Thursday, July 31, 2008

Still a Duck: On-time Graduate Rate at 61 %

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck--well, you get the picture (pun intended).

That was my reaction to Thursday's P & C article that challenged how readers should think about CCSD's having the lowest on-time graduation rate in the Lowcountry [What Do Graduation Rates Mean?]. 'Splain away, but the statistic remains valid, or as CCSD Board member David Engelman so succinctly puts it, "he's heard the excuses as to why the district's rate is what it is, but that doesn't justify it. Even if the school district were allowed to count more students in its graduation rate, it wouldn't affect its ranking because other districts also would be able to count those students, he said. Anyone can manipulate statistics to frame a situation in a favorable light.''

Forget the 61 % overall for a moment. Please explain why the on-time graduation rate at North Charleston High School is 35 % while the comparable statistic at Lincoln High School is 81 %.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sea Islands YouthBuild for 2008-09?

Click on Sea Islands YouthBuild below if you haven't been following the Perils of Pauline (aka the Hunt for Red October aka the effort to find a building for this CCSD-encouraged charter school) during the last year.

After a most confused and mismanaged year, when the students had dwindled down to 21 enrolled (although not always in attendance), Sea Islands negotiated a three-year lease on a building to house the program in early May. Then during the same month the CCSD School Board voted not to renew its charter. However, the school continues to run, and as the P & C reported over the weekend, not one, but two, scheduled meetings for July with representatives of the Board have not materialized.

Thanks to a reader, I'm quoting from state law on charter schools:
(C) A charter must be revoked or not renewed by the sponsor if it determines that the charter school:

(1) committed a material violation of the conditions, standards, or procedures provided for in the charter application;

(2) failed to meet or make reasonable progress, as defined in the charter application, toward pupil achievement standards identified in the charter application;

(3) failed to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management; or

(4) violated any provision of law from which the charter school was not specifically exempted.

(D) At least sixty days before not renewing or terminating a charter school, the sponsor shall notify in writing the charter school's governing body of the proposed action. The notification shall state the grounds for the proposed action in reasonable detail. Termination must follow the procedure provided for in this section.


(F) The charter school's governing body may request in writing a hearing before the sponsor within fourteen days of receiving notice of nonrenewal or termination of the charter. Failure by the school's governing body to make a written request for a hearing within fourteen days must be treated as acquiescence to the proposed action. Upon receiving a timely written request for a hearing, the sponsor shall give reasonable notice to the school's governing body of the hearing date. The sponsor shall conduct a hearing before taking final action. The sponsor shall take final action to renew or not renew a charter by the last day of classes in the last school year for which the charter school is authorized. [italics mine]
What the most recent P & C article doesn't mention is that Sea Islands must get its due process. As the Board put off making a decision about the school for months, did it occur to them that the school would continue to operate and, more importantly, receive its funds due from CCSD for at least several months AFTER a vote to close it? Maybe I'm reading too much into the last part of the law (in italics above), but it appears that Sea Islands may continue to operate until June of 2009.

How many more hundreds of thousands of dollars will that be for 20 or so students?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Flash! CCSD Supt. Remembers Buist

Oh, thank goodness. CCSD Superintendent Nancy McGinley has regained her memory. Do you think it will last until the next School Board meeting? She's now asking for guidance on verifying addresses at Buist Academy.

Not that again!

Problem is, 75 Calhoun has been dawdling over this verification since prior to Goodloe-Johnson's leaving in 2007. Mark Brandenburg's "February 2007" memo is "cover" meant to answer the documented cheating being perpetrated at that point. And the address-verification scam now being pulled by the district doesn't even address the sham lottery results. Further, is anyone asking if there are vacancies in the upper grades for 2008-09? Can Ballard avoid repeating those shameful 15 vacancies that were discovered last year?

Rather than bore all of us by rehashing old battles, I'm going to repost two blogs from 2007:

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Oops, We Forgot! CCSD Address Verification Scandal

Address verification "fell between the tracks" during the transition from Goodloe-Johnson to McGinley, did it? Weren't we told one of the benefits of hiring McGinley was a seamless transition? Guess the seams leaked a little. An article on such printed in the P & C revealed that "District officials said they investigated the allegations [of false addresses used in the Buist lottery process] and didn't find any problems."

That means the district considered the following list of discrepancies for eight students in the 2006-07 kindergarten class provided to it by District 20 proponents in 2006:

  1. Used 83 Hester Street to enter the school. The house has been for sale and is now under contract.
  2. Used 22B Mary Street to enter the school, but parents claim 4% (primary residence for tax purposes) on Sullivan’s Island. Family never lived on Mary Street.
  3. Used 40 Bee Street #205 to enter the school, but parents claim 4% for a home on Johns Island. They own and rent out the Bee Street condo.
  4. Used 28A Addlestone Avenue to enter the school, but parents claim 4% on Folly Beach. The family never lived at this address.
  5. Used 33 Calhoun St Unit 236 to enter the school, but parents claim 4% in Mt Pleasant. Parents own this condo but do not claim at as a primary residence.
  6. Used 70A Church Street to enter the school, but lives with mother in Mt Pleasant. Father lives out of state.
  7. Used condo at 32 Vendue Range #300 to enter the school, but parents claim 4% residency on James Island.
  8. Lives in South Windermere according to records.
According to Courrege, "The address inconsistencies were never explained publicly." Or privately either, it seems.

