Friday, April 28, 2017

Time for German in Charleston County Schools?

Spotted on Palmetto Commerce Parkway
in North Charleston

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reducing Federal Meddling in Local Schools

What lasting effects the latest education executive order issued from the White House will achieve, only time will tell. However, most reasonable adults agree that edicts from the US Department of Education for too long have shoved one-size-fits-all down citizens' throats. So it is heartening that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos must "identify areas where Washington has overstepped its legal authority in education, and modify and repeal regulations and guidance" not compliant. 

We can hope such actions will decimate the number of bureaucrats now working in the Taj Mahal on Calhoun Street but don't place bets. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

CCSD's Academic Magnet Knocked Out by Charter Competition

Image result for "basis scottsdale" high school

Actually  the Charleston County School District's Academic Magnet dropped out of US News & World Report's 10 best public high schools. It's all a numbers game, folks, so don't take the news too seriously. Nothing suggests that AMHS is headed downhill.

However, of note is the reason that AMHS fell to No. 11: public charter high schools run by an Arizona for-profit organization known as BASIS. BASIS high schools seem to be both proliferating and performing. Amid their successes are the usual complaints pointing to high dropout rates and under-representation of minorities. Anything sound familiar?

Friday, April 21, 2017

One Historian's View of American Public Education: True?

"The main function of American public education is to make sure that the talented poor do not get a good education and are not able to rise and compete with the class that can afford private schooling, a class noted for its sterling verbal commitment to egalitarian public education."--Clyde Wilson

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stallings Hits Another Educational Home Run

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. This column is from the Moultrie News.

Teacher to Parent — Hold students accountable for their own learning
"Q. Recently I’ve heard of different districts using test scores as part of teacher evaluations. As a parent, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Why shouldn’t teachers be held accountable for test scores?

"A. I guess it sounds good on the surface. If a patient dies, it must be the doctor’s fault, right? Seems legit.

"As a teacher, I can tell you the one data point that wildly fluctuates more than any other is student test scores. As research (and any teacher) can tell you, a teacher whose scores are in the top 25 percent this year is very likely to be in the bottom 25 percent the next. Same teacher. Same curriculum. Different results. Weird, huh? How can this be? It’s almost as if student achievement has more to do with students than teachers. But I kid.

"Anyway, the idea of using test scores for evaluations has been thoroughly discredited about a hundred times for about a dozen years. The most notable study was an Economic Policy Report in 2010. That was seven years ago, but we’re still trying to ride the crippled horse. Why do districts keep coming back to something that is so problematic? I don’t know. Maybe because some elected leaders don’t have any better ideas and it seems like a quick and cheap fix. Or maybe it’s supposed to be motivational or something. You know, like “We’re going to throw one hostage off the plane every hour until we get what we want.” That sort of thing. As if teachers are just sandbagging it, saving their energy to bask in their money baths after school like Scrooge McDuck.

"A better approach — at least from a teacher’s perspective — would be to put policies in place that actually help us do the tough job of trying to educate students. If this were to happen, then maybe you really could hold teachers responsible for test scores because we would actually have the support we need to teach effectively. At a minimum, that would be these four things:

"1. Hold students accountable for their own learning. Teachers are often pressured to pass students who fail, and students who do fail are sent up to the next grade anyway. Each year this problem is compounded. There’s not even summer school anymore. How can you hold teachers responsible for educating students who have been groomed to believe there are no consequences for failure?

"2. Implement a discipline plan that works so teachers can concentrate more on teaching and less on classroom management. How can you hold teachers responsible for educating students when classrooms are out of control and teachers have little power to ensure that the focus is on learning?

"3. Hold parents accountable for supporting their children. They have vastly more influence on their kids than teachers ever will. Some leaders laud the success of charter schools, but they overlook the fact that those charter schools mandate parental support, and if it isn't given, those students can be removed from the school. How can you hold teachers responsible for educating students when their own parents don’t make them study, read, do homework, behave, or even show up?

"4. Give teachers more autonomy. It’s ironic when districts denigrate teachers for getting bad results when it was the districts that came up with the teaching methodologies to begin with. To paraphrase a famous coach, districts want to hold teachers accountable for how the meal tastes, but they don’t want to let us pick the recipes or shop for the groceries. How can you hold teachers responsible for educating students when, in many cases, their techniques, materials, textbooks, technology, pacing, and strategies are all mandated by someone else?

"I wouldn’t file any of these solutions under “Innovative.” I’d put them in the dusty, long-lost file labeled “Common Sense” that somewhere along the line fell behind the cabinet. Maybe it’s time we picked it up, dusted it off, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.

"Wait a second. Common sense? Hard work? Hmm. Maybe it’s innovative after all."

