Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gushing Editorial on Charter Schools Ignores McGinley's Biased Role

Ask anyone about former superintendent Nancy McGinley's support for charter schools, and you should get a tirade. Though the community wholeheartedly supported the Charter School for Math and Science, Superintendent McGinley and her NAACP lackeys were determined to crush it from the beginning. 
Today's editorial welcoming the Allegro School on the peninsula makes the point in the most mealy-mouthed way possible: "Charter schools weren't initially welcome in Charleston County. Educators in traditional schools saw them as a threat to their funding and attendance." Educators? Read "Saint McGinley."
Despite McGinley's doing everything in her power to stomp on it, CSMS enjoys the success predicted when it began as a grass-roots effort. No worries about diversity there. How about the rest of the district?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

P & C Ignores Inequities of EdFirstSC Salary Expose

Teachers get less money under the new salary system; educrats get more. P & C, cheerleader for "Bring McGinley Back," chooses to ignore reality that CCSD did not follow recommendations of its expensive salary study.

See the following:

Losing Ground

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CCSD's Magnet Parents Sue Over Defamation--Perpetrated by McGinley & Co

The daily dribble of McGinley apologists finds space on the editorial page of the paper almost every day. You would think that the former superintendent of Charleston County Schools walks on water. Even though her upcoming evaluation from the School Board would have shown just how poorly the district was meeting her goals, the paper (not the public at large) continues to whitewash Nancy McGinley's failures.

One such failure highlights the former superintendent's total lack of understanding of race relations in the district, that of the watermelon. Even that last sentence seems ridiculous. However, the students hurt by the racist behavior of CCSD's employees don't find it so funny. Some of them are suing.

Of course, anyone can sue over just about anything if he or she can pay a lawyer. However, this lawsuit may have some teeth:
The parents of three Academic Magnet High School football players have filed a defamation lawsuit claiming characterizations of the team's controversial postgame watermelon ritual damaged their sons' reputations.. . .  
"The students' lawsuit is the result of the students being falsely branded as racists by the defendants," said attorney John Parker, of Hampton County, representing the parents of the three football players.
. . .
At the heart of the lawsuit is the school district's investigation last month into the Academic Magnet High School football team's postgame victory ritual of chanting and smashing watermelons with caricature faces drawn on them. . . . 
The lawsuit lays out a series of events beginning on Oct. 16 when Clayton, a diversity consultant for the school district, and Associate Superintendent Lou Martin, who is not named as a defendant, questioned the members of the football team about the watermelon ritual. 
"Even though they found no evidence of any racial reason for the team's watermelon celebration after a win, and even though all concerned told them there was no racial reason for the celebrations, they falsely published to others that the football team made animal sounds and drew a monkey face on the watermelon during these celebrations," the lawsuit said.
Following the interview of the team, Martin, according to the lawsuit, described the team's watermelon ritual as one where it would "draw a monkey face on a watermelon and after a victory, would smash the fruit and make animal noises." McGinley, according to the lawsuit, later described the team as making noises that sounded like "ooh, ooh, ooh," which she further characterized as "monkey sounds."
Those characterizations, according to the lawsuit, falsely accused the team of drawing monkey faces and making monkey sounds, "which if true would have been racially derogatory actions intended to equate black members of opposing football teams with monkeys." . . . 
Martin's and McGinley's descriptions of the team's ritual, according to the lawsuit, were then published to others and to print and television media, which led to the football team being "falsely depicted" as racists. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

P & C Continues Campaign to Cow Charleston County School Board

Just in case you mistakenly believe that the local paper routinely prints a representative sample of opinion from its readers, please be warned.

Thursday's editorial page does not represent a sample of what Charleston County taxpayers believe. The two letters concerning the Charleston County School District, one telling us how great Nancy McGinley was as superintendent and another supporting Bill Lewis's authoritarian solution to those democratically-elected board members he perceives deficient in understanding, are merely the latest salvos from the Chamber of Commerce.

Hey, editors, what qualifies the Chamber of Commerce to control Charleston County's schools?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Analysis of CCSD's Rating Shows How Statistics Can Lie

I haven't always agreed with Jon Butzon, but his analysis of the statistics being touted by the Charleston County School District should be read by all.

Job One: Find the right superintendent
Nov 19 2014 12:01
An old Navy friend of mine is fond of saying, "Experience is the best teacher. Considering what it costs, it ought to be." Now that there is a big "Help Wanted" sign out at 75 Calhoun Street, I thought it might be useful for the new school board to consider how our most recent experience could inform the search for the next superintendent.

Some great slogans have come out of CCSD. My personal favorites are "All Means All," "The Victory is in the Classroom," and the lesser known "A Tale of Two Districts."

Let's start with "All Means All." Even just a cursory review of student achievement data suggests it's really more like "All Means Some." Here are a few examples.

On the 2014 ACT (unlike school ratings, this is an actual measure of students' college readiness) the five lowest performing high schools in all of South Carolina are in Charleston County. The bottom five in our state!

They are Lincoln (the state's lowest at 12.7), Burke (13.1), North Charleston (13.4), St. Johns (14.0) and Garrett (14.1). The vast majority of students in these schools are economically disadvantaged and minority.

Let's be clear - these embarrassingly low ACT scores aren't the students' fault. They are the result of a systemic achievement gap that still defines CCSD, despite a ton of spending, new ideas and interventions. The ACT folks determine a 21 and above to be "college ready." Last year, the 1,099 white seniors who took the ACT earned an impressive 22.8, compared to the 692 black students whose average score was only 14.9, and the 127 Hispanic students who scored 18.7. Seniors at CCSD's suburban and competitive magnet schools far exceeded national averages. These are the same exact trends we were seeing 10 years ago.

So, we need a superintendent who can accomplish more than great slogans. We need a superintendent who can not only close, but can eliminate the achievement gap.

Let's look at another popular saying: "The Victory is in the Classroom." Unfortunately, over the last six years, this victory has been defined by race and income. The black/white achievement gap on the PASS tests has widened over the last six years in English language arts in grades 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8, and in math in grades 4, 5, 6 and 7. The gap for low-income children as measured by comparing free lunch children with full-pay children has also widened in both English language arts and math in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. The widening gap means the district has lost ground for these, our most vulnerable children.

If the victory is in the classroom, we need a superintendent who can do more than just claim victory. We need a superintendent who will reject the status quo and truly win on behalf of every child.

Which leads us to "A Tale of Two Districts." White middle class and affluent students in Charleston County outperform their white peers across the state. The opposite is true for their black peers. On many measures, black students do better in other S.C. districts. Remember those ACT scores. "The Tale of Two Districts" - the same sad tale told 10 years ago, five years ago, and still today - means that in Charleston County we manage to teach white children better than white children in the rest of S.C., but for some reason we continue to teach black children worse. That sounds closer to the state of education we'd expect to see in 1860 than in 2014.

Over the last 10 years, Charleston County has changed significantly. People are flocking here from all around the country. While the white and comparatively affluent population in CCSD has grown, the black population has shrunk. Improvements hailed by CCSD - for example, the percentage of students attending "excellent" schools - reflect demographic trends and enrollment shifts as much as any improvement to the quality of education. Now there may be fewer buildings labeled "at risk" - easily accomplished by simply turning out the lights and locking the door - but just look at actual measures of learning, and the quality of education has not improved for our children.

