Friday, January 30, 2015

Zucker Skewers ex-Supt. McGinley's "Excellent" Stats

Anita Zucker is no fool, and today's op-ed proves it.

Zucker is fully aware (unlike McGinley hangers-on) that, under the administration of Charleston County's ex-superintendent of schools, the haves prospered and the have-nots suffered. Not content to pat McGinley on the back for her gerrymandered excellent rating, Zucker analyzed the data.

So in CCSD 42 percent of low-income students read below grade level in the eighth grade.

So in CCSD 45 percent of black students read below grade level in the eighth grade.

These are horrendous numbers. Reading on the eighth-grade level is not rocket science.

Exactly what did the NAACP get for its undying support of McGinley? Headlines, perhaps, but no educational improvement for the black community.

Zucker even mentions considering the curriculum used at Buist Academy (International Baccalaureate) and Charleston Development Academy (Core Knowledge) as worthy of consideration for preventing this tragedy in the future.

Meanwhile, McGinley has rolled out her consulting services, no doubt hoping to grab some of those edublob dollars she was so adept at spending previously. Well, every district in the southeast would love to have these numbers, right?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Murray-LaSaine: Cleaning Up McGinley's Mess

You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

That's the lesson ex-Superintendent Nancy McGinley should take from the mess of misunerstanding she and her minions in the Charleston County School District administration created. In order to pacify objections from black families at Murray-LaSaine, she initially gave them the impression that parallel traditional classes would continue after a new Montessori program was established. When it became clear to them CCSD had scheduled these classes to be phased out, they loudly rebelled.

What was she thinking? That these parents didn't really care? that they didn't have enough clout for their objections to make a difference?

While the tempest roared, McGinley backed down and allowed as how parents had indeed been promised continuation of traditional classes by someone or someones unnamed. Then she left under a cloud.

The local rag wants to make this uproar all about race, but is it? Objections to Montessori by those opposed have yet to be articulated in the paper. Why do more black parents want traditional classes?  Do they have some basis for believing their children will achieve more in a traditional classroom?

According to one source,
"the Montessori environment lacks structure and instructions, while some children function better in more structured and more guided environments. Likewise, lack of completion in the classroom may lead to certain problems if a child enters a more competitive environment. Besides, some kids need more discipline than others, so they benefit from extrinsic, rather than intrinsic motivation.  Lastly, the Montessori Method suggests individual work at one’s own pace which leads to restricted social interactions with other kids in class. (
Are these possible shortcomings the basis for the furor? Or do those whose families have been in the school's attendance area for generations believe they are being shoved around by more affluent newcomers who don't know what their children's best interests are?

Regardless, despite the racial divide at Murray-LaSaine, the new school board reneged on McGinley's promise: traditional classes will disappear.

Friday, January 23, 2015

New GED Discourages Dropouts from Certification

When you think of the GED, what ideas come to mind? I remember the disaffected boys and pregnant girls in my high school classes and hope that somehow they managed to get a GED and further education after dropping out in the tenth or eleventh grade. More recently, I worry about students I knew who failed one or two senior-year courses and never went to summer school to finish.

Until I did some research, I didn't know that the GED was created for returning WWII veterans who had dropped out of high school. Prior to that, no such test purporting to represent equivalence to a high school diploma existed. Maybe it's time to get rid of it.

Now that Pearson has purchased GED testing (don't get me started), it costs twice as much, must be taken on computer, and is aligned to the Common Core (which dropouts were not exposed to)--all aspects turning it into a real money-maker for Pearson. Its customers are unlikely to be among our most affluent citizens.

Supposedly it now measures the "real-life" skills needed for further education. Gag me with a spoon.

Such a test does not measure the real life skills that determine a person's success in higher education. Motivation? Time-management skills? Personal problems? The very parameters that cause students to drop out will never appear on such a test. Instead, the new tougher GED practically guarantees failure and a large outlay of money for those trying to turn around the trajectory of their lives.

Since the "new" GED appeared, passing rates have plummeted.

