Friday, June 30, 2017

CCSD's Progressive Discipline = Progressive Disaster?

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Principals and teachers dare not complain. Yet sometimes we actually hear from students who want to learn in an orderly classroom. Here's what Gerrida Postlewait "listened" to:
"Students from West Ashley High praised a few school leaders as mentors and said the school feels like a family — but they also complained about the district's new Progressive Discipline Plan, which they felt had led to a particularly unruly year marred by a series of fights on campus. 
"West Ashley senior Siara Spratt said the school had seven fights in a single day this year. She said a handful of repeat offenders were to blame, and she felt the gradual punishments and interventions meted out under the new plan were sending the wrong message. 
"Just keep giving them strikes, and they're going to keep on doing it," Siara 
Here's what the student is talking about: high-school fights as a Level 2 category:

How about the effects on learning? Nah, not so important.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CCSD School Board Pay: Too Much Too Soon

Flying under the radar may be fine when attacking the enemy, but the Charleston County taxpayers deserve better treatment. Let me be among the first to say that the elected members of the Charleston County School Board are underpaid. However, the rush to fix the problem will create more furor than the increase is worth. Let's slow down!

What a strange coincidence that the two school board members who voted against the salary are two of the most well-heeled among the group. No, it's not. 

People who are not independently wealthy should be able to serve too.

 More importantly, those currently on the school board should NOT vote themselves an immediate increase. Each needs to run for re-election first. This requirement would also alleviate the need to hit this year's budget with a half-a-million increase. The cost could be met in phases. Certainly, voters should have the right to say who gets the new increase.

Second, missing board meetings should hurt paid members in their pocketbooks. Why not make the salary less and the pay for each meeting more? What if members received $300 per meeting?

Given time, the board should forge a really effective increase that would encourage those who are qualified to serve in the future.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Teachers Seen, Not Heard, in Charleston County Schools

There's no secret about it: any teacher who voices an opinion in the Charleston County School District does so at her own peril--of her job. That's policy. 

It's also no secret that the responsibility for whether students learn or not now falls on teachers instead of parents. What a thought! How could parents be responsible for little Henry's lack of vocabulary, incorrigible behavior, and vulgar language? Hence, the value-added factory-widget-production-line mindset of educrats. If only that teacher had correctly taught poor little Henry, his test scores would have soared.

Yeah, right.

Every single assistant superintendent, principal, and assistant principal should be teaching in a classroom as part of his or her job description. Not only would teacher shortages be relieved, but experience on the front lines would speak more loudly to them than any "listening session"! 

Ah, yes. When pigs fly.Image result for teaching memes funny

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

CCSD's Postlewait Suffering From TMB*

Anybody noticed a communications gap in the Charleston County School District lately? If you haven't, go back to sleep.

The rest of us should recognize the disease for what it is: *too much bureaucracy (TMB).

Time to slough off the layers of assistant superintendents and associate superintendents and all those other positions remaining between principals and the superintendent. How about the super's actually supervising the principals directly? Could it be that perceived lack of communication directly results from her distance from the classroom?

Monday, June 05, 2017

Always Hope for Sanders-Clyde

Image result for sanders clyde elementary school charleston

Here is a Charleston County elementary school where not a single student reads at grade level or above. Did you think that was even possible? The history of Sanders-Clyde is fraught with problems, not the least of which was the massive fraud in test scores perpetrated by a principal about a decade ago. 

No one can accuse the Charleston County School District of old or neglected classroom space here. This school belongs on a different "Corridor of Shame," an academic one.

What interventions can force this failing school to succeed? Surely one should be continuity in leadership! The school has run through five principals in the last seven years. Roshon Bradley, who took over the school as interim in March and now has the official position, needs all the help he can get. One "help" should be at least a three-year stay. 

This native New Yorker has many plans to address the problems that poverty brings to the school: a parent resource center, a beefed-up student clinic with a clothing closet, a new program (ROOTS, LLC) headed by colleague Christopher Cuby, and support from the Charleston Promise Neighborhood. Supplying basic needs for students is, well, basic. However, one need is to prevent the teacher burn-out that has produced one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the state. Teacher support and encouragement should be near the top of Bradley's concerns.

Students who cannot read well cannot succeed in high school or in life. Kudos to Bradley and his team for accepting what has often been a thankless task.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Does Anyone Else in CCSD Have This Much Common Sense?