These 8 (out of 40 members of the entering class) will be allowed to continue in the sham process instituted by CCSD and promulgated by Buist Principal Sallie Ballard. This list doesn't even include further class members who claim to be eligible on the failing schools list but whose addresses prove they are not!

Funny how when the seams leak, one verifiable item of major concern to residents of District 20 gets dropped, even though administrators in at least two other constituent districts have stated that additional verification would not be burdensome. These complaints, reported on the national TV news last year, were essentially brushed off by Goodloe-Johnson. Can we assume that McGinley will ignore new ones for the Class of 2007-08? Does anyone believe that all addresses used for THAT class will be kosher?

McGinley states the oh-so-very-complicated verification process will be phased in with magnet schools including Buist. She said it. Let's hold her to it.
The cloud of suspicion that hangs over Buist needs to be cleared up NOW; otherwise, McGinley's "street cred" will evaporate.
That was a year ago, folks.

And on the sham lottery process:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gambling by the Numbers: Magic Tuition Money

Let's have an education lottery using the methodology now used by CCSD for Buist applicants.

So, those players who pay careful attention to all gambling opportunies would sign up to buy lottery tickets. Exactly one month later CCSD would notify the winners that they had won.

Oh, I forgot.

The ticket holders would not pick their own numbers. No, CCSD would assign secret numbers. In fact, only CCSD would know the names associated with each ticket number.

But that's okay, because CCSD would save holders the trouble of checking their tickets to see if they had won.

Then CCSD could announce through the media that the winners selected by the computer had been notified and were being paid (that's $6000 to $15000 per year for the following nine years).

Of course, due to privacy issues the winners' names would not be made public. A few well-known names might leak out or be subject to rumor, but no one would ever question if the process were fair.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Orange Grove Charter in North Charleston

Who would'a thunk it? That one sure slipped by me. Here all this time I've been picturing Orange Grove Charter School in the building I remember being opened in 1963 in West Ashley. Both of my sisters attended it, and I remember my mother's initial complaint that a school built for air conditioning had none. I'm sure that lack was remedied years ago. Even my youngest sister, who still lives west of the Ashley, was surprised to see what I noticed recently.

There is a large banner in front of Ron McNair Elementary that announces it is the home of Orange Grove Charter School.
  • Uh, why was Ron McNair emptied?
  • Uh, why was the building used by Orange Grove for 43 years torn down?
  • Um, can we expect that the super scrumptious multi-million-dollar school being built by CCSD as the new Orange Grove Charter will last longer than that (how many million per year will that be)?
  • Did Orange Grove know a new building was in the works when it decided to go charter?
  • Did the school board hope to kill this charter school by putting a school with a West Ashley population in North Charleston so that its attendance would drop?
How about busing at these gasoline prices? Curious.

SC's PACT Replacement & Knowledge

Sometimes it pays to read the State. Monday's P & C version of an AP story on development of the new state test to replace the PACT [Educators, Parents Worry About Replacement Test ] was truncated before some important information (important to test-watchers, anyway). The State's article ends with

"The new test also will line up more closely with federal education standards and provide more detailed information about whether a student is performing at the appropriate grade level.

"That’s because the new test will include enough math, science, social studies and English questions for the Education Department to statistically determine a student’s knowledge level.

"For example, students will answer enough algebra questions that the state will know if the student’s math knowledge is at their grade level. That was not the case with PACT.

Signs of hope: The new test promises "to statistically determine a student's knowledge level [italics mine]." That is the right direction to take.

In fact, what South Carolina needs most is a knowledge curriculum, as most foreign countries already have. If it had one starting in Pre-K, the

"Hundreds of people [. . .] involved in creating the new tests, from teachers who are reviewing questions to see if they can be easily understood and address the subject, to a sensitivity and bias committee charged with making sure the exam doesn't include material children from disadvantaged groups might not be familiar with"
could eliminate its worries that those children would be confronted by unfamiliar material. It's the best way to solve the cultural deficit faced by many children. An added benefit would be that the scores could lead to measuring how well the teacher has taught core knowledge.

The push for IB in elementary schools is a push for core knowledge through the back door. Didn't know that? Look at what its proponents tout as its strengths. American schools of education have made "core knowledge" a dirty word in educrat circles.

Americans can construct their own core knowledge; they don't need IB's. South Carolina really wants to improve its schools? Let's see it construct its own.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Go, David! CCSD Dollar Transparency Wanted

CCSD School Board member David Engelman made a reasonable request at the Board's last meeting: show everyone where the money is going. What a thought!

As reported in Sunday's P & C,

Charleston County School District spends more taxpayers' dollars than any other Lowcountry agency, but finding out how that money is spent can be difficult.

Anyone can ask the school district to provide that information, but one county school board member wants to make it easier for the public to access the district’s financial records. David Engelman asked the board earlier this week to begin posting its expenses online.

