Friday, October 30, 2015

Talking Turkey on SC's NEAP Results Among the Poor and Black

"South Carolina's fourth- and eighth graders produced a mixed bag of results on federal math and reading exams this year. ranking in the bottom third nationwide based on their performance," write the P & C's reporters. While they also showed that SC's ranking among states teetered from 38th to 39th to 40th on various parts of the National  Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP), perhaps they might have pointed out that SC usually ranks third from the bottom on many measures--thank you Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

What is more troubling about the results is that the gap in scores between white and black students stubbornly remains stable. Yes, as one researcher proclaims, such rankings should take into account "differences in demographics and other student characteristics." Any state approaching the poverty rate and percentage of minority students evinced in South Carolina appears on the same track.

And that precisely is the problem.

Schools whose students score well also correlate well with white and reasonably well-off neighborhoods; for schools that score poorly, the opposite is true. What ever happened to the idea that a child from a poor and undereducated background could hope to compete with those unhampered with such drawbacks? 

The schools we have do not level the playing field. Too long educrats have relied on the students' backgrounds to make their schools look good. It's time to figure out how to create a learning environment that will fulfill the American Dream.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

CCSD's Forensic Audit--Too Good to Be True?

How much of an audit is necessary?

That's the question, according to Charleston County School Board member Todd Garrett.  After proposing a forensic audit for the district, Garrett seems to be getting cold feet over its cost. Maybe the "scope selected" will include an abbreviated look at previous years in the district.

What, he thought it would be low cost? 

After receiving an initial report from two consultants called in to assess the $18 million shortfall, the district will now put into effect best practices recommended by the professionals: "meeting quarterly with the county finance department, auditor, and treasurer, and reviewing payroll expenses monthly."  Perhaps if CCSD had a more professionally-qualified financial officer, these procedures would not be new.

The person most responsible for CCSD finances, Chief Financial Officer Michael Bobby has said, "A forensic audit would indicate someone stole, embezzled, defrauded. That's not what this is about." Well, he would be the authority on such problems, wouldn't he?

Heaven forbid we should discover fraud, embezzling, stealing, or (gosh) bribes in the district! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

ACT's Figures Clash with P&C Reports on Abysmal SC Results

Image result for act images

I want an explanation.

Friday's article on state ACT results clearly states that in the spring of 2015 "all high school juniors statewide were required to take the ACT college entrance exam." According to the reporters, less than half of SC's seniors scored high enough to be considered ready for college courses as defined by the ACT. 

If that weren't bad enough, the results for black students were horrendously worse. 

The article assumes that all SC juniors took the ACT. How then do the reporters explain the ACT's statistics here that show that only 62 percent of juniors did, up from 58 percent the previous year?


Schooled by Anonymous!
Thanks to an astute reader I have that explanation I desired. The ACT percentage I quoted is for 2015 graduates; the new statistics are for 2016 seniors. Muchas gracias, even if you did insult me gratuitously.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

CCSD Audit? Who Would Have Thunk It?

May we have a rousing round of the "Hallelujah Chorus"? It's finally happened!

Thanks to the clarion call of an $18-million budget shortfall, the Charleston County School Board voted unanimously to authorize an outside auditor. 

The mistakes not caught by last year's trusting school board members included "anticipating $5.75 million in new revenue from Boeing" and assuming "expiration of the King Street Gateway TIF." How dumb is that? Someone hasn't been watching the store.

Dare I say that someone responsible must be Chief Financial Officer Michael Bobby? He needs to go.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Harlem West: A Public School That Works for Those Potentially "Left Behind"

Nicholas Simmons, a seventh-grade math teacher at Harlem West Success Academy has an excellent article here. Students doing badly at North Charleston high and other schools in Charleston County couldn't possibly be more disadvantaged than his, whose achievements are making the rest of New York City's schools look pathetic. He explains his motivation:
My final point is much less easily quantified, but no less important. It's what drives my colleagues and me to work long hours and make ourselves available by phone or in-person to parents and students well after school hours and on the weekends.
In our view, teachers are tasked with arguably the most important public service in the country. We look upon our work as every bit as urgent as that of doctors or firefighters. The lives we attend to are just as dear, just as precious, and failure to help our students live up to their potential is just as tragic as a lost life. 
In neighborhoods like Harlem, the power of a high-quality education can be transformative. It can literally save lives and build futures. It is the one true ticket to pursuing and realizing the American Dream. Three out of four of my students are poor or "low-income". They have none of the advantages my friends and I had growing up, yet they are every bit as deserving. A world-class education is their lifeline to opportunity and a better life.
Idealistic? Yes. The question is how to replicate such success in CCSD schools, charter or not. It starts with the will to do so.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Is Sex Ed Broke in CCSD? Why Fix It?


