as it was prior to consolidation and desegregation. Someone needs to confront her with the facts, but apparently the reporter is unwilling to do so.

The reality is that Buist Academy, with 21 percent non-white, is the most integrated school on the peninsula barring the Charter School for Math and Science, of course! And the School of the Arts with its 23 percent nonwhite is more integrated than any other high school in the district.

You might say McGinley's putting the emphasis on the wrong syl-LA-ble.

How about considering upping diversity at the Military Magnet? What about Charleston Progressive?

The district remains silent on integrating these magnet programs, and the reporter follows suit.

One point made about the School of the Arts is that students at Corcoran Elementary, another de facto segregated school, didn't know about its programs. McGinley has been in a position for years, first as chief academic officer and then as superintendent, to tell them, so she's responsible for their ignorance.

Someday the newspaper will stop shilling for the district. Someday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Charlestowne Academy" Building Example of CCSD's Failures

It's not Charlestowne Academy on Rivers Avenue that may become a homeless shelter if the Charleston County School District's agreement for a land swap with Mayor Keith Summey goes through.

No, it's the Charlestowne Academy--Charleston County Discipline School--Bethune Arts and Community Center--Bethune Elementary School campus. The building's construction date seems lost in the mists of time. Perhaps a reader has a long memory and can fill in the blanks. What is certain is mismanagement of this CCSD asset by multiple superintendents and School Boards.

What happened to Bethune Elementary School's use of 5841 Rivers Avenue is unclear, but probably the (black?) school was a victim of integration and consolidation in Charleston County. It was vacant. By 1982 this albatross was rented for $1 per year to the city of North Charleston for use as an arts and community center, an agreement that lasted for at least 10 years. How's that for a great return on investment? One would hope that CCSD got something else in return!

Before 1996, CCSD decided to use the building for its first "discipline" school during times in the nineties when students were actually expelled from CCSD's other schools in large numbers. That lasted until CCSD built a special campus as a discipline school, an idea that was ultimately rejected as non-PC.

Notice, none of these decades involved an entity named Charlestowne Academy.

1996 was a banner year for formation of magnet schools in the district. Not only Charleston Progressive but also Military Magnet and Montessori schools were approved, with some opposition, by the district. Charlestowne Academy was formed as a magnet school with no academic entrance requirements that would focus on "back to basics," starting as K through 10. The school focused on academics (no athletic programs) including the Spalding Method ( and Core Knowledge ( in its lower grades.

In its first years, this school was more successful in the results in its lower grades than any of the other magnets, with the exception of Buist Academy. Parental involvement was required; the school had an effective discipline system; and, of course, its curriculum was parent-driven, not district-driven. It was so successful that the lower grades used a lottery system to select only one-third of applicants. And, it was more integrated than almost any other school in the district.

What happened? It's true that the high school portion never really got off the ground. In hindsight, the plan should have started with perhaps kindergarten through fourth and add-a-grade per year, as many new schools have done. Sticking students in trailers at the Bonds-Wilson campus apparently was not a turn off, but in 1999 the school moved into the old discipline campus.

No, the school's success was its death sentence. As new superintendents and new school board members arrived, they saw that the school made the other non-magnet schools look bad by comparison, so one by one they stole away the details that made it successful. One of the first to go was required parental involvement. Next, the school was informed it must use the same ineffective discipline program as the rest of CCSD. Maria Goodloe-Johnson pulled the rug all the way out when she decreed that all CCSD schools must use the same curriculum. These developments should serve as a warning to the folks at Meeting Street Academy that hope for a deal with the district!

Since 2009 the campus has been for sale with apparently no takers except for member Chris Collins's lease agreement that was finally dissolved this year. So of the thirty or forty years that the school has existed, how many were utilized with full use of the property by the district?

How many other properties also lie fallow?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Balog's Dismissal of Critical Thinking on Science Standards

It would not even occur to Melanie Balog to interview those on both sides of a disagreement about the newest science standards being vetted by the State Board of Education. Typical of all liberals, she believes that interviewing two people on one side of the issue gives her all the facts. Could it be that in speaking to those who have an ax to grind, Melanie is getting (and reporting) a skewed picture? Naaaah!