Engelman asked for all expenses to be listed, from grants to contract payments to electricity bills to association dues. The only exception, he said, would be salaries.

“I think we owe that to the people who pay for the budget,” he said. “I do think a lot of taxpayers want to see what’s going on at the local and state levels. That’s how we keep people honest.”

The effort to make financial records more transparent in schools and other government agencies is happening across the state and country. On the federal level, the Web site gives details on government grants and contracts. On the state level, Gov. Mark Sanford issued an executive order nearly a year ago that required his 15 Cabinet agencies and the Comptroller General’s Office to create and post an online, searchable database of travel, office supplies and other expenses. The Comptroller General’s Office now has that information, searchable by year and month, for all of the state’s agencies.

Won't it be fun to see what excuses 75 Calhoun can engender? We'll see how creative they really are.

Administratium Takes Over Lowcountry

See if the following description reminds you of any organization. [Thanks to Darren at Right on the Left Coast--see education blogs at left.] Too good not to quote in full.

The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by investigators at a major US research university. The element, tentatively named administratium, has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have one neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons and 111 assistant vice neutrons, which gives it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of meson-like particles called morons. It is also surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since it has no electrons, administratium is inert. However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with. According to the discoverers, a minute amount of administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete what would normally have occurred in less than a second.

Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately three years at which time it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons, vice neutrons and assistant vice neutrons exchange places. In fact, an administratium sample's mass actually INCREASES over time, since with each reorganization some of the morons inevitably become neutrons, forming new isotopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to speculate that perhaps administratium is spontaneously formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "critical morass."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Post & Courier Decline Can Be Fixed

The local paper has shrunk and so has its staff. No one should be surprised that the P & C, despite the lack of any lowcountry rival, has been losing revenue. The shrinking budget haunts every large newspaper in the country, with more newspaper staff reported as laid off every day. This alarming development must be a topic of discussion among the P & C's editors. What to do?

In reality, as you may have noticed, to fight back the paper has already made some obvious choices on its front page--namely, more local than national or international news. Saturday's edition provides a good example. The front page highlights above the fold a DUI accident that injured a state trooper on I-26 in North Charleston and, below it, the arrests of two prolific local burglars. The top banner teases arachnaphobes in Summerville. However, the featured story on the front page regards the Quantas jet that developed a hole and landed in Manila.

REALITY CHECK: The jet story has already made the 24-hour news cycle on TV & Internet ad nauseum. What is the target audience that will pick up the paper to read it?

The other front-page story provides a more interesting example of what the P & C could attempt to boost readership. It's an AP story about college students using both food banks and food stamps to make ends meet ["College Students Tap into Food Banks as Prices Soar"]. The AP reporter interviewed one student who used food banks while attending Benedict College in Columbia and another who applied for food stamps while attending Francis Marion University in Florence.
REALITY CHECK: Would the P & C's readers want to know if local students are clients of the Lowcountry Food Bank? Would they want to know if "showing identification proving they live in the area" is the only requirement for getting food from it, as the AP story suggests? Would they want to know if local students have successfully applied for food stamps?

Getting this information would take more time and a local reporter, but facts that relate to local institutions clearly would cause more local readership [Hey, Trey, did you hear that the guys at the frat are on food stamps?]. Of course, that focus would require reporters who KNOW the local community.

HELLO! The days are gone when even old curmudgeons like me learn any important national or international news from the front page.

Further, wouldn't readers be curious about the two supremely successful burglars who committed more than 70 crimes before being caught? How could that happen? Was it lack of connection between local law enforcement agencies or lack of manpower or lack of interest? What's the background on these characters, anyway? Why couldn't we have had a nice big photo of some of the fenced items? Or of the "fence"? How about a three-part series on what goes into the making of a local burglar?

The days for having "Local and State" as section B are so over. Make it a State (or tri-state, for that matter) section and REALLY report on what goes on in Columbia (and Raleigh and Atlanta, if you like). Put a column down the front page of section A with summaries pointing inside to national and international news (doesn't the Wall Street Journal do that?).

The P & C needs to focus on its strengths--and those have got to be local and truly informative. Otherwise, a print edition will not survive. Don't believe me? Come back in 10 years.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Single-Gender Confused?

Friday's P & C contains a cheery article on the single-gender education being pushed by State Superintendent Jim Rex [Single-gender Classes Garner Good Results]. Never mind that the reporter doesn't say that these single-gender classes have been made possible by a relatively recent ruling allowing single-gender education in public schools. Never mind that we're simply returning to what was more common before such classes were ruled thirty-or-so years ago as "biased." As I've blogged before, everything old is new again.

But the Jim Rex's pick as leader-in-charge of forming these single-sex classes sounds a bit confused about what goes on in them. To wit,

"David Chadwell, the state's single-gender coordinator, said [. . .] another factor [explaining why improvement in student behavior got the weakest results] could be the manner in which teachers are approaching single-gender lessons, he said. A teacher instructing only girls needs to be prepared deal [sic] with the conversation and issues they bring into class, and a teacher of an all-male class needs to make sure students who are up and moving aren't out of control, he said.

