Friday, August 18, 2017

CCSD's Associate Superintendents Strike Again!


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Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? Given events at Wando High School earlier this month, we doubt it. 

According to Lowcountry Source, "Elizabeth Adamson gave the 8th grade commencement speech at Cario Middle School this past June. She was featured in a Post and Courier article. She was looking forward to taking honors classes at Wando High School. She already had her schedule set and had enrolled in JROTC. She attended JROTC orientation beginning Monday, July 31. Her mother Anela Adamson received a phone call the evening of Wednesday, August 2 from Principal Sherry Eppelsheimer asking that Elizabeth not return to the school. No explanation was given."

Bizarre. The student's mother was advised her daughter would be in a contained classroom at the School of the Arts.

CCSD ignored Elizabeth's legal Individual Education Plan (IEP) as "Thursday, August 3 Elizabeth and her mother returned to Wando High so she could finish her JROTC orientation week. . . . Eppelsheimer asked them to leave and had the school resource officer (Mt. Pleasant police) escort them off the campus. Anela Adamson said she would be back and was subsequently served with a trespassing notice."

Thanks to intervention by concerned individuals, Elizabeth is now attending Wando High School as her IEP instructs. 

What's going on at the Taj Mahal anyway? Biggity associate superintendents arbitrarily changing IEP's?

The Andersons should sue CCSD for damages.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Reading by Third" Sets Same Goal as No Child Left Behind!


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Down the memory hole.

George Orwell is looking more and more prescient.

How else to explain this week's reporting of local counties' enthusiasm for the Reading by Third initiative? Leaders from DD2, DD4, CCSD, and Berkeley School Districts signed up for  a "partnership between their districts and Trident United Way."

"Supported by $1.5 million in funding from Trident United Way, the districts have offered training to teachers in 12 pilot schools through the University of Florida Lastinger Center. The training was designed to help teachers address students' skill levels in small groups or one-on-one."

"During the three-year pilot program, the Charleston County School District will focus on pre-kindergarten students, while the other school districts focus on kindergarten through second grade. Teachers will try new instructional models and receive coaching from Lastinger employees throughout the school year."

"The pilot schools include: Clay Hill Elementary, Harleyville Elementary, College Park Elementary, Oakbrook Elementary, A.C. Corcoran Elementary, E.B. Ellington Elementary, Ladson Elementary and Midland Park Primary. Williams Memorial Elementary will begin the pilot program next school year."

"The initiative is beginning at the same time that a major provision of South Carolina's Read to Succeed Act takes effect. Starting at the end of this school year, third-graders who can't pass the literacy portion of the standardized SC READY will be held back in third grade unless they meet certain exemptions or make enough progress in a summer literacy camp."

All of this without mentioning NCLB or its leading proponent, George Bush. There's nothing new about research showing that all students need to read by third grade. Can the reporter be that ignorant of the past?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Can Wando Campus Handle 4700 Students?


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How crowded does a school campus need to be before someone in charge says, "Hold, enough"?  

CCSD's Board Chair Kate Darby thinks it doesn't matter how many students squeeze into Wando by 2020 because " a lot of 11th and 12th graders will want to finish out where they've been," rather than entering the new Beckham High School. What's really going on is worry over where the District 2 Constituent Board will draw the attendance-zone boundaries for the two schools. Can't be unbalanced, ya know.

Meanwhile, the Charleston County School District toys with competing with virtual charter schools already in existence. " Unlike the full-time virtual charter schools run by private management companies in South Carolina, this school would be run locally by the school district and would not be a substitute for traditional school." And would cost CCSD to run. How much? "According to a planning document distributed to the school board, district staff plan to determine the budget, technology and personnel required for such a program between October and December."

And the reason that what virtual charter schools offer must be duplicated? 

We can guess.

Filling the Taj Mahal with educrats is expensive, not merely because of their salaries. They must justify their jobs by promoting more spending.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We All Live Here: Charleston County Juvenile Crime and Schools


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A 14-year-old boy charged with two homicides in Charleston County attended Charleston County schools. Don't you wonder what went on when he was in the classroom? His father "has no comment" on his son's incarceration. Where is his mother? What about his extended family and friends? 

It's certainly unlikely that he will ever enter high school, much less complete it. So-called experts called to explain such criminality at this young age have suggested that he may have been bullied or that he doesn't know how to meditate or control his anger or that he just lacked role models. Really? I suppose it's not possible that drugs were involved. Certainly, the entire P & C article on juvenile crime in the state never mentions them!

Charleston County leads the state in juvenile crime. Charleston County also leads the state in the number of failing public schools. 

Golly, could there be a connection?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ban "Honors" Level in Charleston County Schools


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Is anyone else as annoyed as I with bumper stickers that say, "My child is an honor student at [fill in name of school]? What purpose does that bragging accomplish? 