Taking all of this into account, we need a superintendent who can do more than add chapters to Charleston's historical inequities and "A Tale of Two Districts." We need someone who can provide real solutions, make excellence a reality for every child, and close this shameful book altogether.

I may be in the minority, but my hat is off to the school board for making a difficult change. The story may be unpopular, but the truth is, progress hasn't been made. We may have new shiny buildings and catchy slogans, but we're failing the same students we have always failed.

To the school board: Take a hard look at the data yourself.

Make this not about watermelons, but about the enduring tragedy of youngsters like Ridge Smith and the thousands of Ridge Smiths remaining in our system. [Editor's note: Ridge Smith, featured in a 2009 Post and Courier series on low literacy rates in the district, was shot to death in North Charleston on Oct. 31.]

Make it about the continued erasing of whole generations of children from the economic map, and the irreducible fact that after ten years of bold promises and new visions, race and income still define the quality of education in CCSD.

I trust you'll see that CCSD needs a leader who will bring a new set of skills and a true sense of urgency and humility to this work. At the end of the day, the buck stops with you, and this is the most important task you will undertake.

Get it right!

Jon Butzon is the former executive director of the Charleston Education Network.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bill Lewis Reveals He's the Jonathan Gruber of CCSD

Those stupid Charleston County voters! We shouldn't allow them to elect school board members! That is the basic underpinning of retired CCSD operating officer Bill Lewis's proposal in Sunday's op-ed.

Of all horrors, democratically-elected board members don't always toe the line thrown out by the Chamber of Commerce. They're too stupid. Imagine having "community activists" or "disgruntled former teachers" on the board! It's a nightmare! Only such "highly-qualified" candidates as Chris Fraser, Brian Moody, and Gregg Meyers will fulfill that mission.

Lewis apparently believes that the school district should be run as a private-sector organization. Those private-sector boards he praises for not micromanaging their CEOs really did a good job preventing the excesses that caused the last recession, right?

We wonder why Lewis could not name any of the cities where mayors have made the difference in improving schools, since he seems to believe that mayoral control is the solution to CCSD's problems. His solution would give Charleston three seats, Mt. Pleasant three seats, and North Charleston five seats, since Mayor Summey will control the County Council's choices through Teddie Pryor, a North Charleston employee, and his son Elliott.

Politicians selecting school board members instead of voters? Gee, that sounds great.

There are two major ways in which the school board elections can be improved, neither of which is on Lewis's radar screen, or, should I say, the radar screen of the Chamber of Commerce member who vetted Lewis's op-ed.

It's an open secret that these supposedly non-partisan seats are as partisan as they can be, just flying under the radar. Our local paper chooses to ignore that slates are regularly supported by the county's Democrat and Republican organizations. These seats are non-partisan for the same reason that the mayoralty of Charleston is nonpartisan: so that white Democrats can fool Republicans into voting for them. Mayor Riley not a Democrat? Please.

If races were designated partisan, political parties would vet the candidates and voters would have a better idea for whom to vote in the primary. Voters would rapidly discover that the school board generally has been the hiding place for Democrats to be elected to office in the county. Check for yourself: how many of the present school board members are registered Democrats?

Some will try to make the case that Democrats and Republicans share the same ideas about education. Really? When was that last the case? Probably in the 1950s.

The second aspect that would strongly improve the election is single-member districts. These single members would be voted upon by their own district, not by the county at large. That would make members responsible to their districts. Who can forget Toya Green's (yes, vetted as "highly-qualfied" by Bill Lewis) response to her District 20 constituency: "I don't represent you!"

It's time to stop pretending that the population of the county is so small that voters in Mt. Pleasant know who is the best person to represent North Charleston. The system as it is allows the Chamber of Commerce and its lackeys to control outcomes in many areas. What just happened in North Charleston, where Mt. Pleasant supporters (and the Chamber) put Cindy Bohn Coats over the top North Charleston vote-getter Shante Ellis, is a case in point.

Part of the solution is better communication within the county about what the candidates stand for. Evidently, we can't depend upon our local newspaper or television outlets for full information. Perhaps its lack of interest (or collusion) in local races is part of the reason that the Post and Courier has become a dinosaur.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time for Change in CCSD School Board Elections: True Representatives

The organization of Charleston County's school board elections sets up what amounts to fraud. Individuals must reside in and declare for seats in different parts of the county (West Ashley, Downtown, etc.). They should owe their election to those they purport to represent.

As it is now, while a board member supposedly represents a particular area, that area did not necessarily want him or her!

Case in point:

Three individuals ran for the seat currently held by Cindy Bohn Coats, who lives in Park Circle in North Charleston. She was declared the winner with the majority of the votes district-wide for that seat. That means that Mt. Pleasant, West Ashley, and Downtown contributed to her total.

Are their interests the same as those in North Charleston? Not hardly. Take a good look at how North Charleston's schools (and I'm not talking about district-wide magnets built in North Charleston) have fared under this system. Mayor Summey should be ashamed of himself for supporting what has transpired under McGinley's tenure. North Charleston's revenues provide megabucks to the district--and it gets what in return? But then, magically, his grandson attends Buist Academy. Hmm.

Anyone besides yours truly remember to idiotic attempt to combine Stall and North Charleston high schools? That was so that McGinley could claim one less failing school.

Who won in the North Charleston districts in this election?

Shante Ellis had 2547 votes to Cindy Bohn Coats's 2290!

Where is the justice?

The district is so out of date that it refers to North Charleston as the "North Area," as though the city doesn't exist.

Time for change.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Editors' Campaign to Rehire CCSD's McGinley Falters on Moffly's Facts

Saturday's op-ed by outgoing Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth Moffly sums up the former superintendent's disdain for what communities want:

Building program at heart of district-board dispute
Nov 15 2014 12:01 am
I want to share with my community lessons learned as your representative over the past four years serving as a Charleston County School Board trustee. This position allowed me a greater perspective to understand how decisions were made.

The elected school board employs the superintendent. The superintendent is accountable to the board and responsible for day-to-day decisions and upholding policy.

One would think that the board's and the district's primary focus would be student achievement, instructional quality and graduation rates. With the passage of the one-cent sales tax referendum in 2010, however, we functioned more like a "Board of Construction" rather than a "Board of Education," overseeing a $500 million building program.

This action is where the problems began. Whole communities were divided and thousands of students displaced.

The first divide started when the district told the Sullivan's Island community, with only 268 students in its attendance zone, that it had to accept a 500-student school or nothing.

All the while the district was building smaller schools on the peninsula. James Simons Elementary had 110 students, but the district built a 400-student school. Memminger Elementary had only 70 students from its attendance zone, but its new building was designed for 400 as well.

The island remains divided on the issue.

While Sullivan's Island was getting more than it needed, we knew North Mount Pleasant was bursting at the seams with over 2,200 students in its K-5 elementary schools. I thought the $27 million should be spent to address a more pressing issue of overcrowding. Sullivan's Island Elementary enrollment was secured in the old Whitesides campus, with plenty of room for enrollment expansion. A front-beach school, elevated 10 feet on stilts and the size of the Yorktown, just didn't seem like a smart decision when real overcrowding in north Mount Pleasant was being ignored.

Then there was the second East Cooper high school debacle. Wando had grown past capacity with over 3,600 students in a building designed for only 3,100 students. The town and the citizens had expected another stand-alone high school since 2005. The district hired a consultant and held a community engagement where three district options were presented and voted on by the community.