Oh, no! Girls have "issues" and boys don't? Boys don't converse? Girls don't get out of their seats? Boys should be "up and moving"? All-male classrooms are chaotic? What is he suggesting?

By the way, the article's positive points concern how teachers, parents, and students FEEL about the classes, not whether the classes have affected ACHIEVEMENT.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CCSD's District 20 School Board Candidates

As the P & C has so carefully told us while it bashes Park Dougherty, a major force behind the success so far of the Charter School for Math and Science (CSMS), three candidates have submitted petitions for District 20's one seat on the CCSD School Board--the incumbent, Toya Hampton-Green; Marvin Stewart, who has been an active member of the District 20 constituent board; and Robert Russell, who has contributed to the formation of CSMS. Even though we're still in the dog days of summer, the educrats at 75 Calhoun and CCSD Board President Hillery Douglas have already made their choice clear: the incumbent. They've also made it clear that, proposals to the contrary, they intend to PLAY POLITICS in order to get Hampton-Green reelected.

Let me state that I do not know, nor have I ever met (as far as I know), any of the three candidates or their families, do not reside in District 20, have no children or relatives with children that are in the district schools, and do not have the time to participate actively in political campaigns. Nevertheless, I'm an interested resident of Charleston County who will be voting in November. My opinions of these candidates are based on watching taped CCSD Board meetings, reading P & C articles, and contemplating what I have found on both the Web and my blog's comments section. I do pay attention to what happens in CCSD.

With that caveat in mind, here's what I see so far concerning the three candidates.

Toya Hampton-Green (THG): has strong ties to the Democratic party in Charleston County. Her husband ran against state Sen. Robert Ford in the Democratic primary and lost with only 25% of the vote, even though he managed to raise and spend more money. Here's what I said about them in April:
"[. . .] the Greens have been enjoying the perks of being Charleston's young black 'power couple.' Toya's election to the school board after representing CCSD for a local law firm was well bankrolled by local Democrats, and she won despite lack of support from District 20, the constituent district she represents (oops, I mean the one she lives in, since she claims that she represents the WHOLE county). Strangely enough [sorry, the sarcasm just slipped through] the Greens' child was a winner in Buist Academy's "lottery." Readers of this blog will understand that we are using the word "lottery" loosely here."
Although her husband is a native of Charleston, THG is not. She has consistently supported the agenda of the Meyers-Douglas voting bloc and rarely speaks at its public session. The Greens live in a newly developed area of District 20, not in one of the old neighborhoods.

Marvin Stewart (MS): maybe the most vociferous chairman of the District 20 constituent board ever. Has been described as a "former teacher and downtown-schools activist." Stewart has watched the treatment of District 20 like a hawk and has not wavered in challenging the School Board in its decisions concerning Buist, Charleston Progressive, Fraser, etc. He has also supported the development of CSMS. I surmise that he is a graduate of Burke High and a native of Charleston (and District 20). Maybe some readers can supply further information.

Robert Russell (RR): a professor at the College of Charleston who has been involved in the development of CSMS (although I don't know the details). Has four children who may or may not be in CCSD schools now. Obviously an advocate of charter schools but his views on the rest of District 20 and CCSD School Board shenanigans remain veiled so far. Not a native Charlestonian as far as I can tell, but certainly his courses on architecture sound interesting. Students rate him as tough but brilliant. Here's the information from the CofC website:

Robert Russell
Professor, Architectural History/Urban Design
Director, Historic Preservation & Community Planning Program


ARTH 245 Introduction to Architecture
ARTH 260 Addlestone Seminar on the Arts and Culture of the Lowcountry
ARTH 265 The City as a Work of Art
ARTH 335 History of American Architecture
ARTH 394 History of 18th and 19th Century Architecture
ARTH 395 History of 20th Century Architecture

BA, Southern Illinois
Ph.D. Princeton University

From these descriptions regular readers of this blog know already with whom I am muy simpatico so far. That would be Marvin, of course.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CCSD Parodies Itself Again

I thought about writing a satire of Monday night's CCSD School Board meeting, but it would have been too tame. I'd end up with the same problems as the New Yorker. You can't make this stuff up.

In its quixotic quest to banish profanity from the lips of school board members, a committee assigned the job of rewriting regulations for behavior proposed that "stated members would refuse to play politics."

[. . . ]

Sorry, I had to take a few minutes there to regain my composure.

It would be pathetic if CCSD students weren't suffering the consequences of attending among the worst schools in South Carolina, which means among the worst in the nation.

After adding in all sorts of other requirements to the policy, including the kitchen sink, Douglas and cronies couldn't manage to pass it.

Worth the loudest horse laugh is Superintendent Nancy McGinley's mental block that caused her to forget to bring up the variant policy in confirming student addresses at Buist Academy. Her problem is that so many lies concerning Buist have come from her quarter that even if she really did forget, no one's going to believe it!

What do you think? Can she manage to forget to bring it up at the next meeting? Can she drag it out until school has actually begun and then allow Principal Sally Ballard her usual delay, linger, and wait dead-slow process?