I don't know about you, but I've not seen a huge public outcry or complaints over the sex ed curriculum used by the Charleston County School District. What percentage of parents actually opt out of the present program? 10 percent? 25 percent? 50 percent? It does make a difference! If parents were given more choices, would that percentage increase or decrease?

Superintendent Postlewait has been circumspect in stalling adoption of the controversial curriculum, Making Proud Choices (MPC), for a reason. She doesn't need further controversy after the swirl that accompanied her selection. Amy Fribbs, a professor of nursing at Trident Tech, has presented the health advisory committtee's recommendation that MPC, a sex-ed program developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with Planned Parenthood, be adopted in place of the current abstinence-centered curriculum. The program is funded in part by Obamacare.

Perhaps the question should be, does the district get more federal money by adopting MPC?  Surely that kind of incentive (otherwise known as a BRIBE) is a valid issue to raise. According to one source, in a North Carolina school district, "Reports indicate that students received $100 incentives to participate and that the district received $4 million in federal funding to participate."  If the program's so good, why the need?

When first proposed to the Charleston County School District's committee in 2014, the program was tabled when an opponent read the actual curriculum to its members, calling it "sexual foreplay curriculum." She was referring to a chapter called "How to Make Condoms Fun and Pleasurable."

I'm not making this up.

Once we were told that having sex-ed in schools was necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancies and diseases. Since unwanted pregnancies have sky-rocketed since its introduction, it doesn't seem to have had the desired effect. Now its about having fun, whether male-female or male-male, activities the curriculum presents as of equal importance.

Does the new superintendent really want to get enmeshed in another controversy?


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Readers Shake Heads Over CCSD's "Word-class" Literacy Plan

Prioritizing goals is a must when you set 40 goals at one fell swoop, so it should come as no surprise that the Charleston County School Board has, after considerable input, set a list of its top five goals for emphasis. All are admirable, but as described by the reporter, some are mysterious, especially #2: "Develop word-class, intensely focused literacy plan for grades PK-12. . ."

We all can agree that literacy demands classes that focus on words, but somehow I suspect the goal is "world-class." After all, that's one of educrats' favorite adjectives.

The list also suggests that by December 2015 (two months away) #4, the plan to organize the district efficiently will be ready. Maybe that should read 2016? You never can be sure about the editing of this paper.

In fact, let's add goal #41: find an editor who is literate to proofread the Post and Courier. Evidently it doesn't have one at the moment.

CCSD Won't Make Parent Deadbeats Cry Over Unpaid Lunches

In the past four years, the Charleston County School District has accrued half a million dollars in unpaid student lunches. These parents, despite CCSD's best efforts, have ignored its attempts to get them to sign up for free or reduced fee lunches or to pay their debts.

If only the truly needy students benefitted from federal programs that help the poor, those programs would have more resources to help the truly needy. Duh.

In a list of ongoing taxpayer ripoffs, free and reduced fee school meals rank right up there. We know parents self-report their income and students' need for free or reduced meals, the school district does not check, and federal auditing is minimal. The chance of  parents' being challenged on their income is neglible.

Who would contest that some children are truly needy and would go hungry if not fed by their schools? On the other hand, why should parents who can pay their bills get away with sponging off the taxpayers? 

In CCSD, "parents know there are no repercussions and students know the same thing," according to Walter Campbell, who heads CCSD's Nutrition Services Department. So only the truly honest or naive pay their bills. Campbell proposed hiring a collections agency and other measures which were shot down by the school board last July. Chris Staubes said he didn't want "to ruin [the parents'] credit ratings." Apparently, Dorchester District 2 has different ideas.