Does anyone else wonder why Stallings's columns don't appear in the Post & Courier as well?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Early College High in CCSD's District 20 to Compete with Burke?

According to the P & C, "A new high school offering courses for college credit is set to open this fall in Charleston County, possibly at Trident Technical College's campus on the East Side of downtown Charleston."

Possibly? Isn't there a rather large totally renovated high school building barely in use only one and a half miles away? You know, the elephant in the room?
"Charleston County School District leaders say the planned Early College High School will put students on track to graduate high school with an associate degree or industry certification. Graduating with as many as 60 college credit hours already earned through Trident courses, students could save money on college tuition or head straight into a career."
"Basically we're blending high school and college into one," said Richard Gordon, executive director of Career and Technology Education. . . . The school could open in August with as many as 100 ninth-grade students attending classes at Trident's Palmer Campus. The school plans to add grades in subsequent years until it serves grades nine through 12. 
"Modeled after similar programs in Horry County, Berkeley County and Dorchester District 2, the Early College High School aims to attract first-generation college students and students who score between the 40th and 60th percentile on eighth-grade standardized tests. . . .Gordon said he would begin to "recruit like crazy" in middle schools as soon as the board gives the school and its location final approval. 
Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait said she hopes to expand the program eventually.
"Ultimately, it would be our goal to have an Early College on each of Trident Technical College's campuses throughout the district," Postlewait said. "I hope that we think about it as the first effort, not to exclude anyone."
The idea sounds great, but--are we giving up on Burke High School? Won't this program entice away those remaining students reading on grade level? Let's hope someone has thought this through completely.

Monday, April 17, 2017

CCSD's Suspension Stats Don't Tell the Tale

Image result for how to lie with statistics cartoons

What difference does it make if one Charleston County school has recorded more suspensions than another? Are we to assume that the fewer the suspensions, the better the discipline, or what? Meeting Street Schools programs suspend more students: does that statistic mean that its students need more discipline or that discipline at those schools is Draconian? If there were no suspensions at North Charleston High, does that mean there was no discipline either?

Let's put this another way: would statistics matter if Mt. Pleasant Academy had a much higher suspension rate that Meeting Street @ Brentwood, or vice versa? Why?

Trying to make an issue out of suspension rates is a red herring. What really matters is learning. If "sweating the small stuff" leads to a better learning environment, who's to quarrel? Adherents can massage statistics to support almost anything. Keep in mind that old book, How to Lie with Statistics. It should be required reading for all.

Or as Darrell Huff puts it, "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Friday, April 07, 2017

CCSD Needs New Evaluation of Principals, not Teachers

Evaluating teachers on improvements in student test scores will never work. Some states have already discovered that truth. You might as well plan to grade parents on their child's improvement. In fact, that might be a better measure!

Students are not widgets and schools not factories. The sooner school districts learn those facts, the better.

On the other hand, Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait cited some problematic causes of student non-achievement: "Some teachers have given all of their students As, even those who failed the End-of-Course tests, she said. Entire schools, including the now-closed Lincoln High, had an unwritten policy of never giving a grade below a 60." 

At Lincoln High a principal-who-cannot-be-named set a policy regarding grades. Teachers had no choice but to follow it. Our glorious past superintendent allowed the policy to continue or, more likely, with her horde of associate superintendents never knew what went on. Whose fault is that?

Teachers giving all of their students As have given up. Who are the principals-who-cannot-be-held-responsible who allowed this travesty of education to occur? Does CCSD employ principals who believe that everybody deserves an A regardless of achievement?

No one should wonder why the shortage of teachers continues to grow. When teachers have respect both in and out of the classroom that will begin to change. Of course, teachers need evaluation and advice. Apparently, on the front lines in CCSD principals have dropped the ball.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Lowcountry's Glorified Remedial High School, Trident Tech

No one doubts the necessity of Trident Technical College. Its programs from nursing to policing are essential to the tri-county area. However, the failure of tri-county's high schools to educate their graduates has forced TTC to become what it was never meant to be: a remedial high school. 

The shocking statistic that ninety percent of high school graduates entering TTC must take remedial math should shake up our local school boards. That percentage doesn't even count the graduates who don't meet TTC's low entrance requirements! 

Where's the outrage? 

These students, who by and large come from the lower economic rungs of our local communities must now pay for classes to learn what they should have learned in high school for free. 

How about a class action lawsuit against the school districts of Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties? Where are the PI attorneys when we need them? These students must shell out dollars they probably have borrowed and delay entering the work force, with accompanying delay in wages, to make up deficiencies their high school diplomas promised they wouldn't have.

Don't kid yourselves. It's our loss as well as theirs.