Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Charleston County School District Ignores Community Ideas on West Ashley Middle Schools

Superintendent McGinley of CCSD has tried and tried again to rally West Ashley's support for merging its two unpopular middle schools but to no avail. Last night the School Board signed off on her idea: the two middle schools will indeed merge into one next year, and $3.4 million will be spent to improve its building. Oh, yes, and it will become a magnet.

Magnet here; magnet there: pretty soon every school in the district will be a so-called magnet!

McGinley has two goals, neither of which helps students. By closing a failing middle school, she will make her district statistics look better without improving anything, and by proposing an expenditure in the millions in the West Ashley sector of the district, she hopes to buy votes for an extension of the one-cent sales tax.

It's all for the students, you know.

Monday, February 24, 2014

CCSD Officially Crosses Insanity Line with Expanding APs

You know the definition: doing something over and over again and expecting different results.

How do you know when Charleston County School Superintendent McGinley is lying? Yes, when her lips are moving. She claims that spending another $900,000 to place 14 AP teachers in low-performing high schools is important because "we have to address the very capable students and make sure they're not being forgotten in some of our schools." Not.

No, the problem presents itself when capable students in areas served by low-performing schools petition the School Board to transfer to schools that have more AP courses. McGinley is attempting to keep more capable students in their own designated schools, thereby raising the academic climate in those schools. Nevermind that many years ago CCSD made the decision to skim off the academic cream and put it into the Academic Magnet and School of the Arts at the urging of "haves" such as Gregg Myers, thus leaving only middle-to-poor performing students in the rest of the high schools, with the exception of gigantic Wando. (CCSD could put all 300 of Burke's students into Wando with the effect of an elephant's swallowing a gnat.)

AP courses are great--for those students who have the background to succeed in them. AP preparation needs to begin as early as sixth grade for students from low-income and low-educational background to succeed. Burke's AP Academy is a case in point. Prior to AP, students need "Pre-AP," or Honors-level courses for at least three years. The accepted wisdom of the edublob is that would be discriminatory, so students who might have been otherwise capable will not qualify on the AP exam, which cannot be fudged, as with so many other measures of academic merit. No doubt Burke's AP teachers are competent and motivated and take their charges as far as possible, but spending $1.2 million over a four-year period to get a result of 10 "passes" out of 376 exams taken is wasteful. The students would be better off if the district gave each of them the $120,000 that their scores represent. Don't forget that most of the testing fees for these 366 students who did not pass were paid by the taxpayers of South Carolina. 

CCSD needs to get real about enriching programs in the lower grades feeding these high schools if it is to avoid throwing good money after bad. 

Oh, that's right. It's OPM.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why Proposed CCSD Mt. Pleasant Magnet School Is a Bad Idea

No one can blame parents for wanting an academically-challenging elementary school for their children. Since the edublob has decided that tracking is discriminatory, many face either providing challenges at home or enrolling in private schools. Now the Mt. Pleasant community has proposed its own "Buist" in Mt. Pleasant. Though I could respond with evidence of how the presence of the Academic Magnet and Buist have damaged the Charleston County School District, one more eloquent than I made the case several years ago in the New York Times, of all places. As you read his analysis, think of its relevance to what exists in CCSD today.

FEBRUARY 10, 2009
Magnet Schools: More Harm Than Good?

Victor Harbison teaches civics and history at Gage Park High School in Chicago, where he also sponsors the school newspaper. In 2000, he became the first National Board-certified high school history teacher in Chicago and he has worked on several educational reform projects during his career. Gage Park faces the all-too-common challenges of an urban school: test scores are so low that only 8% of students meet state standards; only 47% of its students graduate; and 97.4% of them live in poverty.

"Given the recent economic news, it seems everyone wants to talk about the long-term impact of short-term thinking. Why not do the same with education and magnet schools? Think of the issues educators faced 30 or 40 years ago: Smart kids not being challenged? Academically under-prepared kids, most of them ethnic minorities, moving in and test scores going down? It’s completely logical that they chose a path to create magnet schools. But it was a short-term solution that has had long-term negative consequences.

"I take my students to lots of outside events where they are required to interact with students who come from magnet or high-performing suburban schools. What I see time after time is how my kids rise to the occasion, performing as well (or at least trying to) as those students whose test scores or geographic location landed them in much more demanding academic environments.

"On a daily basis, I see the same kids who do amazing things when surrounded by their brightest counterparts from other schools slip into every negative stereotype you can imagine, and worse, when surrounded by their under-performing peers at our “neighborhood” school.

"When educational leaders decided to create magnet schools, they didn’t just get it wrong, they got it backwards. They pulled out the best and brightest from our communities and sent them away. The students who are part of the “great middle” now find themselves in an environment where the peers who have the greatest influence in their school are the least positive role models.