We all know about Douglas--he's a lame duck anyway. But now Superintendent McGinley has lost any credibility she may have once enjoyed with residents of District 20.

Wasn't Ravenel's original blow up about McGinley's forgetting to put CSMS's using the Rivers campus on the agenda?

Monday, July 21, 2008

CCSD: "It's Going To Be a Bumpy Ride"

What can I say: when I'm right, I'm right (see Sunday's posting).

Fasten your seat belts

Monday's article (Math & Science Backer Under Fire], quotes only outgoing CCSD School Board President Hillery Douglas on Park Dougherty's shortcomings and supposed "lies." Does anyone (with the possible exception of Courrege) believe that Douglas supports CSMS? Then, in the most convoluted reasoning I've seen recently, the story also twists Dougherty's support of ANYONE BUT TOYA (ABT) into "playing the race card" by quoting Armand Derfner, whose successful suit nixed at-large representatives on the Charleston County Council. "A judge in that case found that people here, and elsewhere, tend to vote along racial lines, he said." Never mind that the Lowcountry just elected a black Republican to the state legislature.

By Derfner's Orwellian reasoning, Dougherty's saying he would support ABT--either Marvin Stewart (black) or Robert Russell (white)--for the District 20 seat now held by Toya Hampton-Green, makes him a racist. He's a racist because he supports candidates that he believes will vote to support charter schools! [Why do I hear Dot Scott's voice echoing in the background?]

Actually, I happen to believe that members of the CCSD School Board should be voted in by the residents of their districts. Then, Dot Scott and her cronies who reside outside of District 20 wouldn't be able to vote for Hampton-Green. Then District 20 wouldn't get a representative who claims that she doesn't represent District 20. Sounds good to me.

Douglas lauds Hampton-Green's support of charter schools in his absurd claim that Dougherty is a liar. Read the background on support of Sea Islands YouthBuild in previous postings on this blog. Hampton-Green supports charter schools THAT ARE SUGGESTED BY 75 CALHOUN, not by actual residents of individual constituent districts (that would be Dougherty and CSMS). Douglas claims that Dougherty is playing "lowdown dirty politics." Why didn't he attack Russell for attempting to take a "black" seat? Is this ranting simply a result of what happened to Douglas in the North Charleston mayoralty race?

Take the beam out of your own eye, Hillery.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

P & C Plans Hatchet Job on Charter School Organizer

What are the chances that Monday's promised article on Park Dougherty will be balanced? Golly, maybe between slim and none? Even the article's teaser in today's on-line version [see Charter School Leader Spurs Controversy] trashes Dougherty by saying that "some [note, unnamed] say Dougherty has resorted to 'low down, dirty politics' and 'playing the race card' by pushing two candidates for one seat," the one now held by Toya Hampton-Green.

It's an opening volley from 75 Calhoun Street in the election of new board members. The Superintendent and Gregg Meyers know that many issues have been decided on a 5-4 vote from the present members of the board. No one, not even Toya Hampton-Green, would claim that her voiceless votes in lockstep with Meyers have supported Dougherty in his quest for CSMS to be a success.

What I can't figure out is how Dougherty's support of Marvin Stewart and Robert Russell is "playing the race card." All he's doing is saying, ANYONE but Toya. If both of these candidates were white, the statement would be justifiable (barely!), but they're not.

Wanna bet that the "some" are Dot Scott and her cronies? They can't attack the balanced racial makeup of the school, so they've gone to Plan B. The P & C is happy to oblige.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

DNA & the Internet--Powerful Tools

As I read in Saturday's P & C of the burial after 56 years of a Korean War hero, the good that the discovery and application of DNA has rendered impressed me again. [See Burial Provides Closure for Family.] I can only surmise the heartache of having a loved one go missing, and that missing's lasting for 56 years. We should laud the perseverance of Capt. William K. Mauldin's family, as well as that of the Air Force, but without the magic of DNA, this father would never have come home again.

What DNA renders, of course, is information, information that 56 years ago was only a dream, if even that. It frees the innocent, convicts the guilty, and identifies the unknown. Why, DNA even empowered State Sen. Glenn McConnell to discover that he's of Norwegian ancestry (those Vikings raided Scotland, apparently).

And the Internet? Estimates say that 30 percent of the Web consists of pornography. That's not a pretty fact, but mitigating it is access to other information that was either unattainable or difficult to ferret out only a few years ago. Why, now even a politician can't get away with taking one position in Washington and another in his or her home state.

All that information to be exploited, if only the user knows what to do with it for good!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Can We Find It on a Map?

What makes the P & C shy away from using maps? Does it cost more? As I read about the extension of the Glenn McConnell Parkway in West Ashley in Friday's edition [ Council OKs Glenn McConnell Extension], I couldn't visualize where the road would end. I'm in that area fairly frequently. How about those who rarely travel there?

Bees Ferry Circle? Long Savannah and Village Green?

Wouldn't it be informative to readers to show all the impacted areas on a MAP? Maybe if more readers had maps to reference, they might even understand possible impacts of the new extensions.