Easy answer: it reinforces the stereotype that it is an honor to be in a particular level of instruction. Abolish the term "honor" for these classes. Call them "Advanced, Grind, Nerd, Irregular, Developed, Extreme"--in other words, anything but "Honor." 

Don't get me wrong. I'm probably more enthusiastic about leveling students in sections than you ever were, but something has gone wrong in its public interpretation. Hence, the letter to Jody Stallings from a frustrated mother whose school moved her child into regular classes based on test scores. His weekly column points out the dangers of misplacing students. Yes, on a continuum of test results there will be students "on the cusp," but the student in question doesn't appear to be one of them. Take it from this former AP teacher: putting students into Advanced Placement classes who cannot read on grade level does no one an "honor."

"Q. My middle school child was an honors student last year. She worked so hard to get good grades. She did hours of homework every night and went to a tutor for help in math. This year I’ve learned that, due largely to test scores, she will be placed in regular classes. Now she says she doesn’t understand the point of working hard when you’re just going to get dropped to a lower level no matter what. I’ve asked the principal to move her back into honors, but he wouldn’t. How do I keep her motivated if she has to stay in regular?"

"A. Your question seems to begin with the assumption that last year she was properly placed in honors classes and this year she is misplaced in regular. But it sounds to me like it could be the other way around."

"In general, children who are appropriately placed in high-level courses don’t require tutoring to succeed. Honors courses are designed for students whose minds are ready for going above and beyond the standard grade level material. Mastering the curriculum should be challenging for them, but it shouldn’t require professional help.

"Secondly, no student should be spending hours on homework every night. That is a used car lot-sized red flag that the material is too difficult. The rule of thumb is ten minutes of homework per night for every grade level. A sixth grader should have about an hour. No student in K-12 should average two hours except perhaps high school seniors, and I can hear the parents of those seniors laughing at that suggestion right now.

"So it appears to me that the principal is trying to right a wrong. Many principals find themselves in the middle of a constant struggle between parents and teachers. Parents want their kids in honors at all costs, often because they think it’s an actual “honor.” Teachers want kids placed based on their developmental abilities and achievement. It waters down the class when too many lower level students are plied into upper level classes. Imagine a high-intensity aerobics class where half the participants are recovering pneumoniacs. (Do they still have aerobics classes? Just change that to “Jazzercise” then. Or “Extreme Yoga.”) It sounds like your principal is siding with teachers, and for that I award him a digital star: *.

"It’s not surprising that your daughter would use the perceived demotion as an excuse to give up. Taking the easy way out is endemic to adolescents. If a doorway to comfort is opened, you can be certain it will be used. Your task as the parent is to slam that door as hard as you can, lock it, and throw away the key. A great start would be discussing with her the difference between setbacks and failure. A setback is when one doesn’t get what one hoped; it often requires determination to get back on track. Failure is when someone gives up. Failure isn’t an outside explosion. It is an inner collapse. We can’t control setbacks, but we can control failure.

"Most of all, setbacks are a bruise. Failure is a tattoo. Once children start down the road of giving up, it leads to a habit of failure, and that habit can be so hard to break that it becomes part of their identity. So candid discussions with your child about doing her best are definitely required.

"Also required is recalibrating your expectations. If she got B’s in honors math, expect A’s in regular and hold her accountable. If she already was an A student and she finds that getting A’s in regular classes is too easy, then at the semester talk to the teacher (not the principal) about possibly giving honors another shot. If she stays in regular, then use the money you were spending on a tutor last year to enroll her in extracurricular courses this year (like an art class, a language class, or a new sport). With the time she isn’t spending doing homework, she can expand her horizons.

"So far in my career I’ve never seen anyone given a college scholarship in middle school (and Doogie Howser doesn’t count because he’s made up). Don’t worry that your daughter will somehow fall behind her classmates. True, they may take algebra a year before she does, but so what? While many of them will be learning the benefits (if there are any) of spending hours every night struggling with material that will be totally forgotten by next August, your daughter will be learning habits and character traits that will keep her soaring for a lifetime.

"Legendary coach John Wooden said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Making the best of things is not a naturally occurring trait. This situation is a perfect opportunity for you to help your daughter learn it.

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.

Personally, I'd like to call such classes "extreme." Then the bumper sticker could brag,

"My child is an extreme student at ____ elementary."


Friday, August 11, 2017

CCSD Bus Route Takes the Prize


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The Charleston County School District, renowned for its early bus routes, has finally scored a coup! No district in the entire state, heck, in the entire southeast will ask elementary school students to wait at an earlier time in the day for that ride to school. Make that an earlier time in the middle of the night!

Maybe the district wants to see if anyone actually reads the published bus schedules?

