Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Priority Schools in Charleston County: McGinley Blames Teachers

"Priority" schools, by definition of the state Board of Education are South Carolina's lowest-performing, high-poverty schools. Being named a Priority School is not a compliment; in fact, that sobriquet is reserved for the lowest performing five percent. Only 26 schools statewide are on the list, and five of them are in the Charleston County School District. Richland County has none; Greenville County has only two. Think about that for a moment.

Not too long ago, such schools would be taken over by the state, but state takeovers in the past, such as in Allendale-Fairfax. have not been terribly productive. Now such schools must offer parents the option of transferring to higher-performing schools or intensive free tutoring.

North Charleston's Lambs Elementary featured in a local story states that it is getting poorer every year, a claim based presumably on applications for free and reduced meals. Since this is its second year on the list, perhaps more non-poverty students than poor students have taken the transfer option. Lambs previously drew more students from the military base, but where are they living now? What percentage are bused in from other neighborhood districts? As usual, asking questions regarding details of its decline never occurs to the reporter.

Principal Jamalar Logan took over the school in the middle of last year, but the reporter doesn't ask why. Logan was originally made principal in November 2011 but then had been shifted elsewhere. Perhaps, as in so many of CCSD's poorly-performing schools, Lambs has been the victim of revolving door principals. Certainly Superintendent McGinley and her associate Jim Winbush weren't going to volunteer that information to Mick Zais, especially since both are part of the administration they claim responsible.

In her remarks McGinley seemed to blame lower scores on the higher percentage of Hispanic students; however, that would make sense if the lower scores were in the language arts area. Instead, math and science are the areas of concern. The reporter also forgot to ask if any teachers had left or not had their contracts renewed and if any new teachers were inexperienced.  In addition, since the school will be using a "new math curriculum," would it not be of interest to find out what it is, what has been dropped, and what are perceived as the weaknesses of the old curriculum? And if teachers weren't focused enough on teaching math, whose fault was that?

Despite the reporter's years of reporting on CCSD, she still has little curiosity beyond what the superintendent tells her.

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