Thursday, July 28, 2016

CCSD's Trustees Must Push for Curriculum Overhaul Leading to Careers

"Students need on- and off-ramps that allow them to pursue a career and then return to college for a degree or more training or to enter a college, then a career and then more training down the road," according to Neil Robinson, founder of the Charleston Education Network and chairman of the Education Oversight Committee of the legislature. 

Couldn't agree more!

Why do most politicians insist that all high school students complete studies leading to college?  Any sensible person knows that some students have little interest in academic subjects and, except for basic reading, writing, and 'rithmatic, should follow interests leading to good-paying jobs that do not require a college education. As a result of too many of these students filling the halls of colleges who are happy to use the federal loan program despite their deficiencies, thousands complete college only to take jobs that do not require a degree and spend years trying to pay off debts. That doesn't even include those who drop out once they realize they're getting nowhere--and still have those debts to pay!

European countries have solved this problem by sorting students by aptitude at around age 13. Not everyone goes to a college-prep high school; the majority attend schools focusing on jobs after high school. We do not need separate high schools (although many of us can remember the glory days of Murray Vocational downtown), but separate diplomas! The size of Charleston County's high schools lends itself to such a structure. 

Merely the will to change is needed.

While Wando has its Center for Advanced Studies, even there students must complete the same 24 units leading to a South Carolina diploma. Electives simply do not meet the need for career training.

Robinson points out, "We must update the course requirements to reflect the needs of workforce readiness in this state, including allowing for rigorous, relevant CATE coursework and allowing students to participate fully in internships, apprenticeships and work experiences."

See /sc-high-schools-need-career-path-options

Monday, July 25, 2016

About Face on Pattison's Saves Face in Charleston County School System

One more year now promised to Pattison's Academy, one more year in which this Charleston County school must find a way to fund a good educational choice for the severely disabled. Thanks to pressure on the School Board from concerned citizens, teachers, and parents, that Board has reversed its closure of the school for the coming year. It also has forgiven the school about $300,000 in debt.

Not to be a party pooper or anything, but where is the million dollars coming from that will back this decision? Something else will get the shaft.
"Now the school will have to find a way to keep its financial ship afloat. In order to fund a program that includes physical, speech and occupational therapists, the school has always needed more money than the district and state can provide. One-third of the school’s budget usually comes from private donations, according to charter board member Richard Gross."
For the rest of the story, see


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Caution: Keep Bobby Away from Charter School Budgets

Lose your job under a cloud? Who cares if you've got friends in high places?

At least that scenario seems to fit the hiring as a consultant of Michael Bobby, Charleston County School District's disgraced former finance chief and interim superintendent, by Pinnacle Charter School Management Group. Bobby will consult for Pinnacle concerning two S.C. Charter School District schools: Oceanside in McClellanville and Gray Collegiate in Columbia.

For those with short memories, let's recall that 
he resigned in mid-November 2015 shortly after it was revealed that the district had run an $18 million deficit in the 2014-15 fiscal year. The district continued to pay his salary and insurance benefits for six months under the terms of a severance agreement. Auditors have blamed the shortfall on a “lack of basic budgetary control.” They found problems including vastly overestimated revenues; out-of-control spending on employee overtime, substitute teachers and printing; and half a million dollar IRS fee for late filing of tax forms.
Who recommended Bobby? It's a secret. In fact, "S.C. Public Charter School District Chief of Staff Rich Richards said Pinnacle did not ask the district for input on the decision to hire Bobby as a consultant. Pinnacle has a contract with the school, not with the district."

Bobby worked for the district for eight years, yet there's no need to ask if he did a good job?

Go figure.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"Progressive" Discipline in CCSD Needs a Name Change

Perception can make or break the success of a new program of any kind. Words have meanings and words also have connotations. "Progressive" generally means "happening in stages." Surely, the Charleston County School District had that definition in mind for its proposed new discipline program.

Unfortunately, we are also in the political season. In politics, "progressive" connotates liberalism bordering on socialism--the "progressive" wing of the Democrat party. Why saddle a program meant to soothe feelings with such a loaded title? With this name, "some people may say we're getting too lax." as retiring CCSD board member Tom Ducker suggested.

Well, it sounds like it.

When students arrive at school in August (that's next month, folks), the school-based drug intervention program that Alternative Programs Director Jennifer Coker announced must be in place if the new approach is to succeed.

On the other hand, Micah Blaise's pronouncement that schools have been acting as a pipeline to prison is just plain silly. Schools first notice the behaviors that lead to prison because that's where students first must socialize and adapt to rules. Suggesting that school discipline leads to later prison is ludricrous.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Confusion Rains on Post & Courier

Ever wonder what it might be like to read a newspaper with no editors? Wait no more. Saturday's print edition proves the point:

Page A14:

Confusion Reins on Capitol Hill as, GOP Leaders Fall Short

Throw in a comma after the conjunction as long as you're going to make a mess.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Charleston County School Board Candidates for November

Five seats on the Charleston County School Board are up for election this coming November. As of this week, 12 candidates, including three incumbents have filed the petitions necessary to run. Those numbers mean that at least two new members will grace the Board after November.

