Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beg, Borrow, or Steal in CCSD?

Search this article for me, please, and tell me when or if or how the money borrowed for operating expenses will be paid back to building funds. Bill Would Aid Strapped Schools

Nary a mention.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CCSD School Board Opts for Long-Term Planning

Wonders will never cease. Next thing you know Superintendent McGinley will voluntarily give up the fat increase she received in her transportation allowance when gasoline was near $5 per gallon!

Well, maybe wonders won't go that far, but the CCSD School Board's common sense vote on Monday night does show that if parents are vocal enough, the Board does listen. [See Staying Put in the on-line edition.)

Now is the time to plan for long-term (and sensible) alterations to existing buildings in CCSD. How about a second opinion on those five identified "seismically deficient" ones? How about other buildings that might be at risk (such as the old Academic Magnet campus, ridiculously suggested as a place to house students from other deficient buildings).

The result for the Superintendent will be that her list of problem schools will remain the same, and Bill Lewis will be unhappy.

Meanwhile, sales tax or property tax increases? Can anyone at 75 Calhoun hear the mood of the taxpayers yet?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel in CCSD

In Sunday's installment of the P&C's series on literacy in our schools, it becomes painfully obvious what's wrong locally (and state-wide) with our schools and our institutions that grant degrees in education: they're just discovering practices used for decades in other states.

In Working Together, an article on placement of teaching assistants in classrooms, the reader learns that "First-grade classrooms typically don't have teaching assistants." And that "The district set aside about $350,000 in federal stimulus money for the two-year program, but that money runs out at the end of the next fiscal year."

"Through the Literacy Intern Project, the district covers most of the tuition and fees for graduate students to earn a master's degree in teaching as well as their salaries to work as teaching assistants. Afterward, participants commit to teaching in a high-poverty district school for three years."

Perhaps these students need a master's degree because they have no undergraduate degree in teaching. Otherwise, the qualifications ought to be described as overkill. A teacher needs a graduate degree in teaching to teach reading? No.

By my count Charleston County has at least three large educational institutions granting undergraduate degrees in education. Why has not each of them had an ongoing relationship with CCSD in which students who plan to become teachers are in the classroom from their very first year of study, building up to being teaching assistants as part of getting their teaching credentials?

Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Too many discover during their first year of teaching that they can't handle the classroom and never return to teaching. What a waste of their time and everyone else's.

We don't need federal stimulus money to carry out such a program.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another CCSD Dog-and-Pony Show

In regard to the five CCSD schools that "would begin to fail" in a 5.0 earthquake, we bring you the earth-shattering (pun intended) news that
  • parents of children who are attending their neighborhood school are against busing their children all over creation, while
  • parents of magnet school students are happy to bus their children to another school since the children are already being bused.

That encapsulates all the hot air being expended in CCSD's "seismic deficiencies" meetings. [See Parents Split over Possible Moves in Thursday's P&C.]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shakeup at CCSD's Sixth-Grade Academy

Paint it any way you wish, Dr. McGinley, but this year's Sixth-Grade Academy fell short of its promise. [See Literacy Shake-up Planned in Wednesday's P&C.]

Nevertheless, the District will forge ahead with more academies in other areas. Is it my imagination, or is the Superintendent adding yet another level of bureaucracy to these planned academies by making the original principal supervise the others?

I'm with Board member Ruth Jordan: "'I think we need to look at how it's going to roll out,' she said. 'I don't want this to just be another gimmick.'"


Monday, April 19, 2010

Burns Not CCSD Initiative

In the misleading leads department: "The academic failure of Edmund A. Burns Elementary in North Charleston has persisted for so long that Charleston County school leaders plan to fundamentally change the school this fall." [See Burns Elementary to Be Reconstituted This Fall in Monday's on-line edition.]

Call rewrite!

What the lead should say: "The academic failure of Edmund A. Burns Elementary in North Charleston has persisted for so long that guidelines under No Child Left Behind have forced Charleston County school leaders to fundamentally change the school this fall."

So far, changes that Superintendent McGinley has seen as the most effective include assigning four different principals during the past five years.

Well, that should have done it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

SC's Appalling Lack of Language Study

Appended to an article in Wednesday's P&C regarding the study of Mandarin in two local schools [see Teaching Chinese a Bow to the Future] were the following eye-opening statistics:

What is offered

The state collected information from its more than 1,100 public schools on the foreign languages they offer this school year:

Language / Number of schools

Spanish / 420

French / 200

German / 50

Latin / 38

Chinese / 10

Arabic / 0

Korean / 0

Japanese / 0

Russian / 0

Source: S.C. Dept. of Education

Since overlap undoubtedly occurs with some high schools (the "haves") offering multiple languages (i.e., Spanish and French or Spanish, French, and German, etc.), it does appear that the majority of public high schools in South Carolina offer no foreign languages at all!