"Schools adapted, and quickly. We tightened security, installed metal detectors, and adopted ideas like zero-tolerance. And neighborhood schools, without restrictive admission policies based on test scores, quickly spiraled downward — somewhat like an economy. Except in education, we can’t lay off students who have a negative impact on the school culture. That is why adopting such a business model for the educational system has been and always will be a recipe for failure.

"What should have been done was to pull out the bottom ten percent. Educational leaders could have greatly expanded the alternative school model and sent struggling students to a place that had been designed to meet their educational needs. Now, hundreds of millions of dollars later, we are no closer to meeting the needs of the struggling student, but the system has created collateral damage, namely the great middle, who are forced everyday to go to class in a school that is more unchallenging, unwelcoming and dangerous than it has to be.

"Imagine if pulling out the “bottom ten” had been the policy for the past 30 years. Neighborhood schools could have purred along like the go-go 90’s under Clinton and the students with the greatest needs, facing the greatest challenges, would have had millions of dollars in resources devoted to their education in brand new state-of-the-art buildings (with Ivy League-educated, amazing teachers, no doubt). Just imagine.

"Instead, the system as it is stratifies communities. By the time they graduate high school, many of the brightest kids already feel alienated from their neighborhoods; after all, they spend the majority of their day somewhere else.

"I look forward to the arguments defending magnet schools. They are legion and many are spot on. That is, if you can live with the idea of condemning the vast majority of students in your community to sub-standard schools. No one can rationally argue that they are a good long term solution to what ails schools in this country.

Monday, February 17, 2014

CCSD Buys Itself Award from Edublob

The sentence speaks for itself. You might just wonder how much the program cost.

"Charleston County School District has received the first-ever Flagship School District for Action Based Learning award from Action Based Learning."

You also might watch out for the buzzword "brain-based," unless you believe that some students don't have brains.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Apple Charter's Uphill Battle with Charleston County School District

A reminder of Apple Charter's beginnings is in order, now that the Charleston County School Board is trying to pull the plug on the James Island school: CCSD never wanted it in the first place. It doesn't fit into CCSD's one-size-fits-all philosophy.

       Wednesday, November 18, 2009

     End Run Around CCSD Board to Score

When Apple Charter School becomes a success, it will be despite the ill wishes of the Charleston County School Board and put one more nail in the coffin of the present administration of 75 Calhoun. [See Shiny Apple in Wednesday's P&C.]

Patricia Williams's drive to create a special place for those left behind (educationally, not physically) in CCSD schools shows how far individuals can go in defeating a system holding back the progress of the county's neediest students. This school promises to      focus on those scoring basic or below in standardized testing with plans to halt the predictable cycle          of defeat for these children not served well by the district.

 Williams wisely sought approval for the school from the state Charter School Advisory Committee              because she knew that CCSD would turn her down. She found a local church, First Baptist of              James Island, happy to assist her in her dream. If Apple Charter takes the same course as                      Charleston Development Academy and includes Core Knowledge curriculum as part of its program,            Williams and her board may show Charleston County just how remiss CCSD has been in serving this            slice of its community.

Saturday's article reminds us of CCSD's initial animosity towards Apple Charter, but it also reminds us that some children learn better in smaller schools. Imagine that. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Schneider's Take on Common Core's South Carolina Resistance

As reported by Diane Ravitch:

         South Carolina Governor Resists the Core
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Gov. Nikki Haley urged South Carolina lawmakers Thursday to scrap the national Common Core curriculum that is being phased in at schools throughout the state. …
Haley voiced support for a South Carolina Senate bill that would nullify implementation of Common Core standards in the state’s public schools. The measure is sponsored by several conservative state Senate Republicans, including Kevin Bryant of Anderson.
“When that bill gets to my desk, I absolutely will sign it,” Haley said.  … 
The resolution declared that the decision by state officials in 2010 to adopt the Common Core standards “obliterates South Carolina’s constitutional autonomy over education in English language arts and mathematics, placing control in the hands of the federal government and unaccountable private interests in Washington, D.C.” 
UPDATE 02-09-14:  Sent to my email:
My name is Johnnelle Raines. I am the Upstate Regional Leader of SC Parents Involved in Education. … We have two bills in our legislator right now. SC Senate Bill 300 and House Bill 3943 which will both effectively kill Common Core. SC Senate Bill 300 is in sub-committee and a final vote as to whether or not to send it out to full committee will be held Feb. 19, 2014 at 10am. SC Parents Involved in Education have been working hard to make sure this happens. We have 5 regional groups who have many warriors that have helped to get this Bill to the forefront! Our web site is www.scpie.org and we would appreciate any help you can give us toward recruiting more members to help us in this fight against Goliath…we need to be finding those five shiny stones and need your help. 
South Carolina Also Resists the Core in the US Senate
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham will introduce a Senate resolution on Wednesday aimed at rolling back implementation of the Common Core standards, which Graham fears are eroding states’ rights and leading to a national, federal education curriculum. 
A spokesperson for Graham told The Daily Caller that the resolution will be released on Wednesday. 
The resolution will call on the federal Department of Education to stop strong-arming states into adopting the standards by making federal grants contingent upon them. It also establishes that local education authorities, not the federal government, should set curriculum requirements. …
Graham’s resolution could open a new front in the public debate over the federal takeover of the American education curriculum–this time, within the federal government itself.
A Closing Observation
Truly “voluntary,” “flexible”  standards “developed by teachers” would not be causing such nationally-pervasive controversy and upheaval. 
In contrast, a top-down, inflexible, coerced set of standards imposed upon school systems across the nation by those whose career-climbing livelihoods seldom if ever touch the daily life of the public school classroom– now that is just right for creating the democratic acid reflux conditions.