Option A, a middle college aka center for advanced studies (a longtime vision of the superintendent), received 25 percent. Option B, a ninth grade academy, received 24 percent. Option C, a second East Cooper high school, received 49 percent, the highest score.

The district decided this community would get the center for advanced studies, overriding the community's will. Wando is now the largest (and only) high school in the state's fourth largest city.

The most recent fiasco, Lowcountry Tech (LCT), has created more community division. The district hired a consultant in 2007 to a hold a community engagement at Burke High School. Approximately 300 citizens from downtown participated.

There were five options. The overall majority voted for the new Charleston Charter School for Math and Science (CCSMS) to occupy the entire Rivers facility.

Incidentally, in 2010 with the first sales tax referendum, voters countywide approved LCT (now called Lowcountry Tech Academy) to be constructed on the Burke High School campus. The superintendent then wrote a column for The Post and Courier in 2012 telling the public the community voted for her vision in 2007, with LTA and CCSMS sharing the Rivers campus.

The board has since directed the district to allow Charleston Math and Science to have complete occupancy of the Rivers campus so 260 children can move out of existing trailers. Lowcountry Tech would be expanded and moved to Burke where there is plenty of room. That campus was built for 1,700 students, yet it now has fewer than 400.

The district has continued to push back on this decision leaving perpetual discontent in the community. District 20's board is in complete support of the county board's decision. The administration needs to complete the directive and not subvert it.

The public recently questioned the board's integrity for holding an 11th-hour special called board vote last August to add Lincoln to the 2014 referendum. That was necessary to honor the board's original commitment to this rural community.

The board voted 5-2 on Feb. 24, 2014, to identify funding for a new Lincoln facility. The district failed to include this school on the referendum despite the board's directive.

The board was exposed to public humiliation for seemingly having acted rashly on Lincoln's behalf. Other communities were told that if the board included this project, the referendum would fail and their special projects would be lost. That was completely unfounded and disregarded the county board's explicit promise to this community.

At the superintendent's request, the district simply closed several failing schools. This policy allowed her to claim to have reduced the number of low-performing schools.

Students have been shuffled, but the achievement gap for low-performing students has grown. By closing or renaming failing schools, the district fostered an illusion that failing schools were fixed.

In reality, that posture only reset the scorecard with a clean, new start, a free pass for three years. These schools and children have not made appropriate progress.

These are just a few of the issues that the Charleston County School Board dealt with over the last four years.

I know there have been lingering questions, but I hope I have answered a few of them here.

Elizabeth Moffly is a former member of the Charleston County School Board.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Sensitivity Training Overdue in Charleston County School District

Former board member Larry Kobrovsky certainly nailed the problem in the Charleston County School District with his letter to the editor published in Thursday's edition. 

Brian Hicks is a gifted writer and often provides valuable commentary on issues of interest. He also has an obsession with Elizabeth Kandrac. 
Mr. Hicks is entitled to his opinion on Ms. Kandrac, but it's quite a stretch to blame Kandrac for the recent turn of events surrounding the fate of Dr. Nancy McGinley.
Ms. Kandrac has not been on the board for over two years and did not participate in any way, shape or form in the public debate over the treatment of the coach or football team.
Now that Mr. Hicks has brought Kandrac's name into this, I would like to suggest a much more compelling connection.
A federal jury found and a federal judge upheld the verdict that a public school in Charleston County was a racially hostile place to work.
The testimony in federal court was that Ms. Kandrac was subjected to vile and vulgar racial slurs and obscenities on a daily basis. Two 14-year-old students also testified that they went to school every day terrified solely on the basis of their race.
The defense of the district was that the offensive behavior was the culture of the students and that there was nothing they could do about it.
To this day the district has not spent one minute talking to or apologizing to the students who had to attend school while suffering racial slurs on a daily basis.
Nor has a single adult employee of the district been forced to undergo a minute of "sensitivity training" for allowing this to happen. 
Rather than blame Elizabeth Kandrac for the school board's recent action regarding Dr. McGinley, maybe Mr. Hicks could reflect on how the administration failed to show any compassion or concern for the two young men who testified that they went to school every day bullied and harassed solely because of the color of their skin. 
Larry Kobrovsky
Meeting Street

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Should Charleston County Ban Watermelon from Its Schools?

Surprise, surprise! The members of the Academic Magnet football team, as I pointed out previously, had no idea that their boisterous celebrations could be considered racist. That was the official finding of the school district. Could it be that these teenagers had been growing up in a non-racist atmosphere where no one pointed out stereotypes to them?

Gee, thank goodness the Charleston County School District exists to enforce learning of racist stereotypes. None of these players will ever look at a watermelon again without thinking of racist stereotypes.

Is that progress or regression?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Fed Up with CCSD Shenanigans? Vote These Three for School Board!

 Funny thing! These candidates have been ignored by the newspaper's lackeys sobbing over the demise of Nancy McGinley as Charleston schools superintendent.

Sarah Shad Johnson, 44
Occupation: Educational Advocate, Charleston Area Community Voice for Education
Goals: Give our higher-performing schools more autonomy, and help our lower-performing and rural schools become self-sufficient by recruiting strong leaders and providing additional resources; Bring the voice of parents and teachers to the decision-making table, so the actual needs of the classroom can be addressed.

Kelvin D. Curtis, 31
Occupation: City of Charleston Recreation Supervisor
Goals: Build a professional working relationship with the board members; Improve the communication deliverance between the District to our team-members, parents, students and our community; Demonstrate to our principals and teachers that we truly care by asking them, want I can do for you?
Edward C. Fennell, 64

Occupation: retired Post and Courier reporter

Goals: Reading improvements. I have always believed schools can be better at teaching reading. Reading is absolutely fundamental to education -- and without an ability to read, can not advance to other subjects. Also, it's important to equip our urban schools with the same advanced technology and vocational opportunities the suburban schools are getting.

The P&C's recommended crew will provide more of the same!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Hicks Plays the Race Card for McGinley's Departure

According to our daily newspaper and its spokesman, Brian Hicks, former CCSD Superintendent Nancy McGinley was perfect! How could that awful (elected) school board "let" her go?

It's a syllogism:

Premise 1: Nancy McGinley is the perfect superintendent.

Premise 2: The CCSD school board was very unhappy with Nancy McGinley as superintendent.

Conclusion: The school board must be racist.

Well, that makes sense.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Worst Editorial Ever Laments CCSD's Loss of McGinley

Rambling. Lacks focus. Irrational. Misleading.

Friday's lead editorial over the resignation of Superintendent Nancy McGinley reads as though the writer was in the grip of hysterics or the bottle. Get a grip! McGinley's exit was not about watermelons. Her high-handed tactics in attempting to cow the duly-elected school board into submission finally played out.

Some of our most high-profile politicians have been drinking the Kool-Aid. Dot Scott's lament that McGinley couldn't control the board puts their sobbing in perspective: by law, the school board controls the superintendent, not vice versa.

No wonder we have such problems in the district. Let's take a deep breath and demand a true audit before handing $500 million over to what's left of her administration.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hicks on McGinley: Laugh of the Day

The paper has gone whole hog to protect Superintendent McGinley's position in the Charleston County School District. Mayor Riley is beating down the doors of individual school board members in an attempt to save his protege. The editorial page laments the potential loss of a great superintendent, and the news articles point out how costly her buyout would be.

Nevertheless, Brian Hicks takes the prize for the most outrageous sentence in his impassioned defensive column.

To wit, "McGinley has never been a politician."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CCSD's McGinley a Goner?

