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.