Then again, maybe that's why there is no map!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CCSD School Board Election Choices

I'm on the road today, so I'll save my thoughts on the final list of candidates for another posting. Meanwhile, it would be great to hear some of yours. 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Allendale? Even Jim Rex Gets It

Talk to anyone associated with the Allendale school system--teachers, parents, and former students--maybe even administrators, for all I know--and you will get the same opinion: the state takeover of its schools was a disaster from beginning to end, even last year when the state department of education declared victory and got out (see previous blogs on that topic). Clearly, at least in South Carolina as the state department of education is presently constituted, takeover of a school district (or a school, for that matter) will not cure what ails it.

Apparently even State Superintendent Jim Rex can read the tea leaves on this one, and, as a result, the school boards of Allendale and Lee Counties, responsible for two elementary schools that failed to address recommended  improvements last year, have been scolded by the state school board and can look forward to future reprimands from the state if they fail to act. 

Question is, who decides what the state school board thinks is worthy of meddling? What would motivate it to look into CCSD's multifarious problems? And, if the old lion has no teeth, no matter how loudly it growls, who's going to pay attention?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Charleston Development Academy a Charter That Works

Good news continues to issue from Charleston Development Academy, a charter (horrors!) school located in the midst of Gadsden-Green public housing, one of the poorest areas in CCSD. When educrats wave jargon, such as "small learning communities," around, they should be pointing to effective small schools like CDA, rather than parroting the usual claptrap coming out of schools of education.  Friday's P & C's story on an academic summer camp at CDA is a case in point.

Of course, it's very nice for SC State University to "enable 12 of the third-grade class's 19 students . . . to participate in the camp that uses technology to teach content and test-taking strategies" in anticipation of the coming year's achievement testing.  But, as careful reading of the article shows, the real news is that in this truly disadvantaged community 12 of the 19 students are at or above grade level. Maybe that doesn't sound like victory to you, but does anyone believe that another 12 students of similar background selected at random from CCSD's regular elementary schools would meet or exceed the standards as these 12 do?

You're not likely to see CCSD celebrating the achievements of this school, unfortunately. Oh, and in case you're worried about the other seven students, they have their own program that remediates their differing needs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Clueless in Seattle: M G-J Saga Continues

Forget Microsoft and Seattle's reputation for smarts!

Using the typical Broad-Foundation-Fellow ploy, former CCSD Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson has bamboozled the Seattle School Board into paying her more than the governor of Washington State, the mayor of Seattle, and the state education superintendent.  What is that ploy, you ask, hoping that you can use it on your boss? Why, simply threaten to take a job that pays more. 

As though they've been taking acting lessons from previous CCSD boards, Seattle's managed to ram through a nice raise, extend her contract, add a cost-of-living adjustment, and promise merit pay down the road--with no public discussion. And what other job would she have taken? It's a secret. And what exactly has she accomplished, besides promising five-year plans, etc.? 

Remember this one when the present CCSD board starts making similar noises about losing McGinley if she's not paid more!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

CCSD's High-Tech High: Pie in the Sky

Did anyone seriously believe that CCSD would start a high-technology high school for dropouts in two years? Has CCSD ever reneged on promises before?

The outlines of the intended program and the sources of its funding, not to speak of the population from which it would draw students, were always so nebulous that it was obvious from the beginning that 75 Calhoun used it as a ploy to explain why the Charter School for Math and Science (CSMS) couldn't have access to the Rivers building. That didn't work. Now comes Tuesday's P & C's report that the so-unimaginatively-named Lowcountry Tech High is on hold. See High-tech Program on Back Burner.

Why is it not obvious at 75 Calhoun that, while CCSD needs more vocational and technical courses in its middle and high schools, it is not necessary to package them all in one school? Furthermore, those who are good prospects for high-tech training are NOT students who have already dropped out. "Hands-on" training does not cure their problems. Businesses needing workers trained in high-tech skills will tell you that those students must first be adequately educated in BASIC skills.

Has anyone at 75 Calhoun canvassed the high-tech needs of local industries? Have any local industries come to CCSD asking for programs? Successful high-tech programs are always sponsored in conjunction with large employers in an area. For example, furniture-making programs around High Point, North Carolina, produced workers for that industry years ago. The superintendent made the following noises in this regard:
"Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley said she's committed to starting the program, which will teach hands-on lessons to prepare students for technology-based careers in areas such as advanced security, automotive fields and aviation." [off the top of her head, or have these been identified as needs in our area?]

"But McGinley said she's not sure how the program will be funded. Plans call for Lowcountry Tech High to have more than $1 million even as officials are projecting a bleak funding situation. [?? have a million? what does that mean? Didn't the beginning of this article state that next year's budget includes no funding?] She said she will explore public-private partnerships and "progressive solutions" to pay for the program." ["progressive"? ah, yes, taxpayers' pockets, somehow; "private" partnerships should have been explored from the beginning!]

"'We think Lowcountry Tech is an important career academy for the community and students," she said. "The thinking we did on this concept is still valid. I'm committed to making it a reality.'"

"The school district got a grant from the World Monument Fund to begin planning Restoration High, a program to teach preservation arts, and the Broad Foundation matched that money. A project director, paid entirely from grants, will begin working with the school district in August to plan that program. McGinley said she hopes that person also will help develop Lowcountry Tech High."

