Wednesday, August 15, 2018

CCSD Reminder: $50 Million for Stadiums But No Classroom Supplies

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Students whose parents can't or won't purchase those school supply lists proliferating this month must depend on the kindness of strangers. Church after Church and nonprofits galore hand out everything from bookbags to pencils. Teachers from the Charleston County School District regularly sign onto to beg for classroom needs.

Yet CCSD plows ahead with multi-million-dollar football stadiums, or stadia, if you prefer.

Blame lies at the feet of South Carolina's stupid, wrongheaded school funding "system," if we can call it that. 

Money from outside sources covered "a variety of classroom projects [last year]. At West Ashley High School, for example, a special-education teacher is now able to fill her supply closet with markers, glue, pencils and folders. A Burke High School teacher can finally purchase a Nikon camera that his students can use for video and photography projects. Nineteen 6- and 7-year-olds at Harbor View Elementary will get new guided reading books."

These are hardly frills, not when compared with the luxury that the new stadia will provide.

Wonder why the average taxpayer thinks our schools spend too much money? It's time for our state legislators to step up to the plate and fix this problem.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Local History Right for Schools in Charleston County

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What did practically all of South Carolina's fifth graders have in common last year? Believe it or not, 98 percent visited Patriots Point under its school partnerships program.

Now if we could only get 98 percent to read.

Seriously, the Lowcountry brims with history, that being one of the reasons that attract tourists. We need more school programs that cause local students to be tourists in their home town. Too many have never visited Fort Sumter or entered one of Charleston's antebellum homes on the peninsula.

“'The multitude of historical landmarks, attractions and parks throughout the Lowcountry provide unparalleled educational opportunities for our students,' Charleston County School District spokeswoman Erica Taylor said. 'These experiences are one of the many reasons children in this area can receive a world-class education.'” 

Well, unsure about that last part.

"The books and related online videos and other materials are funded by a $415,000 Educational Improvement Act grant. The state’s Education Oversight Committee distributed $776 million in federal EIA money last year and nearly $800 million for this year."

Now American Airlines is getting into the act, funding a program starting this fall for eighth graders at the Military Magnet and two Allendale County schools.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Forget "Big Oil"; Worry About "Big Textbook"

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While most of us weren't paying attention, two or three educational publishers gobbled up all their competition. Try avoiding purchase from Pearson or McGraw-Hill, and you'll see what I mean. Now Trident is joining the club.

Not content with soaking students for "the constant issuing of new editions, then the 'custom editions' of textbooks just for Trident Tech students, cutting off competition with the global marketplace,"  publishers have put teeth into requiring digital forms instead. "The term for what Trident is doing is 'inclusive access,' and textbook publishers have been promoting the model since the U.S. Department of Education created a regulation in 2015 allowing schools to include book and supply costs in their tuition bills."

There's nothing inclusive about it. "In accordance with federal law, students can opt out of the inclusive access fee via their Desire2Learn web portal. But some courses will require students to complete assignments via web-based platforms that are included in the new fee. ISBN codes for comparable textbooks for the pilot courses are not yet available on the Trident bookstore website."


"Nationwide, about 3 to 5 percent of students in inclusive-access classes opt out of paying the automatic access fees, according to Jon Poole, Pearson’s vice president for strategic partnerships in the east region. That’s partly because the ebooks often come bundled with online programs that students need to complete class assignments. 'Most students want access to the digital content so that they can do their homework, so that they can communicate with the instructor,' Poole said. 'The ones who don’t often come back and opt back in after the evaluation period because they realize it’s hard to participate in the course without it.'"

Exclusive access, then.

No more selling those old textbooks or even revisiting content, since the text will magically disappear at the publisher's designated time.

"Skeptics worry that the emerging textbook business model is designed to eliminate competition with used textbook stores and online sellers, allowing a handful of powerful publishing houses to control the market and set prices with impunity."

No kidding?

Thursday, August 09, 2018

No More Snow Days OK, If We Still Observe Hurricane Days

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Only those who have been home schooled have never felt the sense of joy and release that an unexpected day off from school brings. Now the Anderson County School District has adopted a program to forestall that heavenly feeling when it snows.