Please, oh please.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Clothespin Your Nose and Vote for Spearman for SC Education Superintendent

Molly Spearman, a former music teacher, is also, fittingly, former director of the SC School Administrators Association. She thinks like them.

Tom Thompson is former dean of graduate studies at SC State University, a place not known for graduate study, and he is now involved with for-profit institutions. He sees federal intervention in education as a positive force.

Both candidates are mouthing platitudes in debate. Neither has any new solutions other than to have high standards and fix funding inequities.Of course, you could throw your vote away on the American party candidate, Ed Murray, but why would he be an improvement over Jim Rex, one of his supporters?

This year's race proves once again that the state's superintendent of education should be appointed by the governor.

No wonder only 13 states have elected superintendents when you contemplate the candidates our primary elections have tossed up for us.

Spearman appears to be marginally less entranced with federal intervention. Of course, she could merely be mouthing what Republican voters want to hear.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CCSD's McGinley Teaches Watermelon Stereotype to AMHS Teens

Most of them were born between 1996 and 1998, long after the association of watermelons with African-Americans was banned from public discourse, so it should come as no surprise that the Academic Magnet football team, including its black player, would not have associated smashing a watermelon while making the usual football grunts and raves with being racist.

Trouble is, the Charleston County School District's superintendent was determined to teach them a lesson anyway.

And she did.

So now what the boys saw as a harmless marker of their victories has become a racist incident causing the loss of their football coach. The coach was held responsible even though not present.

Political correctness run amuck.

The super had better watch out. She can mess around with academics all she wants, but when she starts messing with football that spells trouble.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reading at Fourth-Grade Level? CCSD Welcomes You to High School

If you set the goal low enough, almost everyone can achieve it.

However, the Charleston County School District struggles to meet its own criterion that all incoming ninth graders will read at the fourth grade level. Despite focusing on literacy for the past few years, nearly 13 percent of the district's students read at or below the fourth-grade level. That would be bad enough if those students were spread evenly among CCSD's high schools. An additional problem is that they are clustered, often up to 40 percent of an entering class, in CCSD's lowest-performing schools. a

Below is an example of a fourth-grade reading worksheet. Remember that this is the goal for these students.

We don't know what percentage reads below the fourth-grade level. Here is third-grade level. Can you imagine this student reading a high school textbook?

It's way past time to get serious about reading. If students reading on this low a level pass their freshman classes, what does that suggest about the difficulty of what they are learning? What percentage of these students will actually graduate?

Time to fish or cut bait. Either put all students reading at fourth-grade level or below in the same classes in the same school and keep them there until each reads at least on the sixth-grade level or distribute them evenly over the district's high schools so that students reading at grade level or above need not face a class with a majority of poor readers.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Who's in Charge: CCSD Superintendent or School Board?

Amazingly, the Charleston County School Board has done something not first pushed by Superintendent McGinley: moved Lowcountry Tech from the Rivers building and voted to allow the Charleston School for Math and Science the use of the building instead of multiple trailers. It's a nightmare!

Well, it's a nightmare for McGinley. What this sensible vote suggests is that her long domination of the Board that is legally her boss may be ending. When did the Board last go against her wishes? Not in my memory.

McGinley is beholden to special interest groups who have no real interest in the education of Charleston County's students. They have a political agenda instead. That political agenda does not allow for a fully-integrated school on the peninsula that they do not control through the superintendent.

It would be nice to say that this disagreement with the elected school board is the handwriting on the wall, but don't hold your breath waiting for McGinley to resign, even if she's reduced to stating idiotically that Burke doesn't have room for the tech programs.

So now CSMS must wait for passage of the not-a-penny sales tax extension?


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

CCSD Disconcerted by Its Own Policies Regarding School Transfers

I'm not sure anyone has counted how many programs Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley has instituted to entice students to attend school outside their attendance zones, but those programs are legion.

So it's all the more puzzling why CCSD administration last month claimed to be "disconcerted" over this trend. Maybe it thinks the "wrong" students are heeding the siren call of magnet and partial-magnet schools or petitioning for curriculum offered only at the other end of the county?

Actually, one reason for concern is that, while North Charleston's elementary and middle schools are full, numbers are exiting North Charleston for high school, perhaps to avoid ninth-grade classes where up to 40 percent are reading at the fourth-grade level or below. Another concern is falling enrollment at de-facto all-black Burke, the only high school on a majority-white peninsula. Could Burke's celebration of its all-black hsitory have anything to do with white flight?

Seriously, does anyone wonder why students who can choose to go elsewhere do so, even opting sometimes for "gasp" private schools?

Board Vice-Chairman Ducker worries that too much parental choice will send some schools "into a death spiral." Some parents, on the other hand, think a death spiral might be the solution for the ones with dismal records.

CCSD has decided to throw another edublob consultant at their perceived problem: for $16,500 he or she will "study school choice trends using a two-pronged approach--an online survey and focus groups." With all the fine administrators already on board at 75 Calhoun, you'd think this could be an in-house job. Apparently not.

Let's at least hope that McGinley resists tinkering with the focus groups.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Grooms Gets an A for AP History Analysis

When the College Board first instituted the Advanced Placement American History curriculum, a five-page guide was enough direction for its small cadre of teachers.

Flash forward thirty years or so to the spread of AP classes to the masses and the problems the CB faces with teachers not fully prepared to teach them, perhaps not even capable of making a "3" on the test itself. Of course, through AP conferences and training many not-so-well educated teachers have become adept at challenging their students. However, recently the College Board decided that the younger teachers now taking over needed more guidance.

Hence, the genesis of the 142-page guide ,or "framework," provided to today's history teachers. The necessity for such a guide reflects the dumbing down of American high schools over the last thirty years. The America-bashing of the guide merely reflects the liberalism of today's educational establishment. The furor has occurred because they put it in writing. The College Board is surprised at the controversy because it doesn't know anyone who doesn't think the way it does.