A few states have rebelled against the Common-Core loaded GED. Since South Carolina's legislature rejected the Common Core, it should allow other tests as substitutes, especially the HiSET sponsored by ETS and the Iowa Testing Service. This test answers the objections above, and SC would not be alone in rejecting homage to Pearson.

Time for change.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

CCSD Must Identify Priorities for Academic Magnet High

Is diversity the top priority for Charleston County's Academic Magnet High School, or academics?

This sounds like a rhetorical question until you look at the recent treatment of AMHS by administrators and the CCSD School Board. The watermelon episode has allowed those who believe that the school is too white and affluent an argument for changing admissions policies. Nevermind that no evidence exists to suggest that if more than one black player had been on the football team its actions would have differed. In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise.

Delayed letters of admission to the school sent shock waves through the AMHS community as it realized that perhaps academic standards were about to be "watered down" in the name of diversity. Several issues are at hand that affect the composition of entering classes. They include few applications from black students, more qualified applicants than the school was built to handle, less rigorous preparation in all-black middle schools that must deal with poorly prepared students from all-black elementary schools, and the lower socioeconomic status of many black students.

At present the admissions process ranks students according to strict criteria that include exactly what you would expect--all focused on academics. They are admitted "in order of their score on a 15-point rubric." This year 518 applied, 312 met the minimum standard, and the top 200 were accepted. More students pplied who did not meet the minimum than those who will be entering next year's class.

If you think basing admissions on strictly academic standards doesn't favor the more affluent, better educated families in Charleston County, you've got your head in the sand. Some enterprising reporter (no hope that he or she would be employed by our local rag!) needs to survey freshman parents to see what percentage have advanced college degrees. Is it more than half?

Skimming the "cream of the crop" off CCSD's other high schools has already damaged their academics. Someone made the decision (was it Gregg Meyers creating AMHS for his daughter?) that the results would be worth it. If another magnet high school based strictly on academics for admission were created, the rest of CCSD's high schools would suffer accordingly. If a lottery selected student #312 but not student #1, would that be an acceptable result? What about if it rejected student #2? It's easy to see where this is going.

Some of us remember the machinations that have accompanied the lottery at Buist Academy. Amazingly enough, its lottery always found the children of school board members, prominent members of the community (such as Mayor Summey's grandson), and Buist teachers. Remarkable, isn't it?

If the process of applying to AMHS is "daunting," as one parent stated, that is an easy fix.

Fix it.

CCSD must decide if it wants its banner high school to be purely academic.

If not, students whose parents did not attend college or students who are on free or reduced lunch are the logical place to begin. Why not analyze the 206 students who applied but did not meet the minimum standard to see if a "bump" for them on either basis would have made a difference. Same for the cadre that met the minimum but were not admitted in the top 200.

Get some cold, hard facts before monkeying around with a very successful school.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

C.C. Blaney: Magnet Status to Lure White Students to CCSD

It's a shame. If the Charleston County School District really wanted diverse elementary schools (read, "integrated"), it would reinstitute tracking!

I know, I know. Tracking has been the third rail of educational philosophy for the last couple of decades. Instead, CCSD is laboriously trying to deal with the problem of white flight by creating magnet schools. Students will end up tracked by school instead of by class.

C.C. Blaney is the case in point. In the early 1990s the school had nearly 400 students enrolled. By the spring of 2014, it had fewer than 200 students and was rated Below Average, with 94 percent of its students on free or reduced lunch. This year the building sat vacant as its students were divided between two other schools; ex-Superintendent McGinley was only too happy to remove it from her stats on failing schools.

Blaney will end up with the same "diversity" problem as Academic Magnet under the present circumstances. CCSD must up its game with the many defacto segregated black schools in the district. Until it does so, no true magnet school will be as diverse as Charleston County citizens would hope.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Will Diversity Ever Come to Burke High School?

Amid all the concerns in the Charleston County School District, ex-Superintendent McGinley decided to move "diversity" closer to the top of the list. Hence, the hiring of a "diversity expert." Evidently, diversity is the new buzz-word for quasi-quota systems (nod to the Oscar furor). 

