Tuesday, January 19, 2016

P & C Reveals CCSD's Racism in Sham AP Program at Burke

Jerry Manigault represents everything that's desirable in a high school sophomore and everything that is wrong in the Charleston County School District. His story, ably told by reporter Deanna Pan in Sunday's edition, should strike a chord with every Charleston County resident who cares about our schools and our future.

The relative modernity and condition of Sanders-Clyde (S-C) and Burke Middle-High's buildings belie the racism of soft expectations within. Ask yourself why S-C has no ongoing provision for an Algebra 1 class that is required for entrance to CCSD's Academic Magnet. Ask yourself why it took a Teach-for-America volunteer to institute a successful algebra class there that disappeared when she left. Ask yourself why it disappeared.

What's happened to Jerry, who transferred from Burke to Academic Magnet this school year, doesn't show weaknesses in the Academic Magnet admissions process; it shows that CCSD's administration and school board for too long have tolerated low standards in Charleston County's all-black schools. Ask yourself why.  Of course, many of these students need more resources than those middle-class white students at Wando. Duh. Why don't they have them? 

What about the Jerry Manigaults of this world? Where is CCSD's provision for them? Instead Burke has an Advanced Placement program that isn't. Who ever heard of an AP class that required little studying or homework where students passed the AP exam? Now we know why Burke's students fare so poorly on these national tests: "As an honors student at Burke High School's Advanced Placement Academy, Jerry rarely studied. [...] He wasn't prepared for Magnet's high expectations and heavy homework load."

If you suspect that Burke's 4 X 4 schedule is part of the problem, raise your hand!

The 4 X 4 schedule allows for two goals. The first is cramming more students into an overcrowded school. Given that Burke is half empty, we can ignore that reason. The second is more likely: that schedule allows for students who, for example, fail English 1 the first semester to retake it the second semester and qualify as a sophomore for the following year. It also allows students to concentrate on fewer subjects at a time, for whatever that is worth.

You see, most likely Jerry, who passed the end-of-year Algebra I test in eighth grade, took geometry his first semester at Burke; then no math at all the second semester. That's what happens in a 4 X 4. Even students who didn't take a semester break from math often have trouble with Algebra 2. 

More insidiously, the 4 X 4 schedule allows teachers to present instruction during the first half of a class and have students do homework during the second half. Now, some advantages apply to this schedule--asking questions about math problems comes to mind. But if the schedule means that students get only half as much instruction as in a regular schedule and have no homework, academic rigor inevitably is lost. Schools where most students for whatever reason habitually do not turn in homework are attracted to the 4 X 4. 

Thanks to the article's publicity, Jerry Manigault should get more of the assistance he needs. Now what about the rest of his peers? Time to stop stalling.

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