What Melanie doesn't understand is that the SC Parents Involved in Education are not asking for the teaching of religious doctrine; they merely want science classes that are not antagonistic to religious thought. The teacher who was interviewed made it a point to show her desire for neutrality in the classroom when religious ideas are put forward by students. So Millibeth Currie, chair of the science department at Moultrie Middle, attempts to be neutral. Good for her, but what about the many science teachers who have and will continue to make fun of religious ideas in the science classroom? Probably Professor Dillon is one of them. Balog implies that the concept of "irreducible complexity" is this year's buzzword, an idea fed to her by Dillon.

What's frustrating about such arrogance is their dismissal of critical thinking on this particular point of disagreement. Professor Dillon, and Balog in response,denigrate a concept ripe for critique in the classroom, not the ideology of some right-wing zealot. No one is asking that biology teachers suggest that Genesis is the place to find how the universe was created.

No doubt both of them are licking their chops in anticipation of cutting down any reasonable suggestion for fairness in the classroom.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Educational Shibboleths and Lack of Memorization Hurt Students

Repeat after Briana Timmerman: "Critical thinking skills good; memorization bad."

If that shibboleth reminds you of the mindless repetition of Animal Farm slogans, it should. It falls in the same category of nonsense.

That's the gist of her statement as Director of the SC Education Department's Office of Instructional Practices and Evaluations made this week to the state Board of Education. Several members objected to the "materialistic bias" of new state standards under consideration, but apparently no one objected to the following: "the new standards require students to develop higher order thinking skills and focus on problem-solving rather than memorization." It appears that even conservative members don't understand the effects of such a goal. After all, who can argue with "critical thinking"?

Timmerman herself is a victim of lack of factual knowledge, as her answer to one board member's question indicated. She did not know what "irreducible complexity" is as applied to biological systems. Her response was that ignorance doesn't matter because students will be asked to "evaluate the evidence."

That is just the point about the necessity for memorization. If the only "evidence" a student having no factual knowledge can use consists of what is in the textbook, the student (and society) is at the mercy of textbook writers. How will students "think outside the box" when they have no "furniture of the mind" (as I call it) to challenge accepted "truths"?  Maybe you would assume that Abraham Lincoln could have picked up the telephone and had a long-distance conversation with Grant during one of his battles. Maybe you might think that Grant was a Confederate general. I've known students who did.

Today's students are not expected to memorize too much information; the opposite is true. Ask any high school teacher trying to deal with their factual ignorance!

Here's a quote from Psychology Today that makes the point better than I can:
To return to the point of progressives that school is too hard, I have examined state science standards in great detail because I write middle-school science curriculum. The standards do not demand too much memorization. They don't demand enough, especially the kind of memorization where students have to know how to use knowledge in their thinking. 
I think that the low-level of memorization required of students today is a main reason why so many students have under-developed thinking skills. Too many of them mouth platitudes and parrot what others have said. They can't think on their own because they don't know enough to generate original and rigorous thought. Yet, too many educators dismiss the importance of memorization, assuming falsely that kids can think with an empty head. Educators tried that a few years back with "new math," which failed miserably. Now, it appears the same ill-begotten beliefs are re-surfacing in the context of state standards and accountability testing.
                                              --Author and Professor William R. Klemm, Texas A & M

Briana Timmerman needs to do a little critical thinking of her own!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

CCSD's McGinley Wants Extension of Tax to Groceries

Maudlin complaining about not being able to put a sales-tax extension on the ballot in 2014 without special dispensation is one thing; planning that the tax will extend to local food shopping is another.

When South Carolina was a really poor state (not so long ago for those of us over 50), the sales tax applied to everything that moved and some things that didn't. Money to run the state had to come from somewhere. That included a tax on groceries and a tax on prescriptions! Talk about regressive! Now well-heeled outsiders like Michael Bobby, Chief Financial Officer of the Charleston County School District, and his boss, Superintendent Nancy McGinley, have a bright idea: bring back a tax on groceries. To hell with the poor.

Strangely enough, or maybe not, this push from CCSD administrators has been undertaken without the CCSD School Board's approval--just the recommendation of a committee of the Board, members selected by you-know-who. They're telling us poor taxpayers that 30 percent of the sales tax revenue comes from tourists.

Well, if that is true, it won't be for long. Have you ever seen long lines of tourists standing in line at the grocery checkout? I thought not.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

CCSD's One-Cent Sales Tax Extension in Full Swing

Ruminations of a superintendent

How do we get more millions of OPM, Superintendent McGinley asks herself, when people don't want more taxes. To get the last sales tax passed we had to pretend it amounted to pennies, promise to build or renovate school buildings in every corner of Charleston County, and count on voting during an even-numbered year so that voters showing up to vote in Congressional or Presidential elections wouldl check that box, i.e., more Democrats.