Monday, February 10, 2014

CCSD's $9 Million iPad Fizzle

It's just other people's money.

No doubt iPads are fun to use and entertaining for students. Yet the Charleston County School District cannot claim that having an iPad for every student in three of its schools made a dent on improving test scores. Superintendent McGinley is still scratching her head trying to put the best face on mediocre results.

Board member Chris Fraser fecklessly stated that the technology needs more than a year to work, even though Haut Gap Middle has had one for every student for three years. Pay attention, Chris.

Technology is not the answer; it's just that simple. No doubt people raved about the first blackboard raised in a classroom and the first overhead projector. Computers were going to do it, too. We can all wonder when the next technological marvel will come down the pike and how many millions more it will cost.
However, one observer does have a point about iPad use:
"Before spending another penny, one education advocate said the district needs to look at why this investment hasn't translated into better test scores. Jon Butzon, former leader of the Charleston Education Network, said he thought a lack of staff training and technology support were to blame.
"It didn't produce the results, and we need to know why," he said.

Although the school board will decide what happens next, the mostly glowing report likely won't result in more schools getting iPads immediately.
[Lainie] Berry said giving an entire school iPads isn't the best way to ensure that they are used effectively. Before that, teachers need to be trained, model classrooms need to be established, and the school needs to build some capacity to use them, she said.
"We're highly aware that schools are clamoring for the iPads and want to do this," Berry said. "It's a fine line to walk. We want to get the technology out there, but we've got to move slowly and we can't rush into this. We have to do this right and now just let everyone move forward as fast as they want."
Was this $9 million well spent?

Sunday, February 09, 2014

No Make-up Snow Days in CCSD

Of course, students should go to school for 180 days as required, but the Charleston County School District will not make up the days lost through snow and ice, nor will most other districts.

Why am I so sure in making this prediction? Because schools would make up those days after yearly testing is over.

What's the point of learning anything after those all-important tests occur?

Friday, February 07, 2014

CCSD Proposal Highlights McGinley's Failures, Sales Tax

We will run out of fingers if we count the failed programs that have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars in the Charleston County School District under Superintendent McGinley's watch. Associate Superintendent Jim Winbush (who wouldn't sneeze unless McGinley recommended it)'s proposal of an alternative high school program for "at-risk" students is a case in point.

Just in case you've forgotten, McGinley's failed solution to the problem was the "discipline school." McGinley brought in the Broad-recommended edublob called Community Education Partners to set up and run the school. Not only was the company contracted to run it, but the $9 million school building was designed and built according to its specifications. As the reporter so quaintly puts it, when "the company didn't produce the expected results, its contract ended." That was more than five years ago.

Supposedly the gently-named Community High School would be more than a "discipline school." Board member Michael Miller rightly wonders if it would be a "dumping ground," since Chief Academic Officer Lisa Herring suggested perhaps 500 students would fall into categories such as lagging in high school credits, pregnancy, low test scores, and return from juvenile detention. This way, McGinley could show how Vision 2016 has succeeded by taking low-scoring students out of local high schools. Genius.