In these days of electronic submission, perhaps someone actually typed the wrong time four times?

Now parents of Goodwin Elementary students on Route 510 can brag about how early they rise.

The stop at West Montague and Floyd Circle wins the prize, however: how about 2:36 am?


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Another CCSD Dropout: Juvenile Arrested Last Weekend

Does anyone seriously believe that the juvenile described below was about to begin his junior or senior year at one of Charleston County's high schools? 

Does anyone believe he dropped out because he read so well that his classes were boring?

Remember this young man the next time you're inclined to think that high school dropouts are of no concern!
Juvenile Charged with Unlawful Carry of Handgun
On Sunday, August 6th, Special Assignment Team Officers were conducting proactive patrol of the Charleston Farms Community. While doing Officers observed a group of subjects flee in the area of Oakwood MHP towards the Read St. Apartments. While attempting to locate them, officers observed one subject enter a silver BMW on Mole Ln. Officers recognized him from a previous incident where he was arrested for Possession of a Stolen Gun.. As officers approached, the vehicle pulled off and a traffic stop was conducted on Sumner Ave near Dutton St due to illegal window tint.
Upon approaching the vehicle and making contact neither the driver or occupants were able to provide a lawful ID. While attempting to locate the required information, officers observed the front passenger seat appeared to be breathing unusually heavily and refused to make eye contact with officers. He also repeatedly moved his hands towards his hips despite repeated orders not to do so. At that time officers requested that he exit the vehicle. Upon doing so he immediately spun around and placed his right hip against the side of the vehicle. A .45 caliber Glock Model 30 with one round chambered and an additional 10 in the magazine was retrieved from the male subject. 
The suspect was arrested and charged as a juvenile on 07/05/2017 for Unlawful Carry of a Handgun, Possession of a Stolen Firearm, Possession of a Handgun by a Person Under 18, and Possession of a Firearm with an Obliterated Serial Number.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Berkeley Supt. Ingram Faces Interesting District


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Don't you like the sound of a superintendent who began his career teaching English and Latin where he graduated from high school? So what if Berkeley County recruited him from only 100 miles away. Who decided that Lowcountry superintendents need to come from as far away as possible anyway?

And we're still wondering about former Superintendent Brenda Blackburn, touted as the best thing since sliced bread, who resigned after stories about the FBI probe of the district's finances broke. 

Speaking of FBI probes, the former chief financial officer is still helping with its inquiries, is he? When will the other shoe drop?

New Superintendent Eddie Ingram faces an interesting situation in Berkeley County. Let's hope he's up to the challenges ahead.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

CSMS's Tenth Principal Will Get the Job Done


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It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. The Charter School for Math and Science on the peninsula has called its tenth principal, Mary Carmichael, who has had years of experience with the school in other capacities. In fact, she's seen it from outside--as executive director of the Public Charter School Alliance of SC, from the parent's view--with children enrolled at CSMS, and from the PTO's viewpoint--as its president. 

Considering that CSMS takes in students in the sixth grade from 30 incredibly varied county elementary schools, it has continued to perform at a high level. 

"The downtown public school serves grades 6 through 12 and is open to all Charleston County students. It boasts a racially integrated student body and a 90 percent college acceptance rate for its graduates, with about one-quarter of those students becoming the first in their families to pursue higher education."

"David Wolf, a member of the school's charter board, said part of the problem is the sheer difficulty of the job. Because the school operates independently from the Charleston County School District, the principal has to take on a range of responsibilities, from human resource management to textbook selection, that would ordinarily be covered by district office support staff."

"[Melissa] Frasier, last year's interim co-principal, will continue as lead principal, while Carmichael will serve as executive principal and CEO."

Sounds like a plan.

Monday, August 07, 2017

P & C Does Charter School Hatchet Job Again



Why does an article about South Carolina's virtual public charter schools begin with a large picture of  Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos? No reason except to stir up anti-Trump readers. She supports virtual charter schools? So do many others.

The "National Association of Charter School Authorizers" is hardly a well-known or authoritative group when it comes to charter schools in South Carolina. Supposedly South Carolina's public charter school authorization law "could make the state a breeding ground for failing schools." 
Pardon me for a moment.
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We aren't already a breeding ground for failing schools? Could have fooled me!

This "news" article is yet another attempt by our local rag to disparage public charter schools in every possible way. Absolutely no evidence exists to suggest that such schools have been shopping for lower standards here in South Carolina. 

"Erskine College announced July 27 that it had become the first private college in the state to serve as a public charter school authorizer. Program leaders say they want to collaborate with the college's education department and improve opportunities for students in such high-poverty areas as Abbeville County, where the school is located." Golly, that is suspicious!