Larry Grooms's op-ed in Tuesday's paper, a reasoned analysis of the fuss over the framework, bears reprinting:
There was a time when American exceptionalism was as much a part of a student's education as Jamestown, Manifest Destiny, and the Wright brothers. In his 1989 farewell speech, Ronald Reagan described America as a "shining city upon a hill... a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds ... a city that hummed with commerce and creativity."
The American experience is not this tidy. Our history includes plenty of mistakes, but we've overcome plenty, too. As Bill Clinton observed, there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.
This highly American ideology - the can-do spirit, the casting aside of differences when history demands - does not resonate with the historians who recently rewrote the College Board's Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. The College Board is a nonprofit that helps students prepare for college through programs such as the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program.
Claiming that the existing five-page guide prevents students from studying "the main events of U.S. history," the board's scholars poured out their collective genius, releasing a new 142-page curriculum they call a "framework." Their self-proclaimed landmark project presents a consistently negative view of America. It also reveals a left-wing, radically flawed reinterpretation of history.
The framework does not include questions about the Mayflower Compact, Thomas Jefferson, the Gettysburg Address or the Truman Doctrine. Neither are students asked about Dwight Eisenhower, Jonas Salk or Martin Luther King, Jr. The valor of our soldiers who ended Nazi oppression in World War II and the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust are omitted. Instead of focusing on resilient personalities and extraordinary achievements - the history most of us learned - the framework centers on controversy. Identity group grievances, conflict, exploitation, oppression, unresolved social movements - these are presented as our nation's foundation.
We do a great disservice when we gloss over these injustices. But while America's means haven't always been laudable, our ends most often are. As Churchill observed: "The United States invariably does the right thing - after exhausting every other alternative."
It is this uniquely American approach that the framework ignores. Students should be taught facts - triumphs and tragedies. Instead, the framework consistently focuses on all that was ever wrong with this, the most generous and progressive people in the history of mankind.
Now that commonsense folks are calling them out, the test's writers are falling all over themselves to defend their work. They say that teachers are free to discuss George Washington, the role of capitalism, the Holocaust and other topics that may be required by a particular state's standards. South Carolina's education officials also assure us that our state's standards will safeguard students from negative biases.
Both assurances ignore page 2 of the framework: "Beginning with the May 2015 AP U.S. History Exam, no AP U.S. History Exam questions will require students to know historical content that falls outside this concept outline." Teachers face the difficult, if not impossible, task of finding time to teach both the state standards and the framework. Why teach topics that are not on the test?
The College Board knows this. Its stated goal is to "train a generation of students" to become "apprentice historians." The hope is that these apprentices in turn inculcate another generation. This is the same strategy used to promote controversial Common Core state standards. It is no coincidence that David Coleman, chief architect of Common Core, is also president of the College Board.
In the same remarkably prescient speech, Reagan warned of such schemes, cautioning that "we've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important. ... If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."
Reagan concluded with a challenge to students: "... if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do."
These historians are not teaching what it means to be an American. They are teaching victimization and social politics.
It is time we call them out on it. That would be a very American thing to do.
Larry Grooms, a Republican, represents Berkeley and Charleston counties in the S.C. Senate.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Educrat Spearman Opposes School Choice Program for Special Needs

In 2011, MollySpearman in an op-ed in The State newspaper declared, “SC can’t afford fool’s gold
of private school subsidies.” In this editorial, she argued that private schools wouldn’t accept
students that the credits would help.

How's that working out for you, Molly?

Of course, Molly was a lobbyist for Democrat Inez Tenenbaum for a number of years. She claims she didn't vote for the former state superintendent, but she did contribute money to Tenenbaum's campaign. Could Spearman be a RINO? Nahh.

When the School Choice bill for special needs children passed the SC House for the first time in
2012, Spearman, while serving as the Director of the SC Association of School Administrators,
said “This isn’t going to do anything to improve our education in this state. At a time when we
can’t fulfil our state requirement for public schools, we’re diverting resources to places where
there is no accountability, where we aren’t sure the type of education students will

Looks like this year's race for state superintendent of education is between tweedle-dee-dum and tweedle-dee-dee.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Kovach Indictment Cramps CCSD's Style on Not-a-Penny Tax Extension

When the Charleston County School District last kicked off its Yes4Schools campaign in 2010, the initial press conference was held at Sanders-Clyde Elementary. What a difference a little fear can make!

This time the press conference's appearance in a vacant lot opposite Dunston Elementary School on Remount Road shed any perceived impropriety that the tax is being pushed by CCSD. The Chamber of Commerce spokesman carefully pointed out that "no school employees were at the campaign kickoff."

Crimping Nancy McGinley's style. Too bad.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Opportunity for "Critical Thinking" Missed by Hard-Line Educrat Darwinists

Perhaps retired Bishop Allison's measured letter can contribute to the debate over evolution versus intelligent design. Note the irony of the anecdote at the end.

Sep 30 2014 12:01 am
                                                            Not so random
Frank Wooten's Sept. 27 column on "Natural selection: Keep faith in science" is based on popular misunderstandings regarding issues of 100 years ago. The issue confronting us today is whether random chance can account for the created order or whether there is scientific evidence for intelligent design in nature.

Biologist Michael Behe has more recently shown that cilium, a microscopic hair-like organism that keeps foreign objects out of our lungs, is so irreducibly complex that it takes an act of credulity to believe it just happened by chance given the limited time of the planet's existence.

Of course, this does not prevent such credulity on the part of scientists already committed to a natural self-explanatory world.

But Wooten seems unaware of Behe, Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, all (and many more) credentialed scientists that, on the basis of science, perceive intelligent design in creation and not mere random chance.

Last year's "Mere Anglicanism" conference featured famous scientists who believe nature discloses more than random chance. (CDs of these addresses are available through the office of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina on Coming Street.)

Especially interesting and even delightful are the addresses by Dr. John C. Lennox, professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. Dr. Stephen Meyer related a telling anecdote:

A Chinese paleontologist was lecturing at the University of Washington on the astonishing findings in China from the pre-Cambrian era, turning Darwin's bottom-up assumptions to top-down developments.

One American asked if he were not uncomfortable speaking skeptically of Darwinism coming "as you do from an authoritarian country."

The Chinese scholar smiled and replied, "In China we can question Darwin, but not the government. In America you can question the government but not Darwin."

C. FitzSimons Allison
Retired Bishop, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Indigo Avenue

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Berkeley CSD's Thompson About to "Get Outta Dodge"?

Perhaps the moment of clarity came when they issued a search warrant for Berkeley County Superintendent Rodney Thompson's computer. Or maybe when Amy Kovach, his communications director, received a second indictment.

At some point Thompson realized that the remaining two years on his contract with the county's school district would not be fun. Whether ultimately indicted or not, Thompson will leave a district that seems largely improved under his guidance.

This latest news punches another hole in all school districts' personnel meddling in referendums. It should send a clear signal to Charleston County School District Superintendent McGinley to be more careful in the upcoming tax renewal.

Oh, I forgot. She's safe because Board member and Chamber of Commerce officer Chris Fraser will do the dirty work.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Finally: Sensible Plan from CCSD Board

Charleston County School Board approves controversial plan to move tech program
by Amanda Kerr

"Despite urging from black community leaders to keep Lowcountry Tech Academy at its location in downtown Charleston, the School Board voted Monday to move the program to three other high schools and allow a charter school to take over the space.

"The Charleston County School Board voted 5-4 to approve a plan to move Lowcountry Tech Academy to West Ashley and Burke high schools as well as a third location in North Charleston. School Board members Cindy Bohn Coats, Todd Garrett, Tom Ducker, Elizabeth Moffly and Tripp Wiles voted for the expansion, while Rev. Chris Collins, Craig Ascue, Michael Miller and Chris Fraser voted against it. The board modified the plan to have flexibility in choosing which school the tech program moves to in North Charleston over concerns over space limitations at North Charleston High School.

For the rest, see

The NAACP is not happy. Perhaps it's losing control of the school board.

Monday, September 22, 2014

CCSD Has Only One Sensible Option for Rivers Building

Edward Jones tells it like it is in Monday's paper/

Wise Rivers plan
The proposal to expand Lowcountry Tech into multiple high schools and move Charleston Charter School for Math and Science (CCSMS) middle schoolers into the Rivers school building has the unanimous support of the District 20 Constituent Board.

When the Charleston County School District pushed to close and sell the Rivers campus, the movement to save the building was led by CCSMS. In 2008, this board voted unanimously to place CCSMS in the building. There was then, and remains today, a need for more middle and high school courses in math and science, which are prerequisites for entry into our best state colleges and universities.

The middle school has a waiting list of 226. Enabling it to move out of trailers into the school building will create approximately 60 additional seats. CCSMS is one of the few fully integrated downtown schools, with 50 percent minority students.

