Friday, February 24, 2017

Feds Should Stay Out of Public School Bathrooms

They weren't in our school bathrooms before; why should they be now? Was there an outcry from the states asking for the feds' "protection" in bathrooms? No. 

In the past hundred years of public schooling, the feds have not entered school bathrooms unless crimes were being committed. The system worked. Getting all knotted up into a tizzy over what has been undeniable trampling on states rights, counties rights, and school districts rights is silly. Let principals and parents work things out. If parents feel their children are deprived, they can always contact the ACLU and fight it out in court.

This whole problem results from people who want to regulate our lives because they think we are incapable of doing so ourselves.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Moultrie's Jody Stallings Hits Another Home Run on Teaching Standards!

From the Moultrie News:

Teacher to Parent - Are the common core replacement standards any better?
By Jody Stallings Special to the Moultrie News Feb 22, 2017 Updated Feb 22, 2017   (1)

Q. As a a parent, I was not a fan of the Common Core Standards and was happy to see South Carolina get rid of them. Are the replacement standards any better?

A. Nope. Now, that’s not to say that the Common Core standards were good. At best, teachers were ambivalent. Some really loved them. Others thought they were terrible. So I’m not suggesting that we revert back to those. All I’m saying is that the new state standards are like Britney Spears circa 2007: they have serious issues. One of the worst is that they are a ruthlessly complex scattershot of completely incomprehensible gibberish.

In "Walden," Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify.” The writers of the S.C. Standards didn’t get that message. Most teachers believe learning standards should be highly rigorous but also simple and clear. This helps students learn, teachers teach, and parents know what the heck is going on. Overwrought complexity, on the other hand, breeds chaos, confusion, and costliness.

As an example, the state standards for my eighth-grade English class list 147 discrete learning items. For this article I tried to find the exact number of actionable phrases (things like “students will analyze poems,” “learn what a verb is,” “identify metaphors,” etc.). I got up to 192 before I stopped counting. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that there are about 252 such standards, just for an 8th grade English class. There might be more.

Keep in mind there are only 180 days of school, and 10 of those are set aside for testing these very standards. Just when are teachers supposed to teach all of these things?

That assumes, of course, that you really want us to. As I mentioned, not only are there far too many standards, many of them are totally unintelligible. Here’s a verbatim example:

“Integrate an information (cueing) system that includes meaning (semantics), structure (syntax), visual (graphophonic), and pragmatics (schematic) to make meaning from text.”

And you thought you had trouble getting your child to pick up his socks. Try getting 120 eighth-graders to integrate graphophonics into their information (cueing) systems.

I’ve been around a while, so I happen to know that back in the day the above standard used to go by the single word “Read.” But imagine being a brand-new teacher struggling with 30 wild, wired pre-recess eighth-graders reading on a fifth-grade level, and you are charged with getting them to “integrate a (cueing) system that ..." — Oh, you get the idea.

And let’s consider the thousands of perfectly intelligent teachers who don’t have the faintest clue what that standard means. Educational administrators will say, “That’s okay. We’ve hired professionals to train teachers to learn it. Plus we’ve purchased some wonderful programs to help them teach it to their students.” You can probably hear the cash register already.

That training and those programs are expensive. Really expensive. A few years ago, CCSD alone spent $5 million to train its teachers in the Common Core standards, and those were a cakewalk compared to the new ones. This reveals one possible reason why the new standards are so plied with indecipherable jargon: Someone has to make money, and it sure ain’t teachers. (Pardon my grammar. I was just trying to be graphophonic.)

What’s the solution? Listen to Thoreau: Simplify, simplify! Our students (and teachers) are being overwhelmed by educational standards that have little practical connection to real life. We need to get back to basics. Course standards should be able to easily fit onto a single page and should be decipherable by any parent.

This would eliminate the need to spend money we don’t have on expensive consultants we don’t need to instruct teachers who are leaving the classroom in droves how to teach standards that make no sense to students who deserve much better.

The great computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra described simplicity as a tremendous virtue, “But it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better.”

Indeed it does. Much to the detriment of our students.

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992. He has served as Charleston County Teacher of the Year, Walmart Teacher of the Year, and CEA runner-up for National Educator of the Year. He currently teaches English at Moultrie Middle School and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. Please send your questions to him at

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why New Principals in February, CCSD?

Image result for changing horses midstream

Why change horses in mid-stream? 

The Charleston County School District just announced four new principals who are taking their positions this month. Shouldn't these decisions be made in the summer before school starts? It makes you wonder if somehow they forgot.

On the other hand, perhaps the principals signal a new rigor in standards in the four schools affected--Burke High, Stall High, North Charleston High, and Northwoods Middle. Note that these schools do not dwell on the heights of success at present. 

