Monday, December 26, 2016

SC Must Fund Busing for Charter Schools

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A bird's-eye view on any given school day will show yellow school buses crisscrossing the streets, highways, and bridges of Charleston County. What it won't show is buses for CCSD's charter schools, with the exception of the Charter School for Math and Science (CSMS), the most integrated school in the entire district. Perhaps there's no magic to CSMS's distinction, merely that provided by busing.

Let's get real. The Charleston County School District must provide busing for all public school students, both charter and non-charter. They're all attending public schools, after all. 

In the poorer neighborhoods of Charleston County, parents and guardians frequently have no recourse to cars or taxis to transport their children to the wide selection of charter schools that they might hope to attend. 

It's time to end this discrimination that imprisons them in failing schools. 

Little wonder that Charleston County has the most segregated schools in the state!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hope for Change at US Department of Education

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Freedom of choice heads the agenda of the newly-nominated head of the US Department of Education. Betsy DeVos wants parents in charge of where their children get educated. 

What a thought! Zip code won't determine whether a child receives a good education!

As columnist Paul Greenberg has noted, "Who knows, it may just be the beginning of a bright new era in American education instead of the end of one." 

Why, if zip code doesn't matter, even segregated housing patterns might change. 😮

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Time for CCSD to Fix Jane Edwards Elementary, After Apologizing

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A last-minute rescue from the chopping block has energized folks on Edisto Island to think bigger for Jane Edwards Elementary in hopes of saving it permanently. The disgrace is what previous Charleston County SchooI District administrations have done, or should we say, not done, to get the school where it is today. 

Wonder why it's not attracting more students?
"Jane Edwards doesn't have a real gymnasium, so students take physical education in an empty classroom filled with some basic equipment. Their baseball field desperately needs repairs. One volunteer described the pre-school playground as "a disaster." 
"The school doesn't even have a teacher for every grade after the district changed its staff allocation formula. This year, two teachers are charged with managing "combination classes," one for second- and third-graders, and another for fourth- and fifth-graders. Until last fall, with Edisto resident Jack DiLuna's help, Jane Edwards hadn't fielded athletic teams for years.
The Friends of Jane Edwards, led by Paul Oakley, have some great ideas. We wonder why the school district hadn't come up with any of them:
"stronger academics, gifted and talented programs, and investments in early childhood education, including Head Start and on-site child care. For teenagers and adults, they propose literacy, GED, English for Speakers of Other Languages and virtual high school programs.
"They also want to form partnerships with Trident Technical College, College of Charleston, businesses like Boeing and nonprofits like the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society. They want to redraw attendance lines and add middle school grades to boost enrollment. And they want programs other elementary schools in the county take for granted, such as after-school sports and extracurricular activities.[italics mine]
Now it's your turn, CCSD.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

SC Educators Oppose Schools' Being Graded

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If North Carolina and Georgia can do it, why can't we? In fact, 17 states now rate schools on an A through F grading system. They use that because "non-educators" readily understand what it means. South Carolina educators say we can't do that! We want a grading system that's not so transparent.

Well, actually district superintendents, state Department of Education officials, and teachers' representatives avoid using the word "transparent." Instead they have told the Education Oversight Committee that "grades are subject to interpretation."

Unlike in other states, don 'cha know.

Instead, a spokesman for the Department of Education wants "rating how schools perform in each category with phrases ranging from 'exceeds expectations' to 'fails to meet expectations'--without giving a cumulative rating."

There. That'll confuse everybody. Furthermore, if our expectations (non-specified) are low enough, we'll never need to use the lowest category.

The Education Oversight Committee hopes to replace the present system with one that's "simple to understand and more informative."  

Good luck with that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Give Charleston County Residents the Edge for Popular Magnet Schools!

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The statistics speak volumes: Berkeley and Dorchester County residents have figured out that they can take advantage of Charleston County's Academic Magnet and School of the Arts without living in the district. 

One third of Academic Magnet's ninth graders did not attend Charleston County public schools.

One quarter of the School of the Arts sixth graders did not attend Charleston County public schools.

What those statistics prove is that many Charleston County students have been frozen out of these selective schools. Why must CCSD put up with it?

Yes, we know that out-of-county students can become eligible with parents' owning as little as $300 worth of county property. That's bad enough, but it's the law. Even if the number were raised to $30,000, these students most likely would still be eligible to take places from county residents. 

There must be a way to improve CCSD's students' chances in addition to improving its academic standards. Surely all the talent at 75 Calhoun can propose a plan that will meet legal requirements.

Time to get to work! Make Emerson earn his keep.

Monday, December 12, 2016

CCSD Takes Top Honors as Most Segregated in SC

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In case you were under the illusion that the Charleston County School District, consolidated in the 1970s to force integration, actually is integrated, one look at the latest state statistics should disabuse you of that chimera. Of course, students need not fear being shut out of Wando because they are black; they simply live in other parts of the district and go to high schools that are de facto black. Those who do live in its attendance zone or whose parents know how to work the system win the lottery.