After the tragedy of Sandy Hook, and after years of enormous investment in our school buildings to make them safe and secure, we cannot deny that leaving 260 students in trailers is to put them in harm's way. The safety of our children must prevail over politics. There can be no justification for dividing this building between CCSMS and Lowcountry Tech, leaving 260 students outside where we cannot protect them.

A logical next step is to involve the principals of Burke, West Ashley and North Charleston high schools in the logistics of accommodating Lowcountry Tech on their campuses. Burke has a full wing not in use. A proper plan should place the needs of students above all else and strengthen our middle and high schools.

Chairman, District 20
Constituent School Board
President Street

Saturday, September 20, 2014

CCSD Should Pay Attention to More Than Squeaky Wheel of NAACP

Would you believe that the Rev. Joseph Darby surmises that the Charleston County School District's Charter School for Math and Science will be entirely white by 2025?

Really, CSMS has been an embarrassment to the district from its beginnings by a group of diverse parents, to its fight with CCSD administration for trailer space at the old Rivers campus, to its present status of the MOST INTEGRATED SCHOOL IN THE ENTIRE SCHOOL DISTRICT.

Shame on Darby. His ritualistic op-ed columns provide the equivalent of "waving the bloody shirt" of earlier times.

Here's the skinny: Charleston County Schools administration (i.e., Nancy McGinley) made a foolish promise to the NAACP and Ministerial Alliance in order to get their undying support. The aforementioned have no problems with having all-black schools in the district. For a group of grass roots parents to create a well-integrated school on the peninsula without their blessing added insult to injury.

Lowcountry Tech at the Rivers building has never made any sense given that Burke is half-empty and many Burke alumni and parents want the tech classes there. It has never made any sense to bus in students from around the county when their participation precludes participation in sports and other activities or adds two hours to the school day.

The sole purpose of LTA at Rivers at this point is to preclude CSMS from using the rest of the building and to keep the NAACP's support of McGinley.

It's not about the children.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Brian Hicks Imposes Stereotypes Where None Exist over "Not a Penny" Tax

When did we guess that Brian Hicks was merely a liberal flack? Probably when his first column appeared in the P&C--was that only seven years ago? Seems like an eternity.

Case in point: The Charleston County Republican Party questions the need for a six-year extension of the "not a penny" tax to fill the coffers of the Charleston County School District for its contractor friends. It dares to suggest that the "not a penny" tax is overkill when new schools are necessary only in the places where population is burgeoning and overfilling present schools.

Of course, Hicks' being the conspiracy theorist he is (must be a friend of co-conspiracy theorist Dot Scott) thinks the anti-tax sentiment reveals that Republicans want new schools only for whites.

Um, duh.

Mostly whites are moving where the student population is bulging at the seams. Must be a Republican plot perpetrated in New Jersey and Ohio.

Hicks also claims to believe that the Metro Chamber of Commerce is conservative! He neglects to mention in his anti-Republican rant that Chris Fraser, whom he quotes for the School Board, is the guiding force of the Chamber of Commerce on the School Board and an officer of the Chamber, a bit like ignoring that Hillary Clinton is the wife of an ex-President.

To top off his ignorant rant, Hicks suggests that tourists will pay 40 percent of money raised with the extension. Apparently, he's been drinking CCSD's Kool-Aid. Heaven forfend that property owners should foot the bill!

Hicks wants to lay this oh-so-regressive sales tax on the backs of the poor instead.

What a guy!

Remember: it's not a penny. How often do you purchase items for a dime?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gilbreth on APHistory Standards and American Exceptionalism

Edward M Gilbreth in his pieces for the local paper generally stays out of politics. However, one recent column is an exception. He narrows his concerns to some responses to Sherry Few's (and others) objections to AP History guidelines published by the College Board.
According to a recent Newsweek article, a former New Jersey history teacher, Larry S. Krieger, with 40-year classroom experience, sounded the loudest alarm of revisionist history. He has since joined forces with opponents of the Common Core curriculum. Critics claim it's no coincidence that College Board President David Coleman previously had a hand in writing Common Core's math and English benchmarks and that they have similarities.
It hasn't taken long for this furor to get red-hot with politicians, including the National Republican Committee (RNC), taking the lead. Private or not, the College Board takes public dollars and there's a move in Congress to halt federal funds until the curriculum is revised. 
College Board officials, who also run the SAT exam, say it's all a big misunderstanding.
Its website contends the number of historical references actually has increased and that thousands of teachers motivated the changes by expressing "strong concerns that the course required a breathless race through American history" that sacrificed opportunities "for students to engage in writing and research." 
Conversely, the Newsweek article says Krieger is convinced that the failure to mention most of America's greatest historical figures by name means that they won't be on the test and therefore won't be taught. He also contends the new curriculum has "a consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters." 
Krieger told Newsweek he is particularly upset by the absence of discussion of the valor or heroism of American soldiers in World War II. Instead, he cited this from the framework: "Wartime experiences such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values."
Critics have targeted New York University Professor Thomas Bender as influential in the changes. A National Review article by Stanley Kurtz claims that the redesign process actually took root in 2006 at a conference attended by Bender. He describes Bender as "the leading spokesman for the movement to internationalize the U.S. History curriculum at every educational level" and as a "thoroughgoing critic of American exceptionalism." 
There's that term "American exceptionalism" again. Some love it; some hate it. Some believe America is truly exceptional in overall exceptionally good ways - far better than any other country in history. Others see just the opposite - that we're an exceptionally bad country and have achieved our status through exceptionally bad means - and that we now need to hang our heads in shame, retreat from the world stage and apologize in unison. Accordingly, our rise to exceptional status must somehow be morally invalid, and that our good works mean nothing because they originated from bad. Make sense?
Well, not to this daughter of a marine veteran of Iwo Jima. "Questions about American values" will always occur in a society with free speech; however, free speech in the AP History classroom is generally controlled by the teacher. How about some research on the hardships faced by ordinary citizens in a war agains pure evil?

A New York Teacher's Disgust with Common Core Standards

 As reported by Diane Ravitch last month
"Common Core was imposed on teachers by non-educators. We were fed a lot of mistruths along the way, as well. However, there would be no backlash if the CC founders gave us an educationally sound reform package.
We are rejecting CC primarily because the standards in ELA are un-teachable and un-testable, abstract and subjective thinking skills - essentially content free, the math standards are the SOS shifted around in developmentally inappropriate ways using unnecessarily confusing pedagogy, and the tests tied to teacher evaluations have become the epitome of educational malpractice. 
Furthermore, the notion of producing educational excellence with standards that cannot be changed, altered, deleted, or improved, is insult to our profession. And until the ESEA is dealt with by Congress, we are stuck inside a very deep hole, whether we support the CC or not."

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Berkeley CSD's Kovach's Indictment a Travesty

Does anyone believe that Berkeley County School District's communications director Amy Kovach dreamed up on her own the district's support of the Yes4Schools campaign in 2012? Really?

It's a dirty not-so-little not-so secret in every school district in South Carolina that every possible asset is used to push approval of school referendums. I challenge you to prove otherwise.