Maybe others hold similar opinions. Maybe each is afraid to speak out for fear of losing a job. Maybe. For sure, the present Charleston County Superintendent of Education isn't one of them. 

Educational experimentation has stalked victims for decades. We've had teaching sets instead of multiplication in elementary math; allowing misspelling without correction, even dropping phonics entirely in reading and grammar in writing. As Jody Stallings explains, experiments have taken on a whole new dimension.
Teacher to Parent - Generation Guinea Pig
By Jody Stallings Special to the Moultrie News May 31, 2017  (0)

Q. I see a lot of things that concern me about my child’s education. Things seemed to make a lot more sense when I was in school. How is it different for Generation Z, and what is their prognosis?
A. This generation could end up as the smartest, most successful generation in our history. Or it could end up in a grotesque disaster of epic proportions. It will be a long while before we find out. That’s because today’s students are being treated as subjects in one risky experiment after another, and no one can know where it will all lead.
A more appropriate name for Generation Z might be Generation Guinea Pig. Consider just a few of the experimental shifts in education during the last decade:

Schools sink billions into the latest screen technologies like iPads as substitutes for traditional teaching methods. Coupled with loosening the restraints on Smartphone usage during school hours, this has caused an explosion in the amount of time our children interact with screens. While providing zero evidence of an increase in learning, a stream of deepening research warns of dire consequences for students in our rush to screen proliferation.
School districts are rolling back the use of meaningful consequences for bad behavior. They are opting for untested replacements like “Restorative Justice,” which mandates that disruptive children remain in class, teachers apologize for their role in student misbehavior, and students psychoanalyze their actions in group therapy. More motivated by the desire to avoid lawsuits from the Department of Education than concern for children’s welfare, districts have no idea what impact this will have on the education and character development of students.
An obsession with data has led to Generation Guinea Pig being being perhaps the most tested generation in world history. As a result, Big Education companies are churning out experimental programs in a race to inch the data upwards even a fraction, and districts are buying them up like snake oil. What effect this will have on our children is anybody’s guess.
We continue to experiment with drugs without sober consideration of the possible repercussions. Millions of children are prescribed pharmaceuticals to control hyperactivity, often without trying other methods first. Though the CDC assures us this is safe, they also warn of possible long-term side effects like addiction, abuse, and an increased risk of heart and psychiatric problems. Many of the drugs haven’t been in use long enough to know their ultimate impact. Meanwhile, schools rake in revenue acquired as states rush to legalize marijuana, exposing children to an approving culture of cannabis-infused lollipops and Gummy Bears, all while science cautions that in adolescents it likely increases the risk of schizophrenia, lower IQ, addiction, and behavior disorders.
In the past, students who failed through lack of effort were required to go to summer school, retake courses, or, occasionally, even repeat a grade. Students of Generation Guinea Pig, however, are often promoted from one level to the next without inconvenience until they reach high school. By that time, failure has become entrenched, and rather than hit the books to earn their diploma, many drop out. What long-term impact this learned failure will have on our society remains to be seen.
But I’ve barely scratched the surface. Think of all the other experimentation today’s students are exposed to. Are we confident that personalized learning and flipped classrooms are doing more good than harm? Do you know if your child has been helped or hurt by the elimination of fact-based learning, cursive writing, keyboarding, civics, industrial arts, or health? Do you have any idea if Common Core standards, data-based questioning, or RIT Band instruction is aiding your child? Are you confident that PBIS, the Lucy Calkins Project, Edgenuity, or Springboard is preparing children for a successful future? Do we really know if specialized magnet and charter schools are improving or hurting our children’s education? Were you even aware that your child will be subjected to many if not most of these experiments at some time in their k-12 experience, usually simultaneously?
Good grief, where does it end?
Innovation and experimentation are hallmarks of progress, and probably many of the things I’ve mentioned are good, but how can we tell? It feels like we’ve reached a point where experimentation is so prevalent that there’s no possible way to know which innovations are working and which ones are killing us.
By all means, we should continue to search for something better, but experimentation in education, like in any of the sciences, ought to be targeted, methodical, and evaluated. We shouldn’t binge indiscriminately on novelty like a pack of lost, starving wolves.
Loving our children should demand care and deliberation in how we teach and reach them. G.K. Chesterton wrote that education is “the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” If that’s truly the case, then it may be time to do some serious soul-searching. 
Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992.