Just think. We aren't wired enough already, so the millions spent on Chromebooks for students will now take away that fleeting freedom from lessons when snow, fire, flood, and/or wind threaten school bus routes. "The plan is to eliminate makeup days caused by bad weather. This year, students won’t get a day off when snow or ice hits. Instead, teachers will send assignments to students’ school-provided tablet computers, which the kids will be required to complete. 'Inclement weather days will be eLearning days and will not be made up,' the district calendar states. Snow days are dead."

Ah, but come high winds, and the WiFi goes dead. 

Then what?

There's still hope, teachers!

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

CCSD's Liberty Hill Academy Has a Principal Problem

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How much verbal abuse must teachers endure? That's one of the questions raised by the revelation that for months "the students ran" Liberty Hill Academy, the Charleston County School District's alternative program for misbehaving students.

Given the ever-lower levels of public discourse we all endure, should we be surprised that "middle-schoolers at Charleston County’s alternative behavioral school threatened to kill [a teacher]. hit her with a trash can, and made graphic sexual comments and propositions" ?

"They stood on the desks and openly mocked her. They left class and roamed the halls with impunity. Her room was equipped with an intercom button to request backup from the front office, but she said students sometimes physically blocked her from pressing it. And even when she filed formal reports with the principal’s office, [the teacher] said she didn’t get the help she needed." 

Haynes later trashed most of those reports. He probably hid in his office while they "roamed the halls." 

If the complaining teacher was a beginner, you could see the problem might be hers; however, someone in her twentieth year of teaching would be battle hardened, so what went wrong? 

Fired after 21 years of satisfactory performance, and for what?

It's the Principal, stupid. Chris Haynes. Remember that name. He's been in charge since the 2016 reorganization. If you plan to teach in CCSD, avoid wherever he is with a ten-foot pole. 

On second thought, try another district!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

New Chair of SC Senate Education Committee Voices Concerns Over SC Missteps

  Senator Harvey S. Peeler, Jr. photo 

Sometimes we forget how powerful the South Carolina legislature really is. 
After all, in many (or most) other states, the elected Governor holds the power. Not so in South Carolina, and it's important not to forget it.

It would be helpful if our local newsrag covered the legislature more fully--or at all--but at least Senator Harvey Peeler, new chair of the Senate Education Committee, recently voiced his concerns in an op-ed.

What are they?

He pointed out that the State Board of Education's decision to adopt a state-wide 10 point grading system has without aforethought bankrupted the Palmetto Fellows, LIFE and HOPE scholarships. That's what happens when everybody makes A's and B's, folks. It's an unnecessary illustration of the law of unintended consequences, with which we are all too familiar. 

Time to strengthen the requirements. "We have a challenge on our hands in terms of restructuring scholarships in a way that’s fair to all involved. In the process, I’m hoping we can create an incentive to train more educators who stay in state and address our teacher shortage."

Focus on technical colleges. They bring skills to the state's workforce that entice new investment in our state. "Our tech schools ought to be thought of as a first option, rather than a fallback, for more students."

Put limits on the power of SC college and university governing boards. Curb their ability to raise tuition, cultivate out-of-state enrollment, and build campus palaces. [Actually, Peeler didn't say "palaces," but we know what he means.] Peeler points out that higher education costs in the state have risen "three times as fast as health care costs have grown in the same time."

That should give you food for thought.

Have our higher learning institutions "created a situation where some have lost sight of our system’s core mission to educate South Carolinians first, rather than build shiny new dorms for kids from Ohio and New Jersey," as Peeler suggests?

Expand power of the Commission on Higher Education. "One of my first priorities is to look at the Commission on Higher Education, and whether its authority to regulate our higher education system needs to be expanded – because each university and college acting on its own clearly isn’t working."

"It’s a conversation that needs to come before the colleges and universities come to the General Assembly asking for millions in a bond bill. If they need more money, I’ll fight to fund them. But it’s tough to understand why higher ed would be on a building spree in the first place before fixing what they already have. The same can be said of their out-of-state enrollment spree, which I want to make sure isn’t driving up costs for students here."

Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, has served in the S.C. Senate since 1981.