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.


Anonymous said...

TRIVIA QUESTION: How many Principals have now been at the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science since its inception? "Another one bites the dust" today per CCSMS website. A beacon of administrative stability.

HdeS Copeland said...

No. Just poor and shallow training over the last generation of traditional public school administrators. Case in point: Had AMHS principal and coaches been on top of what the AMHS football team was doing back in September, they would have been PR aware enough to have redirected the team's energy to something more constructive. Instead of an 8-1 vote pressuring McGinley into resigning over a watermelon, she would have been fired with at least a 5-4 vote over her academic failures. Few public school administrators today have been properly trained in the effective management of traditional public schools, let alone public charter schools with additional responsibilities including balancing the budget and student recruitment.

Anonymous said...

LOL! This has nothing to do with the watermelon incident. It has everything to do with a micromanaging board of directors who hire...and fire..."at will" administrators who do not acquiesce to their every beck and call. While supposedly the philosophy of charter schools is to follow a business model, name one...just one...successful business/corporation who has had the kind of leadership turnover this school has had. I'm waiting...

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for an answer, Mr Copeland.