No doubt the proposed school will require, if not a new multi-million dollar building, at least multi-million dollar retrofitting of an existing building--all part of the new campaign to extend the one-cent sales tax.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kimpson Shows Ignorance About Common Core

A South Carolina Senate subcommittee meeting on Wednesday heard from both sides regarding the state's adoption of Common Core standards. Needless to say, the audience's views supported the opposition. However, our new Senate member from Charleston made some remarks to the press that showed his lack of understanding regarding both Common Core's origins and effects. He simply spouted the party line from Common Core's supporters while trying to appear unbiased: 
Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said Wednesday's meeting showed South Carolinians are passionate on both sides about education. Kimpson added he is in favor of the adoption of Common Core because business leaders have said the standards prepare students for the workforce.
"We can't be afraid to try something new in South Carolina," Kimpson said. "These standards have been vetted. I'm willing to give it a try."
Vetted by whom? Bill and Melinda Gates? Arne Duncan? "Business leaders"?

Try again, Marlon.

The Feds Take Over Education with Common Core Standards

Imagine that Ronald Reagan only 30 years ago toyed with the idea of abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. What would he say today, now that the federal government has coerced most of the states into adopting the Common Core standards in the hopes they will keep or increase their federal funding?

Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute, a libertarian non-profit, makes the following points to those who claim that the standards are not complete takeover of education:
She cites research in the Journal of Scholarship and Practice that demonstrates how the standards will infiltrate every aspect of K-12 education. They will “form the core curriculum of every public school program, drive another stronger wave of high stakes testing, and thus become student selection criteria for K-12 school programs such as Title I services, gifted and talented programs, high school course placement, and other academic programs.”
Pullman states that the “domino effect” of the standards will hit teacher evaluations, since many states tie teacher ratings to students’ performance on tests. In addition, Common Core will affect school choice, since many states that have passed school choice laws require private schools to administer state tests.
Furthermore, college entrance exams, including the SAT and ACT, would now correspond to Common Core, an aspect that would also impact homeschoolers who desire entrance to college. Would they, too, need to use the Common Core standards in order to successfully pass college entrance exams?
Pullman summarizes, “People who characterize Common Core as anything other than a national takeover of schooling are either unaware of these sweeping implications or are deliberately hiding this information from the public.”
Make your opposition known in CCSD's Common Core meetings.

Parent Information Sessions: Common Core Communications
Sessions held at each Constituent District, February 10-14, 2014

School Name                               Date            Time            Room
St. James-Santee Elementary School Feb. 11 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Cafeteria
Laing Middle School Feb. 10 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Cafeteria
Fort Johnson Middle School Feb. 11 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Media Center
North Charleston High School Feb. 12 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Auditorium
Stall High School Feb. 13 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Performing Arts Center
West Ashley High School Feb. 10 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Auditorium
Burke Middle High School Feb. 11 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Auditorium
Baptist Hill Middle High School Feb. 12 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Cafeteria
Haut Gap Middle School Feb. 10 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Cafeteria

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Initial Charter Success in Hollywood, SC

The Charleston County School District will not approve new charter schools, but the trend marches on regardless, with schools approved by the state charter district. In Hollywood a new charter school involves its 400 students in different styles of learning, hoping to make up its under-funding through fund raising on its own. Superintendent McGinley should read the handwriting on the wall. According to Tuesday's paper,
"Lowcountry Leadership Charter was the only new public school to open in the Lowcountry this fall, and it had a less than ideal start. 
"The charter school is leasing the former St. Paul's Academy building, a shuttered private school, but a roughly $6.5 million renovation and addition weren't finished in August.
"That forced the charter school to open in a church building more than three weeks later than the rest of Charleston County schools, and the school moved two days after that into the former Schroder Middle School building. They stayed there until early December, when their new building was ready.
"After a week, it was like we'd been here a long time," Larkin said. "It's like we hadn't been anywhere else."
"The school will celebrate another milestone this week with an official ribbon cutting, although some construction still isn't finished. The school's cafeteria hasn't been approved for use by the state, so the school has made accommodations, bringing in lunches from nearby restaurants and grocery stores.
"Although this year's changes and moves posed a challenge for teachers and students, it hasn't caused the K-9 grades school to drop its enrollment of about 400 or lose its academic focus. The school plans to expand to grade 12, as well as add on to its building, in coming years."

Monday, February 03, 2014

Quagmire for CCSD's Downtown Middle Schools

Keep Burke Middle School at Burke High in order to keep the building full?

Move Burke Middle to the Rhett Building?

Add middle grades at Sanders-Clyde?

Add middle grades at Memminger?

Create an entirely new middle school on the Fraser campus?

What is going on with multiple proposals from Superintendent McGinley to mend the community's dislike of downtown middle schools (with the exception of the Charter School for Math and Science)?

She's trying to get enough projects going in District 20 that its voters will approve of the next referendum on the one-percent sales tax for a new district-wide building program.

Hence, James Simons third floor remains unfinished, even though the school was listed on the last referendum.

Meeting Tuesday night will reveal what is really the Superintendent's choice, despite being labeled for community input.