"Among the first two schools to express an interest in the Charter Institute at Erskine are S.C. Virtual Charter School and Cyber Academy of South Carolina, a pair of online schools that received a warning this spring that their current sponsor might revoke their charters due to years of poor performance that lagged far behind state averages. The two schools enrolled more than 4,000 students and received a combined $33.5 million in state tax funding last school year." Could it be they desire help with meeting their goals? Nah.

Of course, virtual schools have their downside, one of which is the need for major self-discipline that many students lack. Yet these schools also serve a need for many situations where ordinary daily school attendance is not possible.

This is the worst they can dredge up? South Carolina's public charter schools must be doing okay.

The real mystery is why our local paper hates charter schools.

Friday, August 04, 2017

We Have Met Allendale School District, Right in Charleston County!


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The woebegone Allendale County School District contains four schools and about 1400 students. As recently pointed out, "Three of the district’s four schools rate in the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, which consistently rank at or near the bottom nationwide." This abysmal performance exists AFTER the state department of education supposedly helped the district by an emergency takeover in 1999. Teachers there called that help a disaster. Its school board regained control about 10 years ago. Even though spending per student is almost twice the state average, little has changed in test scores. Now the state office has declared another emergency. Maybe money isn't the answer?

If you live in Charleston County, don't feel superior too fast. Ask the question: does Charleston County have more students than Allendale in district schools that "rate in the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state"?

The answer is "yes."

The Charleston County School District is too complacent in its rankings, forever touting its banner schools, both magnets and those in wealthy neighborhoods. Its students stuck in failing schools are the dirty little secret.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Donate School Supplies to Teacher or Specific School!


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A retired CCSD teacher has some good advice if you wish to donate school supplies. Robin Steinberger, writing in Lowcountry Source:
"As the tax-free weekend approaches this Friday, parents are rushing to buy the needed school supplies required by each school.  They want to save money on back-to-school purchases like clothing, school supplies, electronics and more. I taught in Charleston County middle and high schools for 30 years and spent thousands of dollars of my own money for supplies for my classroom.  Almost all teachers I know have done the same. 
"When a student comes to class without paper and pencil, school work is not going to get done until it is provided.  A student can become disruptive until he/she can get to work, so teachers end up providing the pencil and paper. There are several local programs in the Tri-County area for school supplies to be donated to local needy families. I suggest instead of the supplies being donated to individual families, they should be donated to schools or individual teachers.
"In my experience, the donated supplies go missing after a short period of time, and the teacher is left digging into his or her own pocket.  You may ask, what about the school providing the supplies?  The schools run on very tight budgets and barely have enough money for copy paper and ink.  The solution is to give the supplies to the teacher, who will have them on-hand in the classroom when needed.
"Consider contacting your local school to find out what supplies are needed.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Education Stats Needed on Teenage Shooters


Brandon CookJavare Smith




It's not your imagination: nearly every night on the local news we're treated to mayhem committed by teenagers, some as young as 14! These serious crimes usually get a small paragraph in the paper; after all, unless the teenager is white or lives in an upscale neighborhood, it's business as usual, right? Doesn't concern us, after all.

Wrong. Just wrong. 

It's time to put to bed the idea that low achievement in school only affects other people. How can we get the true effects of low-achievement and dropouts across to the community at large so that the school district must change for the better?

Publicize who these children (yes, children) are. 

First example from last Monday night:

"Brandon Cook, 18, of Wayfield Circle, is charged with one count each of armed robbery and possession of a firearm during a violent crime."

He's 18. Did he graduate from high school? Was he in school last year or a dropout? What was his reading level on the last standardized test he took?

See what I mean? What are the chances that Brandon graduated from high school reading on grade level? What future beckoned for him if he didn't?

Second example from last Sunday afternoon:

"19-year-old Javare Cortez Smith, of Jobee Drive in Charleston, was arrested. North Charleston Police Department spokesman Spencer Pryor said Smith is charged with attempted murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime and possession of a stolen firearm. 
"Police said  [17-year-old Tyrese Wanya-Shih] Middlebrooks, the shooting victim, is charged with conspiracy to violate South Carolina narcotics law."

So, was 17-year-old Tyrese planning to enter his senior year at West Ashley High School, or did he drop out years ago when he couldn't read his textbooks? What about Javare? High school graduate?

You tell me.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Back to School Finances


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All's quiet on the school front? Maybe too quiet. With a bit over two weeks to go before school opens in the Lowcountry, the Post & Courier is trying to stir up more trouble for Berkeley County and its ex-chief-financial officer (who's cooperating with an FBI investigation). 

Say, isn't it possible that said FBI investigation could slop over into Charleston County? The counties are contiguous, after all. Nah, couldn't happen. Why, finances in the Charleston County School District have always been as clean as the driven snow. 

Where are the CCSD chief financial officers of yesteryear?