How much was the grant? Why would the project director know anything about high-tech programs? Notice that the reporter failed to ask where the Restoration High program will be located, and McGinley did not volunteer that information. She also did not volunteer the "one-page overview of the program" that Bynum says was developed for high-tech high.

The most obvious concentration of need for "preservation arts" is on the peninsula; the most obvious place on the peninsula for the program is--drum roll--Burke High School. Given the logic, you can guarantee Burke High School is NOT where the program will land. Nor will it blossom at Garrett Academy, although, given its present orientation, it would be another logical place.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

CCSD Experiment Works? Drop It

Someone more in tune with CCSD may be able to explain what happened to the "conservation program with financial incentives of four years ago," as explained in Saturday's P & C. [See Schools' Goal: Energy Savings].

If I understand correctly, CCSD's two-year attempt at conserving energy was a resounding success, so much so that the district saved over $639 thousand in 2004-05. The schools that were successful at conserving energy received over $92 thousand to spend on their students' needs. But once the two-year program ran out, it was dropped. Why?

So, who dropped the ball? Doesn't anyone look at programs in CCSD to evaluate if they are working? Did CCSD think that the total saved was too small to bother with? Does the P & C reporter ever ask questions such as these?

Maybe Mark Cobb, the district's executive director of facility services, would have the answers.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Why Trust CCSD's New Discipline School?

Once upon a time a Chief Academic Officer named Nancy McGinley, probably following the lead of her mentors at the Broad Foundation, suggested that problem students in CCSD could be best handled by a for-profit company named Community Education Partners (CEP). The CCSD Board of Trustees, under the reign of Maria Johnson-Goodloe, undertook to build an appropriate building, as directed by CEP, once the decision was made. CEP then came to Charleston and ran the new school under its proposed guidelines.

Flash forward to the 2007-08 school year. CEP cannot keep qualified staff at the new Murray Hill Academy. Principals flee, one after another. Polite accusations fly between CEP and CCSD. In order to save money CCSD renegotiates its contract with CEP and plans to take over running the school.

Now note Sunday's lead for the article, Discipline School Plan Readied: "Charleston County School District's experiment with a private, for-profit company running its discipline school ended early and with little to no academic results."[italics added]

How many millions went to this "experiment"? The building cost $9 million. CEP charged about $3 million a year to run it. Now CCSD begins another experiment.

While smaller class sizes sound great, cycling students through faster does not. Given the multitude of discipline problems in CCSD's failing schools, only the 240 most recalcitrant are likely to be there at any one time. Will a semester (or less) with "an hour-long daily life skills class" taught by a counselor fix a problem that's taken years to create? Will "chang[ing] the atmosphere to feel more like other schools" make Murray Hill more effective, as new principal Myrna Caldwell wants to do? Why?

Is CCSD now embarking on another unproved experiment doomed to failure because it hasn't been fully thought out? That's what happened last time.

CCSD's Delay, Linger, & Wait Policy Works

I should let Sunday's P & C article [Change Sought to Policy] speak for itself (with some added italics):
"Charleston County schools are supposed to verify the address of every student this year, but district leaders plan to ask the school board to change that requirement. The school board passed a policy in January of last year aimed at preventing parents from lying about their addresses to attend specific schools. District leaders failed to make plans to implement the policy until late last summer, so they decided to phase it in with five magnet schools."
"The address verification policy was the board's response to downtown parents questioning addresses of certain students enrolled in Buist Academy, the only excellent-rated magnet school on the peninsula. Downtown residents accused some of the school's parents of lying about their addresses to better their children's chances of acceptance into the school."
Actually, downtown residents PROVED that some parents were lying about their addresses, but CCSD chose to ignore the facts!
"Buist Academy was one of the five schools required to do the address checks this past school year, and it was the only school that verified students' addresses in a different manner. The other four magnet schools checked students' addresses against the manner in which they came into the school." [Gee, how did that discrepancy creep in?]
"McGinley said she would go back to the board July 21 to talk about the conflicting manner in which schools are verifying addresses to get feedback on what the board wanted to see happen."These questions are unique to Buist, and we have to investigate them," she said." [It doesn't take any imagination to guess what Gregg Meyers and his ilk want. She's hoping he has rounded up the votes.]
Too bad that Superintendent McGinley has decided to continue in lockstep with her predecessors. She could have begun a new era of trust in CCSD with a tough verification policy that would have put to rest the deserved reputation of cheaters at Buist. Think of the sham (i.e., unverifiable) lottery and inappropriately used test for entering kindergardeners as well as the address cheats. She's simply serving the interests of the "deserving" rich. Apparently, that's what "Charleston Achieving Excellence" means to her.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

CCSD Superintendent Preys on Public Ignorance

What is it about "scholarship" totals that educrats like Superintendent Nancy McGinley can't comprehend? I've blogged about this idiocy previously, but McGinley's latest letter (posted on the CCSD website) brings it to mind again.