If you had to list qualifications for effective CCSD Board members, what would be on your list? Aside from getting signatures from voters, virtually anyone can run who resides in the proper constituent district.

According to the reporter, 
The following people collected 500 signatures to run for a single seat representing the downtown Charleston peninsula:
Todd Garrett (incumbent) 
Tony E. Lewis: Lewis serves as chair of the downtown Constituent District 20 School Board.
The following people are contending for two North Area seats on the board:
Rev. Chris Collins (incumbent) 
Andrea Bailey Erb, Russ Patterson: Erb and Patterson ran unsuccessfully for North Charleston City Council in 2015 and 2011, respectively. 
Kevin Hollinshead:Hollinshead previously served as chairman of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission.
Aaron G. Rosendary:Rosendary recently moved to North Charleston from Berkeley County and has a child attending a local school. 
Louis L. Smith Smith has run for the Dorchester District 2 School Board several times while protesting what he calls discriminatory practices. He said he recently moved to North Charleston.
The following people are contending for two West Ashley seats: 
Michael Miller (incumbent)
Priscilla JefferyJeffery is a retired teacher and member of the local education activist group Quality Education Project. 
Gary LeonardLeonard is a retired educator who worked for 31 years in K-12 education and four years in higher education. 
Rodney L. LewisLewis is a member of West Ashley’s Constituent District 10 School Board.
Two school board incumbents, Tom Ducker and Tripp Wiles, did not appear on the list. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

One-Size-Fits-All College Prep Courses Are Not, CCSD

It’s way past time to drop the college-for-all crusade. In the Washington Post four years ago, economist Robert J. Samuelson  explained why better than I could ever do. Experienced high school teachers know he speaks the truth.

By Robert J. Samuelson  May 27, 2012
The college-for-all crusade has outlived its usefulness. Time to ditch it. Like the crusade to make all Americans homeowners, it’s now doing more harm than good. It looms as the largest mistake in educational policy since World War II, even though highr education’s expansion also ranks as one of America’s great postwar triumphs. 
Consider. In 1940, fewer than 5 percent of Americans had a college degree. Going to college was “a privilege reserved for the brightest or the most affluent” high-school graduates, wrote Diane Ravitch in her history of U.S. education, “The Troubled Crusade.” No more. At last count, roughly 40 percent of Americans had some sort of college degree: about 30 percent a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution; the rest associate degrees from community colleges. 
Starting with the GI Bill in 1944, governments at all levels promoted college. From 1947 to 1980, enrollments jumped from 2.3 million to 12.1 million. In the 1940s, private colleges and universities accounted for about half. By the 1980s, state schools — offering heavily subsidized tuitions — represented nearly four-fifths. Aside from a democratic impulse, the surge reflected “the shift in the occupational structure to professional, technical, clerical and managerial work,” noted Ravitch. The economy demanded higher skills; college led to better-paying jobs. 
College became the ticket to the middle class, the be-all-and-end-all of K-12 education. If you didn’t go to college, you’d failed. Improving “access” — having more students go to college — drove public policy. 
We overdid it. The obsessive faith in college has backfired. 
For starters, we’ve dumbed down college. The easiest way to enroll and retain more students is to lower requirements. Even so, dropout rates are high; at four-year schools, fewer than 60 percent of freshmen graduate within six years. Many others aren’t learning much. 
In a recent book, “Academically Adrift,” sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report that 45 percent of college students hadn’t significantly improved their critical thinking and writing skills after two years; after four years, the proportion was still 36 percent. Their study was based on a test taken by 2,400 students at 24 schools requiring them to synthesize and evaluate a block of facts. The authors blame the poor results on lax academic standards. Surveyed, one-third of the same students said that they studied alone five or fewer hours a week; half said they had no course the prior semester requiring 20 pages of writing.

Still, most of these students finished college, though many are debt-ridden. Persistence counts. The larger — and overlooked — consequence of the college obsession is to undermine high schools. The primacy of the college-prep track marginalizes millions of students for whom it’s disconnected from “real life” and unrelated to their needs. School bores and bothers them. Teaching them is hard, because they’re not motivated. But they also make teaching the rest harder. Their disaffection and periodic disruptions drain teachers’ time and energy. The climate for learning is poisoned. 
That’s why college-for-all has been a major blunder. One size doesn’t fit all, as sociologist James Rosenbaum of Northwestern University has argued. The need is to motivate the unmotivated. One way is to forge closer ties between high school and jobs. Yet, vocational education is de-emphasized and disparaged. Apprenticeship programs combining classroom and on-the-job training — programs successful in Europe — are sparse. In 2008, about 480,000 workers were apprentices, or 0.3 percent of the U.S. labor force, reports economist Robert Lerman of American University. Though not for everyone, more apprenticeships could help some students. 
The rap against employment-oriented schooling is that it traps the poor and minorities in low-paying, dead-end jobs. Actually, an unrealistic expectation of college often traps them into low-paying, dead-end jobs — or no job. Learning styles differ. 
“Apprenticeship in other countries does a better job of engaging students,” says Lerman. “We want to diversify the routes to rewarding careers.” Downplaying these programs denies some students the pride and self-confidence of mastering difficult technical skills, while also fostering labor shortages. 
There’s much worrying these days that some countries (examples: South Korea, Norway, Japan) have higher college­attendance rates, including post-secondary school technical training, than we do. This anxiety is misplaced. Most jobs — 69 percent in 2010, estimates the Labor Department — don’t require a post-high-school degree. They’re truck drivers, store clerks, some technicians. On paper, we’re turning out enough college graduates to meet our needs. 
The real concern is the quality of graduates at all levels. The fixation on college-going, justified in the early postwar decades, stigmatizes those who don’t go to college and minimizes their needs for more vocational skills. It cheapens the value of a college degree and spawns the delusion that only the degree — not the skills and knowledge behind it — matters. We need to rethink.
I would add that going straight from high school to college is also an outmoded idea. Adults can attend college at any time in their lives that it becomes useful. And they are doing just that. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Uppity Parents Threatened by DD2 Coach; Father Punches