Why pick on Amy? According to the news story,

Already accused of improperly trying to influence the outcome of an election, Berkeley County School District's communications director now faces a second charge related to the same 2012 Yes 4 Schools referendum.
Amy Kovach, 43, was indicted by a Berkeley County grand jury Tuesday on one count of forgery, a felony that carries a fine and up to five years in jail. 
"To say that I'm shocked would be a gross understatement," Kovach's lawyer, Jerry Theos, said after the indictment was announced. "The Attorney General's Office didn't advise me in advance that they were seeking an indictment. They have not provided me ... with a copy of the indictment. I have no idea what it would be based upon, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support the charge." 
According to the indictment, Kovach created a false, backdated invoice from the district to the Yes 4 Schools campaign in November 2013 in "an attempt to establish that she had intended to have public funds repaid to the county" that were spent on campaign materials. The invoice was for less than $10,000, according to the indictment.

Whose Math Standards Does Common Core Use?

Pioneer Institute Study Finds 
Common Core Standards Weren’t Properly Validated

Five of the 29 members of the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign a report attesting that the standards are research-based, rigorous and internationally benchmarked. The validation report was released with 24 signatures and included no mention that five committee members refused to sign it, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.
What were the problems?
According to the Pioneer Institute press release, no member of the Common Core Validation Committee had a doctorate in English literature or language –and only one held a doctorate in math. (He was one of only three members with extensive experience writing standards.) Two of these three refused to sign off on the standards.
“Since all 50 states have had standards for a decade or more, there is a pool of people out there experienced in writing English and math standards,” said Ze’ev Wurman, author of “Common Core’s Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House.” “It’s unclear why so few of them were tapped for the Common Core Validation Committee.”
Wurman describes two studies conducted by members who signed the Validation Committee report in an attempt to provide post facto evidence that supported their earlier decisions. In both cases, the research was poorly executed and failed to provide evidence that Common Core is internationally competitive and can prepare American high school students for college-level work.
One study, conducted by Validation Committee member and Michigan State University educational statistician William Schmidt and a colleague, explored whether the Common Core math standards are comparable to those in the highest-performing nations and what outcomes might reasonably be expected after Common Core is implemented.
Wurman describes how even after Schmidt and his colleague rearranged the logical order in which concepts would be taught to make Common Core look more like the math standards in high-performing countries, there was still less than a 60 percent congruence between the two. Their initial results also found no correlation between student achievement and the states that have math standards most like Common Core.
After engaging in highly unconventional steps to increase both the congruence between Common Core and the international standards and the correlation between Common Core and student achievement (based on states whose standards were most similar to Common Core), Schmidt and his colleague wrote that they estimate congruence “in a novel way… coupled with several assumptions.” They acknowledge that their analyses “should be viewed as only exploratory… merely suggesting the possibility of a relationship,” yet such caution disappears in their final conclusion.
Wurman’s research also uncovered that basic information was coded incorrectly for Schmidt’s study and shows examples of concepts introduced in high school under Common Core listed as being taught in seventh grade. 
Other studies have come to very different conclusions. Stanford University mathematician R. James Milgram, the only member of the Validation Committee with a doctorate in mathematics, said that Common Core is two years behind the math standards in the highest-performing countries. Milgram also wrote that Common Core fails to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. 
Ze’ev Wurman is a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and a former senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Development, and Policy Development. In 2010, he served as a commissioner on the California Academic Content Standards Commission that evaluated Common Core’s suitability for adoption in that state.
Pioneer’s comprehensive research on Common Core national education standards includes: Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM; How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk; Common Core Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade; The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers; National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards, and A Republic of Republics: How Common Core Undermines State and Local Autonomy over K-12 Education. Pioneer produced a video series: Setting the Record Straight: Part 1, and Part 2, and has earned national media coverage.

Posted April 24, 2014 by Christel Swasey in How the Common Core Initiative Hurts Kids, Teachers, and Taxpayers

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Pay Attention, CCSD: It's Teacher Pay, Stupid

Yes, Kay Haun's Letter-to-the-Editor solution will be expensive, but so is the edublob! In the recent Charleston County School District's pay raise, administrators got 75 percent of the funds! Does anyone believe that will improve student outcomes?
Attract teachers 
Our state Senate Committee on Public School Teachers could save lots of time and money if it simply did what it really takes to get and keep effective and inspiring teachers. 
Increase S.C. teachers' pay dramatically, and do it right now. 
The most important factor in producing students who can compete in the world has always been each individual teacher. 
It's not beautiful buildings, laptops on every desk, hordes of support staff and administrators. Socrates never had a classroom; he taught on the porticos of Athens without textbooks. 
A good teacher is intelligent, creative, self-confident. Want to know how to evaluate our teachers? Ask the students - they know exactly which of their teachers knows his stuff, can control the classroom, and provides challenging and interesting lessons.
Worried about paying too much to ineffective teachers? No problem. As more and more bright and talented young people come out of college and see a competitive salary waiting in the teaching field, they will come. And the chaff will be winnowed inexorably.
Many would love to go into teaching as a career. It's a wonderful experience for those who have the right combination of skills and smarts. 
But they have to be compensated and recognized as valuable contributors to their communities. Also, they should direct the support staffs and administrations in their schools. 
They should determine the core learning standards as well as learning materials. Wonderful results would occur. 
Kay M. Haun
West Liberty Park Circle
North Charleston

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Summerville School Administrators Need to "Get a Grip"

First, Summerville High School suspends a student for writing an essay about killing his neighbor's dinosaur with a gun. You can't make this stuff up.

Now an eighth-grade boy at a Summerville middle school [unnamed] has been suspended for listing the gang of 14 students who have been bullying him, labeling it "People to Kill," and dropping it in the hall for a teacher to find.

According to DD2's Pat Raynor,
The principal brought the student into her office and asked him to tell her who had been bothering him. He mentioned the same names as those on the list, according to the report. The student said he made the list to relieve stress and didn't plan to hurt anybody. He said he meant to throw the list away.
The deputy notified the student's parents. They told him he didn't have access to any guns, according to the report. 
The student was suspended until a disciplinary hearing, District 2 spokeswoman Pat Raynor said Wednesday.
All the parents of the 14 students on the list were also contacted.
Don't you wonder what was said to parents of the gang of 14 bullies?

Do you wonder why the teachers didn't already know the student was being bullied? Or, if they did, why nothing was done?

How about wondering why the student felt he couldn't tell anyone what was going on? Consider that we're talking about a 12- or 13-year-old boy.

Gee, DD2 nipped that Columbine in the bud.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Common Core? It's Done

As Diane Ravitch recently concluded:

Common Core is not simply a toxic brand, as some of its defenders believe. It got one of the greatest send-offs in history, adopted by 45 states even though no one was sure exactly what it was. It came wrapped in such grandiose claims that it was bound to flop. There was no evidence that Common Core standards would improve education, raise test scores, narrow the achievement gaps, make children globally competitive or college and career-ready.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this fiasco, it is that process matters, evidence matters. Money can buy elections, but money alone is not enough to buy control of American education. A change as massive as national standards requires the willing and enthusiastic by educators, parents, and communities. Arne Duncan and Bill Gates thought they could bypass those groups, if they funded enough of their leadership organizations. They thought they could design the standards they thought best and impose them on the nation. It is not working. As New York high school principal Carol Burris said recently about Common Core, stick a fork in it, it's done.
The question remaining is whether education officials in South Carolina will keep this flawed program by simply re-branding it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

What Not to Know About Common Core

Why would South Carolinians take the word of an Associated Press writer to educate themselves on Common Core?

Yet that's exactly what the P & C bruited in its above-the-fold headline, "What to know about Common Core," on Labor Day. The article's first sentence is majorly misleading, if not plain wrong: "Common Core education standards have already been adopted by 40 states and are opposed by conservatives across the country."