After parroting all of the usual platitudes regarding "Charleston Achieving Excellence" [sorry to nitpick, but shouldn't that be "Charleston's"? or "Charleston: Achieving Excellence"?], McGinley writes,
"Already, we are seeing results. We just got our scholarship information in, and the numbers are exceptional. CCSD seniors earned a total of $42,257,783 in scholarships in 2008. This was an increase of $5,934,282 over last year."
I may be accused of beating a dead horse here, but this is a phony-baloney number in ANY year! The number is the self-reported sum times four of all money offered to students by every school the students applied to. For example, if a student applied to Charleston Southern and was awarded a package of $8000 for the freshman year (including loans and grants) because of financial need, that $8000 was multiplied by four and $32,000 was added into McGinley's total. The "scholarship" part of this merely is that the student was accepted at Charleston Southern. Now assume that the student applied to three such schools. That would make the student's total $96,000. Sounds good, doesn't it? Of course, the student may have decided to attend Trident Tech instead, meaning that all the money awarded from those three institutions became moot. As more and more students apply to multiple schools, the "scholarship" total will rise accordingly. The poorer the students are, the faster it will go.

Of course, some of the total represents real scholarship (that is, based on academics, not financial need), but in the last thirty years or so the bulk of money awarded has been based on financial need. If a student gets into Harvard and needs a "full ride" financially, that's what he or she will get; if the same student were very wealthy, he or she would get nothing. Does that mean the wealthy student isn't a scholar?

Look, McGinley knows these details full well. She and others like her quote such numbers to prey on the ignorance of the public at large. After all, $42 million in scholarships sounds great. Of course, the present superintendent didn't start this idiocy, but she could stop it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Real Story on CCSD Summer School

"Enrollment dropped from about 525 students last year to 185 students this year" is the REAL story about CCSD's 2008 summer school. [See District Might Try to Eliminate Summer School to Save Money.] That's in ONE year. So what gives?

I've reached the point where I don't really put much credence in how the P & C handles stories like this one, especially the numbers they contain. For example, did the district expect to have the same numbers as in the past, or did the district's offering of not even half as many courses (11 instead of 25) in high school cause the drop? Was it in the summer of 2007 that the $100,000 overrun occurred? If so, does CCSD expect a cost overrun again this summer, or was the overrun an excuse or result of bad planning?

The article says that this "might be the last year of summer school for elementary and middle schools." CCSD's solution is to allow enrollment in the next grade while remediating the student for the previous grade. So how is the student supposed to be successful in the (presumably) more difficult subject when the student hasn't yet mastered the previous one?

And if the number of students who enrolled this summer in high school courses was much lower than the district expected, what change does THAT suggest? You got it. The number of students who failed courses needed to graduate is down. Why, that MUST be a result of the superintendent's mantra that excellence is our standard. Not.

Also, how much do these online courses cost? Are they aligned with CCSD's course offerings? Having investigated online remediation for another school several years ago, I know that these courses can vary in quality from a joke to a rigorous learning experience.

Gee, I wonder why Berkeley County and Dorchester District 2 aren't having these problems.

Forget the Economy: CCSD Board Sinks to New Low

I hate profanity. If anyone called me a bitch to my face, I'd probably slap him. My father, who as a former Marine probably knew plenty, never used profanity at any time around me when I was growing up. Arthur Ravenel, Jr., revealed to me by his choice of words to a woman that he is no Southern gentleman, but then I never thought he was. I am still offended by any profanity that I hear used by my peers and can't even imagine the duress I would need to be under to use it in the classroom. There.

That said, can we get real here?

Monday night's CCSD School Board meeting was a classic of its kind. [See New Behavior Standards for Members Proposed]. It's politics, folks. This is appeasement of our lovely, ineffective NAACP, as represented by Dot Scott. Why, if the new policy were made retroactive, Hillery Douglas himself would be in the dock! I'll support the policy when every student who calls a teacher a bitch will be sent to Murray Hill Academy or expelled. That will be a cold day in hell.

The Meyers faction is proposing to use its 5-4 majority to expell ELECTED members of the Board who oppose it, pure and simple. Ravenel not only opposes them; he has the contacts to do it effectively. [BTW, there was a time when I wouldn't have believed that I would ever defend Ravenel!] You don't really believe this is about bad language, do you? If so, please see me later about my bridge in Brooklyn.

We have yet to hear from CCSD's new attorney on the legality of the Board's ousting an elected member. Frankly, until I hear otherwise from state sources, I refuse to believe it. Even Meyers admitted that taking such action would be a "'zoo.'" Zoo? It would be a witch hunt! Can you imagine the trumped up charges that would routinely appear in attempts to get those who don't "go along to get along" with Meyers?

This is about intimidation of members who choose to disagree. The P & C is happy to go along with it. If you read the article carefully, you will see that Ravenel's original outburst concerned failure to put an item on the Board's agenda. It states, "He also told McGinley he'd have her job if she didn't put a certain item on the school board's agenda, according to McGinley's account." Our wonderful newspaper neglects to mention what that item was. Can you guess what?

It was approval of arrangements for CSMS to use the Rivers campus. If the item had not been added to that agenda, CSMS would have lost out on using the campus. See, the plot thickens.