My previous posting about Dorchester District 2's grading scandal (see Monday, July 11) avoided mentioning the assistant coach's name because of my belief that Joey Still was not acting alone. Further information has not changed my mind on that point, but the reported altercation between the biology-teaching coach and the Mouzons sheds a different and troubling light.

See police-parent-punched-fort-dorchester-coach-months-before-raising-complaint

One aspect that troubles is the police officer's inability to spell the coach's name correctly. Isn't identifying both victim and perpetrator part of the officer's job?

Aside from that failing, which confused reporting of the complaint, let's review what appear to be the facts: “During this conversation, (Still) states that he told [Mrs. Mouzon] that he would make sure that the suspect’s child did not get accepted into athletics in college,” an officer wrote in the report." Then Mr. Mouzon, the child's father, hit him. Still called the police, who charged Mouzon with third-degree assault for unlawfully injuring Still.

Do we know what the argument was about? No. Do we know the extent of Still's injuries? No. Do we know the outcome of the charge against Mouzon? No.

Typical non-reporting of details by our local rag.

Amos Mouzon should not have hit Still. Nevertheless, it's not hard to see why he lost his temper. Still's own statement irrevocably damaged his effectiveness as a coach, and Fort Dorchester's principal should fire him for this incident alone, much less for allegations of inflating football players' biology grades.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Meeting Street-Brentwood Latest Stats Unclear at Best


If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

That sums up the attitude of many towards the successes of Meeting Street Schools, a local organization that runs its own school on Meeting Street and for the past year ran the same program at Brentwood in CCSD. Now the district and its new superintendent hope to figure out how to replicate Meeting Street's successes in the Charleston County School District's other failing schools. They have already authorized the gradual takeover of Burns Elementary.

The latest news article on this phenomenon sheds little light on Meeting Street's successes at Brentwood. Perhaps the reporter is mathematically challenged or afraid to ask for clearer information. All we know about Brentwood's progress so far is that "This spring, with the school serving only pre-kindergarten through second grade students, 67 percent met their growth goals in reading and 73 percent met their growth goals in math." See meeting-street-schools-leaders-share-keys-to-success-in-high-poverty-schools .

"Growth goals"? So, how well did they do in comparison to past years? How well did they perform compared to the original Meeting Street School? Aren't these statistics important?

Those of us hoping that Meeting Street Schools has found a way to break the cycle of failing the poorest among us deserve better information. Does spending an additional $4000 per year on each student make the difference? If so, the District of Columbia's school system, with one of the highest per-student costs in the nation, should be an academic leader. It's far from that. 

While measures taken at Brentwood in terms of care, teachers, and discipline sound great, are they making a sustainable difference? 

Remember the fiasco at Sanders-Clyde? It was too good to be true.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Shock and Awe: Football in Dorchester District 2

Ever read the original Friday Night Lights? If so, you know what measures Texas high school football coaches will take to keep their best players eligible. The book--the movie--the television series--why have they been so popular?

That's an easy one: it ain't just Texas.

The issue of coddling football players reared its ugly head last week in Dorchester County District 2, a school district best known for the prowess of its Summerville High School football team. However, the Fort Dorchester High School team set its own records during the last school year. Who could quarrel with that?

A perfect storm of coincidences has revealed the duplicity of football athletes' grades in a required biology class taught by an assistant football coach. You see, usually when parents or students see special treatment of athletes in the classroom, they keep silent, not wanting to snitch or make their lives miserable for the rest of high school. In this case, the complainant and his parents, who most likely moved into DD2 because of its academic reputation and lower housing prices than Mt. Pleasant, are moving to Charlotte for the next school year, thus avoiding repercussions. One parent is (gasp!) a community activist. 

Thanks to the Mouzon family, the principal and football coaches at Fort Dorchester (and other local high schools) will become more circumspect about keeping players eligible--at least in the short run. Does anyone believe that an assistant football coach took it upon himself to provide football players with higher grades? How gullible are you? 

As long as most parents think football championships are more important than learning, this situation will remain endemic.