Perhaps reporter Seanna Adcox thought pretending only conservatives oppose Common Core would gain it more support among newspaper readers. That scheme would suggest she's just arrived here from Mars. That's the kind supposition. The unkind idea would be that Adcox has no idea of the vociferious opposition that has arisen in liberal circles around the United States.

When the lead sentence of an article purporting to contain knowledge is fatally flawed, stop reading.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Respect Teachers' Labor, Too!

While the rest of the world seems to have decided that what's wrong with education is its teachers, teachers, unionized or not, are not at rest on this Labor Day.

Teachers, as professionals, do not get overtime pay, yet most of them are at work more than sixty hours per week. Think of the typical high school English teacher, or any teacher, for that matter, who assigns essays and papers to students. Most have student loads of 100 to 150; that's 100 to 150 papers for every assignment. What percentage of those teachers will sit down tonight (if they haven't already done so) and grade papers for hours? A low guess would be half, and the other half are planning their lessons for the coming week.

A creative teacher's mind is always at work figuring out what to do with his or her students on so many levels. And everyone who's ever sat in a classroom thinks he or she can expertly tell a teacher what he or she has done wrong. Baby boomers are retiring in droves, and they are the last generation whose numbers were boosted by the lack of opportunities for college-educated women.

While English teachers work the same long hours as executives for half the pay, if that, and American society gives little respect to any job that doesn't pay well, HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

Who would be a teacher?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CCSD's "Core" List Satisfies Vote Totals for Sales Tax--They Hope

Surely even the most enthusiastic supporters for building a new Lincoln High School realize that the mushrooming student population at Wando (now the state's biggest high school and approaching 4,000 students) begs for a new Mt. Pleasant high school first. Let's face it: Lincoln's 100 students would be merely a blip on Wando's radar screen.

On the other hand, if the Charleston County School District builds a new high school for McClellanville, ignoring the historical elegance and millions in investment already made in the original McClellanville school building, let's not build it in McClellanville.

In fact, the new Mt. Pleasant high school should be built halfway between the Wando campus and downtown McClellanville. That would work out to be the center of Awendaw. Imagine that! In a few years it won't seem so out of the way to new residents of Mt. Pleasant either, since development will continue galloping north.


I've just solved the problem of McClellanville's new high school and Mt. Pleasant's at one fell swoop. There's no need to spend half a million developing plans for a new Lincoln either, unless the administration is trying to keep its architects busy.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Teachers, Not Their Unions, Finding Common Core Standards Contemptible

Diane Ravitch reports:
A poll commissioned by "Education Next," a conservative journal, finds that the public supports the idea of common standards but the support drops sharply when asked about Common Core. See the Edweek account here
The biggest declines from 2013 to 2014 were among teachers and Republicans. Support among Democrats remained steady at about 63-64%. The proportion of Republicans supporting Common Core dropped from 57% to 43%. Certain prominent Republicans continue to promote Common Core, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Other Republican governors.
The biggest decline in support was among teachers. Support dropped from 76% to 46%. This sharp decline is notable not only for its size but for two other reasons: first, both national teachers' unions have endorsed Common Core and reiterated their support for Common Core at their national conventions just weeks ago. Second, of the various groups questioned, teachers are the most knowledgable about the Common Core since almost every state is training teachers to Implement the new standards.
Peter Greene explains the decline of support among teachers with this phrase: "Familiarity breeds contempt." He says, "I'm hoping leadership in both unions takes a good hard look at this result. Again-- a group that is committed to promoting CCSS, that has a vested interest is being able to say that people and teachers love the Core, has determined that teachers do not love the Core much at all. Please pay attention, union leaders."
The editors of "Education Next" are known for their hostility to teachers' unions and teacher tenure and their advocacy for school choice, including charters and vouchers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CCSD School Board Steps In It

Remember all those promises you made? It turns out some people want to hold the Charleston County School District to its promises. What a thought!

As a result, after foisting a 500-student building on a barrier island (Sullivans Island Elementary) because no school building could be built smaller, at a hurried last-minute meeting the school board voted to build a new school for fewer than 200 students in McClellanville. 

You can't make this stuff up.

A Letter to the Editor sums up this nightmare best:

Costly call
The 11th-hour decision by certain members of the Charleston County School Board to vote for a new $35 million Lincoln High School for, at best count, 170 kids, is an unmitigated folly of epic portions. 
Using fourth-grade math with second-grade logic should make it clear to anyone that this is a total misappropriation of public funds. 
When questioning the failures of the South Carolina education system, we should start with the failures of our local elected leaders. 
Joseph Wren
Carolina Isle
Mount Pleasant
Let's hear from our school board candidates on this decision! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

McClellanville Schools Badly Mismanaged by McGinley

Here sits the original McClellanville Public School, right in the heart of the town. Isn't it beautiful? Doesn't it look as a school really should, rather than resembling a loading dock on a warehouse, as so many modern schools do.

In 1921 the school housed all grades. It operated for more than fifty years, then was shuttered as the Charleston County School District attempted to force integration of its schools. (How did that work out for ya?).

Then after Hugo, the school was renovated at a cost of $4.4 million in taxpayer dollars (OPM). It operated as a middle school for about 19 years; then CCSD shut it down again.

That was more than five years ago, and for five years the building has sat unused, after spending all those millions. It must be nice that the school district is rolling in so much money that now as part of its new "penny" sales tax scam, it proposes to spend half a million on studying plans to renovate the building yet again to make a high school of it. That's not half a million to renovate; that's half a million to plan to renovate.

Really, this would be a joke if the Charleston County School District did a better job of educating its students in McClellanville. It's not funny.

You can easily predict that after studying the problem, McGinley will again propose sending McClellanville's high school students to Wando High School on a cost-effective basis. And why wasn't Wando built in a more northerly part of Mt. Pleasant? Could anyone look ahead to see the long bus ride that would be foisted upon McClellanville?


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Charleston's Kobrovsky Says, "Put a Grade on It"

Whether students receive conduct grades in the State of South Carolina depends on the policies of each school district. If State Board of Education member Larry Kobrovsky has his way, all students will receive such grades.

"Effort, punctuality, and neatness" would receive letter grades under the system. Charleston's Kobrovsky believes that such "skills" (let's call them habits?) are necessary for success. Such grades would stress personal responsibility.

Maybe these standards could be written so that parents can understand them, unlike some of the more esoteric standards for Common Core.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Why SC's High School Exit Exam Was Dropped

Last April after 30 years of requiring students to pass an exit exam to receive a high school diploma, the South Carolina state legislature, with the blessing of the education establishment in the state, dropped the requirement and even told those who had not received their diplomas in the last seven years to apply for them. What caused this change of heart?

We could surmise that the edublob feared falling scores due to implementation of Common Core.

We could conclude that, despite a continual dumbing down of the exit exam (HSAP), students were still failing at too high a rate for the comfort of the edublob.

Whatever it was, let's not forget the original purpose of that exam: students were receiving diplomas without the reading and computing skills needed to thrive in college or at work. Dropping the test will not change that  deplorable outcome one iota. If the items on the HSAP didn't correctly identify those who were deficient, then why did South Carolina pay out the millions it contracted to the edublob to create and then refine the test?

We are assured that WorkKeys and the ACT or SAT will fill the void left behind. While the purposes of those tests are valuable to students, will they truly reflect how well a particular school or school system has educated the student? Probably not.

What happened to accountability, folks?