First, we need to get some laws changed so that the tax will appear on the 2014 ballot. Shockingly, state law doesn't allow us to extend the tax until it has only two years left.  Michael Bobby, CCSD's chief of finances and operations, says that if he has to wait another year for the vote, "that would delay some construction projects." Michael always has my back, even though he has known all along what the law is and could have planned accordingly. The audit and finance committee of the School Board, stacked with my supporters, is happily going along with the request to change the law. It has been a blessing that I can control district audits; who knows what might have come to light otherwise.

I'm running out of options on replacing or renovating the downtown schools, so I'll be forcing the change of Sanders-Clyde from elementary to middle-school status, That way new renovations will be needed in District 20 and we'll get those downtown votes. People have short memories, so they'll have forgotten just how new the Sanders-Clyde building is. Those downtown voters who don't want it as a middle school have been kicked off the community task force and replaced with district employees, so by hook or by crook they'll approve my plan.

I already have the Mount Pleasant votes since they've been asking for a new elementary school since 2005. I've deliberately dragged the district's feet so that it can be rolled into the sales tax extension.

Then there are the rich. I can appeal to them by suggesting that a sales tax extension can be used to lower property taxes. John Barter has helped by pointing out that 30 percent of the revenue comes from tourists. No one cares about the 70 percent of locals, many of whom are poor, who must pay more to see that property owners taxes go down.

I just need a good carrot for West Ashley and it's a done deal. Maybe I can suggest that West Ashley High is seismically challenged. Michael's working on that for me, and I can count on my board supporters to lend a hand.

Yes, it's all coming together. I know I can count on the local press to print my public relations handouts without investigating too closely. Look at the headline: "Schools want law changed." Success is at hand. After all, who ever heard of a tax that had an expiration date, despite what I said in 2010? It'll go on forever.

Common Core Testing: Edublob at the Trough

Proponents of the Common Core standards initiated by the states and adopted by most of them are fond of stating that the federal government isn't imposing its standards on anyone. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The education "establishment," or edublob, is practically salivating at the funds and promises coming out of Washington. Entire school districts and entire states (except Texas!) are trashing their own standards and textbooks in jockeying for position at the OPM trough.The Charleston County School District is a case in point. South Carolina's adoption of Common Core under the aegis of Democrat State Superintendent Jim Rex allowed the district to receive funds to finance its ill-advised teacher evaluation metrics. The edublob gets a big chunk of the money to devise ways in which student results can be calibrated to factors such as poverty (i.e., expecting the children of the poor to learn less!).

The latest sally in controlling content to issue from the U.S. Department of Education is grants to two edublob entities, Smarter Balanced ( and PARCC (, to use OPM to develop testing appropriate to the Common Core standards. Out go the tests developed over the years that match previous standards.

Do you realize how many millions, if not billions, of OPM are now being thrown into the trash?

Look at the opportunities for earnings: new curriculum and teacher-training sessions for that curriculum; printing all those documents; developing evaluation standards for teachers and students; selling all those new textbooks. . . . Everybody gets his.

You would suppose that at some point they would exhaust their reservoir of OPM, but that will never happen. After all, all they need is to raise taxes.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

What Lies Beneath Mount Pleasant's Invitation to Francis Marion U

Something lurks beneath the sudden push for a satellite campus of Francis Marion University to be located in Mount Pleasant. Only Mayor Billy Swails and maybe some members of the town council know. What it is, is neither need nor logic.

Swails's recent op-ed proves the point. He carefully documents the percentage of local freshmen at the College of Charleston but has no hard facts to back up his contention that "constituents have been telling us for years" how difficult it is for students to stay local in their choice of a four-year degree. "Accessibility and affordability" are his criteria.

Really? How many constituents complain about college options to their mayor? Someone has an ax to grind, and it's probably to make money.

Then there's the idea that his criteria must be met by a four-year school. Um, why?

If a student's scores and/or grades are not high enough to get into one of our local four-year colleges, why would we want to import a school whose standards are lower? Getting in to one of our local four-year programs in no way resembles getting into Harvard. In fact, for one of them, graduating from high school is enough!