But, never fear, the federal government is stepping in with a partial solution to the Nutrition Services' budget problems. No, it's not going after unpaid bills, silly. A new program named the Community Eligibility Provision will provide all students, needy or not, with free meals in 42 CCSD schools. Here are the requirements to participate:

Any school with 40 percent or more “identified students” can participate in CEP. Identified students include children who are directly certified (through data matching) for free meals because they live in households that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), as well as children who are certified for free school meals without submitting a school meal application because of their status as being in foster care, enrolled in Head Start, homeless, runaway, or migrant students.

Typically, schools with 75 percent or more free and reduced‐price certified students will meet the 40 percent identified student requirement. School districts with 40 percent or more identified students may participate district‐wide or may group schools together to reach the 40 percent identified student threshold.
Isn't that great?  CCSD's getting free money! We can all relax now that we know our tax dollars are hard at work.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

$18 Million Just a "Blip" in CCSD's Budget

Can anyone say, "forensic audit"?

"A payroll miscalculation" left the district with $14 million in expenses that exceeded the budget of the Charleston County School District. And somehow $4 million more was a shortfall in property taxes. 

Is it too rude of me to ask who miscalculated and what was the miscalculation? Please don't suggest that the "computer" did it. Last time I looked CCSD's Chief Financial Officer Michael Bobby was in charge of such calculations. He's had too many duties? Well, how did that happen? He didn't assign them to himself!

According to CCSD Board member Todd Garrett "as chairman of the board’s audit and finance committee, he accepts some of the blame for the budget error. The committee reviews the annual budget and recommends action to the full board." Yes, and it presumably counts on figures presented by the Chief Financial Officer.

Here's a thought: CCSD needs a new and more qualified financial officer. Bobby does not have the financial background and education to be in charge of a budget of over $800 million.

Here's another thought: how could there be a better time for a forensic audit of the district?

Friday, October 02, 2015

CCSD and Stoney Field: Poster Child for Neglect

Dear Charleston County School Board,

Is it so difficult for Burke High School to have a decent football field to play upon? While Mt. Pleasant schools are rolling in extras, Burke watches and waits. Someone might just think you are prejudiced.


Thursday, October 01, 2015

SOA Girls Get A for Ingenuity; F for Reality

Reese Fischer, a student at the Charleston County School District's School of the Arts (SOA), figured out a way to get her complaints heard by more than just a few teachers and administrators. In a brilliant move, she equated unequal enforcement of the dress code for girls with wearing the scarlet letter. According to Fischer, the dress code is enforced more strictly for girls, especially heavier girls.

The dress code at SOA, as described by the reporter, mirrors every high school dress code in the country. The purpose of a dress code is to minimize distractions in the classroom. One of the endemic problems with a dress code is unequal enforcement by teachers and administrators. Some believe strict enforcement is necessary; some don't even notice violations, and some think dress codes are silly and want to be friends with the students. The way to solve this problem, of course, is with a uniform, and many schools have gone that route in the last decade.

Two problems remain unaddressed by Paul Bowers's article: the effects of popular culture on teenage styles and male-female differences in perception.

Schools fight a losing battle against girls wearing clothing that appears on the latest pop singer or actress but actually mimics that worn by streetwalkers, otherwise known as "sex workers." Adults possess a screen that tells them what is too provocative and what isn't. Teenage girls do not. Many do not have someone present in the house when they leave to say, "You're not going out in that outfit!"

Authority figures may inadvertently select heavier girls for criticism because being voluptuous is sexier. A stick-thin girl in skin-tight shorts does not stand out in the same way a well-rounded one does. Teenage girls want to dress like everybody else. They haven't learned yet what works well with their body type.

Bowers skirts (pun intended) around the unequal treatment of boys and girls. Girls dress provocatively to attract male attention. Is it even possible for a male to dress provocatively to attract female attention? If every 15-year-old male in the classroom is riveted on the tight shorts worn by a female classmate, are they learning geometry? That situation is precisely what the dress code is formulated to prevent.

Careful, girls. You may end up in uniform!