Diversity spokesmen are now making the case that the admissions process of the Academic Magnet High School prevents diversity. The presumption is that in order to function in a multi-cultural society, students at AMHS must attend classes with a larger percentage of black students.

What about the students at Burke High/Middle? Shouldn't someone be concerned that, in order to function in a multi-cultural society, its students must attend classes with a larger percentage of white students? McGinley threw several half-hearted bandaids at the problem of 99% black enrollment at the school, but she (and the school board) was never really serious. 

Many in the community wish to continue Burke's tradition as a black high school. What would Martin Luther King, Jr., say about that goal?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Take Her Back, Please, Pennsylvania!

Please make ex-Superintendent Nancy McGinley the next Pennsylvania Secretary of Education! She has all the necessary political skills (never mind that our local rag thinks she's not a politician). We would be so happy to not have her eminence grise hanging over our lovely Lowcountry.

Don't let on to Governor-elect Wolf what happened in Seattle to the last superintendent who was hired away from Charleston County School District.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Angel Oak Parent: Every Child Deserves a New School

You've got to be kidding. Here in the traditional Lowcountry, where tourists flock to gawk at centuries-old buildings, the Charleston County School District's actions have convinced parents that every child should, by right, learn inside a brand-new school building.

That's the take-away from the gripes of Angel Oak Elementary parents, who see that Mount Pleasant is getting more new schools than Johns Island. According to Stanley Heydrick, whose wife is the PTA President, ""Our kids deserve what all the other kids deserve, a new school and resources that are up to date."

Nevermind that CCSD will spend over $9 million to renovate the 38-year-old school (Good Lord! It was built in medieval times--1977!), parents want the district to spend at least twice that to erect an entirely new building. After all, the present one is "aging."

By this logic, 40 years is too long for a school building to be in use, renovated or not. Don't you wonder where the cut-off is? 30 years? 20? 10? Maybe it's already time to replace the "aging" Wando High School building!

Parental complaints about leaks and cockroaches are legitimate. However, the problem is not the building's age, but CCSD's usual neglect of proper building maintenance. How did those downtown mansions survive for centuries?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

CCSD: Forced to Repeat the Past with $8 Million School?

Sometimes I wonder how long the collective memory of the Charleston County School District really is. Can it be true that those now proposing a "new vision for alternative education" in a nearly $8 million dollar building have any passing knowledge of past attempts at such a program? Spokesman for the proposal is Jennifer Coker, whom the paper neglects to identify as principal of Daniel Jenkins. She certainly knows (or should know) how CCSD reached this point. It isn't a Turning Point!

What purpose is served by constructing a multi-million-dollar building when at least two present (and fully renovated) high schools--Burke and North Charleston--have more than enough room for the proposed 200 students it would serve?

Put that way, the answer seems obvious: CCSD must deliver new projects to keep its building contractors in the money. No wonder Michael Bobby approves.

Get a grip, folks!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Diversity or Divisiveness in CCSD's Future?

According to some die-hard McGinley supporters in the school district, we need to pay a diversity expert from Ohio what the average family in Charleston County makes in a year--$50,000--to make sure we are diverse.

Trouble is, Kevin Clayton hasn't a clue how "diversity" should be handled in the district. If you don't believe me, all you need do is review what happened when the Academic Magnet football team started smashing watermelons instead of footballs. We need more murky messes like that around here. 

Actually, firing James Winbush along with dropping Clayton's contract would go a long way with quelling animosity in the district, if that's what the Charleston County School Board has in mind.

Let's not throw good money after bad, folks!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Glimmer of Hope from Spearman's Interview

It's no secret that SC Superintendent-elect Molly Spearman was not my choice to head the Education Department. Being director of the state Association of School Administrators suggests too cozy a relationship with the edublob.

However, Spearman's recent remarks about the importance of principals show an unexpected perspicacity. She pointed out that "in order to keep great teachers in schools, you first have to have a great principal." Amen to that! Anyone who's ever taught in a classroom will strongly second that notion.

Ah, but as usual, the devil is in the details: what makes a great principal? It's not advanced degrees or bureaucratic bootlicking.