Current in the national conversation is the discussion of the many college dropouts who are stuck with thousands in student loans and without a job justifying the debt. Swails apparently wants more of them. Anyone who believes that all high school graduates should matriculate at four-year colleges is delusional. What is the problem with proving academic dedication at a two-year college and then moving on to the four-year degree if it makes sense at that point?

Pointing out the virtues of the nursing program at Francis Marion is the final fallacy. First of all, the nursing program at FMU was run by MUSC until 2004, so those stats he's citing boomerang to another of our local choices for a four-year nursing degree. In addition, starting FMU with a "nursing" program is a red herring when FMU uses a 2 + 2 system towards its four-year nursing degree: the first two years are in the general college And, finally, someone should figure out if what the Lowcountry needs is nurses with four-year degrees! Certainly Swails hasn't provided any numbers for support.

Someone might just wonder if one of Swails's clients a building for sale that would fit his description of what the Council will look for.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Should Daniel Island Control Berkeley School District

When all else fails, form a committee. That's the mantra of every school superintendent in the United States. Further, the effectiveness of that committee is inversely proportional to the number of committee members.

Thus, Rodney Thompson, Berkeley County School Superintendent, has formed a committee of at least a couple of dozen to study the problems of site selection and grade configurations that are on his front burner due to Daniel Island's threats to leave the county behind. The committee is so big, in fact, that it must be divided into two parts.

But wait! Daniel Islanders are not happy with its makeup. Given the parameters for membership, Daniel Island, with its desire for a pedestrian lifestyle, cannot control the outcome. As one resident put it, the Island's voice will be "muffled."

The attitude expressed by Daniel Islanders posits a philosophical question: is Daniel Island the "elephant in the room" that sits wherever it wishes, or is it simply the most well-heeled part of Berkeley County?  Should a relatively new community (one that did not exist 20 years ago) control the school district's policies? Thirty-four percent of Daniel Island School students do not live on the island even now.

We have a representative group of Daniel Island parents yelling, "We wuz robbed," by Thompson's self-serving implied promises to keep students on the island if parents voted for the bond issue. Now let's see if Thompson has the wisdom of Solomon.

I doubt it.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

James Simons Move Delayed Again?

The Charleston County School District can't blame this further delay on either parents or rain.

James Simons Elementary, which CCSD announced last summer would be in temporary quarters until October, will not be moving until at least Thanksgiving. We can't wait to see what creative excuse the district proffers to parents this time.

Meanwhile, the district is keeping this further delay under wraps as long as possible: administration doesn't want the parents to know until the last minute. Maybe the delay involves coming up with an excuse.

As they say, is this any way to run an airline, that is, school district?

Monday, September 30, 2013

PRIME at Wando? Why Not at Burke?

Them that has gets! Isn't that the old song?  It rings true when comparing Wando High School, the largest in the state located in the affluent community of Mt. Pleasant, with Burke High/Middle School, a  2AA school located on the peninsula of Charleston that is de facto all black.

Sunday's edition pointed out that Wando "has been named a PRIME model school by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Education  Foundation, one of 11 schools from across the country to be selected this year". According to the reporter, who sees no irony in the report, "PRIME model schools also have strong partnerships with local manufacturing businesses that offer students opportunities such as mentoring, tours, job shadowing and internships."

Isn't this what the Burke community has demanded for years? What about the so-called "high-tech high" that has morphed into low-tech Lowcountry Tech, not at Burke where the community wanted it but at Rivers to forestall the Charter School for Math and Science.

Taking her talking points straight from CCSD, no doubt, the reporter goes on to provide PR for Superintendent McGinley: 
"STEM education is growing in prominence in the Charleston County School District. The school district has been working with a high-profile group of partners, from federal labs to HBCUs to businesses, to make the district a national model for preparing students from kindergarten through college for STEM-related jobs.
"Wando High’s STEM programs have been nationally recognized in the past. The school has been part of Project Lead the Way for more than a decade, and that program offers hands-on, project-based, biomedical and pre-engineering courses. Project Lead the Way has named Wando High a model school twice.
Probably motivated students who live in Burke's neighborhood are taking the bus to Wando to take part in those programs. Superintendent McGinley has done everything possible to strip Burke of students. As usual, the reporter has no curiosity regarding how many non-Mount Pleasant residents are being bused to Wando. 

Sometimes it seems that McGinley's long-term goal is to strip Burke of students, close the school, sell its prime location to private developers, and leave District 20 with no high school. Couldn't be, could it?