Want to bet against the majority of high schools' having football teams?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Literacy Forges Ahead in CCSD

Another in Courrege's series on literacy in CCSD appeared in Sunday's P&C. Too bad this one is marred by one-sided sourcing from those who have the most to gain by looking good. [See Literacy Initiatives Show Progress.]

By even this biased account, as the lead states, "Dozens of Charleston County students are reading better as a result of the school district's newest literacy initiatives, and hundreds more will be given the same chance next year." Let's hope that "dozens" means at least seven or eight dozen (84 or 96) and not two or three dozen (24 or 36) after all this time and effort!

See, here's the administrative attitude that's led to the present state of affairs: "
Students who needed the extra help this year could refuse it without consequence, but next school year those who turn it down will not be allowed to go on to the next grade." Why were they allowed to "refuse it without consequence"? This practice equates to telling a child to go to bed and then ignoring his or her staying up all night. Neither scenario promises the student will be in good shape to learn in school.

Amazingly enough, for once I find myself in agreement with Gregg Meyers's statements about continuing the third-grade academies:

". . .board member Gregg Meyers told the superintendent at a recent board meeting that the board couldn't have made it any more clear that making sure every child can read is its highest priority. If the third-grade academies are needed and working, he said the superintendent should make sure that program happens, as well as the one for first-graders.

"This is the most important thing we do," he said. "Let's make sure we do it. … If we get nothing else right, we want to get this right. I think we need to stay aggressive about this."

Gepford said officials have been working since then to find money so the third-grade academies can continue.

I vote for furloughing two of Superintendent McGinley's associate superintendents and gutting her transportation allowance. That should help considerably.

Despite sugar-coating from Doug Gepford (he wants to keep his job), the Sixth-Grade Academy is not doing as well, at least if you count in students whose reading scores fell during the program.

What's that, you say? How can reading scores go backwards? Actually what's not clear is why CCSD chose to place students who were "higher performing" "better readers" into a remedial program with the district's worst readers. Why not have an even smaller academy instead? Were the parents of these students even aware of what was happening? Were those parents so desperate to get them out of another school that they presumed anything else would be better?

Is there some reason that the reporter couldn't ask these questions?

Finally, for all of you who have struggled through algebra out there, I have a great quote:
"Gepford said math is easier to teach than reading because it's more concrete and easier to understand. Learning to read is a more complex process that involves multiple skills, he said."
What Gepford means is that math is more objective, not more concrete, at least not once you leave the realm of 2 plus 2! However, perhaps he misspoke and meant that math is easier to learn? Or easier for the teacher to understand how to teach?

Ask anyone who's tried to raise SAT scores whether it's easier to raise the verbal or math components, and you will get the same response as the Sixth-Grade Academy's results.

Math tests measure skills; reading tests measure skills and common knowledge. If CCSD seriously wants to raise reading scores, it must teach both.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Why Does It Take a Charter School?

Don't even go there.

I mean, don't even try to imagine how much outdated technology has landed in the garbage containers of CCSD's schools over the last 20 years. We already know the stories of pulling perfectly good textbooks out of them. Let's not torture ourselves.

According to Thursday's P&C, Orange Grove CHARTER Elementary has had a better idea--recycle it to raise money. While this idea may seem obvious, apparently it never has occurred to the folks at 75 Calhoun. See School Recycling Old Technology.

If CCSD has done so before, I will be glad to be proved wrong. Meanwhile, if you wish to support Orange Grove Charter, here is a list of desired obsolete items:
The school is recycling used cell phones, inkjet and laser cartridges, laptops, PDAs, iPods, video games, GPS Systems, DVD's, scientific and graphing calculators, LCD monitors and digital cameras.
These may be dropped off at the school between April 12 and 14.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Results of CCSD Building Programs

South Carolina's school districts are running short on funds for daily classroom instruction as legislators cut funds during this fiscal crisis.

School districts continue to expand highly-paid administrative staff and raise salaries of administrators, such as Charleston County's Nancy McGinley, to unwarranted levels while begging for more funds for daily classroom instruction

Funding for elaborate new schools full of the latest technology continues independently of daily classroom necessities, thanks to the taxing and funding "systems" now in place.

Is it any wonder that ordinary citizens and taxpayers are confused about the district's need for more money? That taxpayers are likely to say "no" to a new sales tax to fund them? See Outlook for Schools Seen as Dire in Wednesday's P&C.

Here's a comment on that article that indicates the feelings of many:
"I'm confused. Every day I pass by a construction site in Dorchester 2 on Patriots Parkway where a new elementary building is going up. How is this possible if 'we're essentially out of business.'"