Let's also hope that Henry Darby, who also sits on the County Council, has lots of energy. He's going to need it for both jobs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CCSD's Postlewait's Frank Appraisal not a Solution

What else could be concluded from the poor performance of former Lincoln High School students at Wando this year? Yes, lower expectations for poor, mainly black, students have permeated the Charleston County School District for decades.

Now what?

The superintendent has taken the first step: identify the problem. The second step should be to find out exactly how widespread the problem is. 

The third? Propose a solution.

Low expectations do not begin in the eighth grade but in kindergarten. It will be interesting to see how the district addresses the problem. If it can arrive at a solution, millions will cheer.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Let's See What DeVos Can Do

Here is a cogent voice for moderation regarding the new Secretary of Edication.

FEBRUARY 7, 2017
Statement on Confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education
It is gratifying to see Betsy DeVos confirmed as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. This is not because the federal government should attempt to push school choice—it should not, except in the District of Columbia and for families connected to the military—but because the opposition to now-Secretary DeVos was so unfair to her, and to the research on educational freedom. The reality is that research indicates charter schooling works in Michigan, DeVos’s home state, and specifically in Detroit. It shows that families of students with disabilities, rather than somehow being victimized by school choice, are empowered and immensely satisfied with it. And logic and evidence show that private school choice, rather than imposing ideas on people, frees them to get what they want for their children without forcing it on others.
It is also gratifying to see DeVos approved because she stated repeatedly in her confirmation hearing that education decisions should be left to state and local governments. Constitutionally, that has things absolutely right: the Constitution gives Washington no authority to govern or “oversee” American education, as Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) put it, which means such rights remain with the states, or with the people. And 50-plus years of increasingly intrusive federal meddling in education, with ultimately no visible academic improvement to show for it, brilliantly illustrates the wisdom of that decision.
Now let us hope that the Trump administration sticks to the constitutionally-constrained federal role—even on school choice—that Secretary DeVos has repeatedly endorsed. 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Teachers Know Why Teachers Leave the Profession: Hint, It's not Low Pay!

The following appeared in the Moultrie News, written by the head of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. 

Teacher to Parent - Why teachers leave
By Jody Stallings Special to the Moultrie News Feb 1, 2017 

I read in a recent Post and Courier editorial about the shortage of teachers and the problems with teacher retention in our state. Is this a real problem and what might be some ideas to correct it?

I read that, too, and I thought the P&C’s editorial was welcomed fresh air for what has been a closeted matter for a long time. While it is not a burning issue in all schools, it is a serious problem in many places, and there is no doubt it is hurting thousands of students.

As director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, I interact with teachers all over the region, and from what I hear, the primary reasons they leave the classroom come down to three critical issues:

1. Student discipline. Across the state, teachers and principals have not been given the power to enforce basic rules of behavior, and I’m not just talking about gum chewing and running in the halls. I routinely hear from teachers who have been assaulted, cursed at, threatened, and terrorized by out-of-control classrooms. Far too often the students in these situations are treated with tenderness while the teachers are blamed. Teaching in many schools has devolved by stages, from instruction to daycare to containment to survival. Until teachers and principals are empowered to get their classrooms back in control, the profession will continue to bleed talented, intelligent educators.

2. Parental support. From the moment teachers step into the classroom, they are warned that they will be held accountable for raising the test scores of all students. They are also warned that they must do so without the expectation of parents’ help. While most parents are supportive of their children’s education, too many have forgotten their responsibilities. They do not discipline their children. They do not make them study. They do not encourage them to listen to their teachers. Instead, they blame teachers and the system for failing them. Teaching is hard enough when everyone is behind you, but when the people who have the most influence on students are not supportive of your efforts, exasperation and fatigue can take root, and teachers will abandon the profession.

3. Administrative power and teacher discretion. Because districts are becoming increasingly top-heavy with administrators, teachers are being forced to implement prescribed (and usually unsuccessful) programs and teaching methods. Teaching is an art, not a science, and when you exchange a teacher’s palette and canvas with a dime store paint-by-numbers set, the effects on the teaching profession are predictable. In addition, districts continue to slam teachers with grotesque amounts of paperwork, replace instructional time with unnecessary testing, and cram more and more students into already packed classrooms.

I’m no genius, but I am a teacher, and my advice to those at the state level is that if you really want to keep teachers in the classroom, you might pay attention to why they’re leaving in the first place.

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992. He has served as Charleston County Teacher of the Year, Walmart Teacher of the Year, and CEA runner-up for National Educator of the Year. He currently teaches English at Moultrie Middle School and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. Please send your questions to him at