See, we have strange anomalies such as Memminger Elementary, the school closest to the wealthiest white neighborhoods on the peninsula. It's also de facto black. According to a spokesman for the State Department of Education, "Charleston is a strange anomaly. I think Charleston, of any of the districts, has the largest discrepancy between, I guess you would say, rich and poor. You have some of the wealthiest of the wealthy and the poorest of the poor, and they're not that far away from each other." The richest are white; the poorest are black.

When was the last time attendance zones changed in the heart of the district? What prevents the attendance zone of under-utilized Burke High (another segregated high school) from extending across the Cooper to take in older neighborhoods in Mt. Pleasant? Please don't say distance, not when thousands of students are bussed hither and yon all over the district every day.

Part of the problem is lingering racial attitudes. Part of the problem is low academic and behavioral expectations in historically black schools. Part of the problem is housing patterns. Part of the problem is historically black schools' wishing to keep their identities. 

If you're looking to turn over a new leaf in 2017, surely these obviously segregated educational patterns are the place to start.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

CCSD's Minnie Hughes Students in the Great Outdoors

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It's a relief to see that collaboration does take place between the College of Charleston and the Charleston County School District. Some of us have wondered why the district does not partner more frequently with C of C. A case in point is the recent project on 18th-century naturalist and artist Mark Catesby at Minnie Hughes Elementary. Included in the project is SCETV, all working under the aegis of the Catesby Commemorative Trust. 

The C of C Education Department developed the project's parameters, and C of C education professors help its implementation. Early this month second-graders of Minnie Hughes visited Dixie Plantation, also owned by C of C, to practice Catesby's methods of first drawing from nature and then filling in more scientific details. 

Needless to say, these students were thrilled to be out of the classroom and in a natural setting for their project. One professor suggested that, "Some of these children had never been in 'real' nature before. They were amazed."

I'm also amazed that students who attend a school that most Charlestonians would consider in the "boonies" have never experienced "real" nature.  No parent or caregiver has ever taken them out into the woods, fields, and marshes practically within sight of Minnie Hughes? 

That's just plain sad.

Friday, December 09, 2016

West Ashley High Reveals Progress in Gender Equality

This week's cafeteria brawl at West Ashley High School succeeded in setting a new high (or low) in equality of the sexes. Probably after an incendiary social media post, staff had to break up a fight, and 10 students were suspended.

What's new about that, you ask?

Girls. That's 10 girls who were suspended. 

Got 'cha, didn't I?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

CCSD Should Resign Itself to Including a Charter School at Burke

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Does anyone else remember the building war over space for the Charter School of Math and Science? It seemed to be never ending. Now that CSMS enjoys its place as the most integrated school in the entire Charleston County School District, voices are quiet over its use of the former Rivers High School building.

How about Allegro? Steve Bailey's op-ed this week lays down the gauntlet to the school district over providing space at Burke for this up-and-coming charter school.  Burke's enrollment at 95 percent black on a peninsula that has been majority white for decades and its largely empty building are emblematic of what's wrong in CCSD. What will it take to break the logjam and create another integrated high school downtown?

Bailey states, 
"Burke and Allegro together may be able to do what Burke could not do alone. “They have an opportunity to make a community that will serve everyone,” says Pete Lawrence, who was captain of Burke’s football team in 1967 under legendary Coach Modie Risher. “It cannot be a school for just one segment of the community."
"The Charleston County School District — and thus Burke — didn’t want to talk about any of this. A host of people didn’t want to see this in print. But tell me this: If we can’t even talk about what divides us, how are we ever going to make it better?
See the rest here:

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

CCSD Must Step Away From the Edublob

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Just in case anyone has forgotten, let me remind you that the Charleston County School District suffered an $18 million shortfall not too long ago. The chances that the district will soon ask for a tax increase are overwhelming.

Wouldn't you be curious to know why the Lastinger Center received a $350,000 contract to retrain CCSD's literacy coaches "as part of the district's planned literacy overhaul"? Since 2002 this start up from the University of Florida has gobbled up millions of dollars from the State of Florida as well as the US Department of Education. Now it believes that the State of South Carolina should follow its lead by implementing Algebra Nation at a cost of $1.5 million. Really? I hope our state legislature has more sense.

Perhaps Superintendent Postlewait does. She suggests a pilot program combining CCSD with Berkeley and Dorchester County School Districts.

While South Carolina's oversimplification of end-of-course tests for Algebra lulled parents into a false sense of security, the low scores on the national college-ready benchmark ACT stripped off the mask. If only one-third of juniors met the mark, how did 89 percent pass the Algebra exam?

Rather than sending millions to Florida, let's look in-state for solutions.

Forget the edublob.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Johns Island Residents Seek to Integrate Public Schools

I know. The newspaper's headline reads "improve area schools," but that's not the true goal. 

Some white residents who have moved to Johns Island are tired of sending their children to school elsewhere. However, Johns Island's CCSD elementary schools need to "improve" in order to integrate. The devil is in the details. Concerned white parents will tell you the schools fall short in many areas. What they don't say is that it will take a major effort among white parents on Johns Island to overcome the reality of de facto black schools. 

Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait encourages the formation of a "diverse community board or panel to help govern the school" instead of the formation of yet another charter school. That's all very well and good, but the devil is in the details as usual. Who will have the authority--the administration, the school board, or the community board?

To "honor the history" of Angel Oak Elementary, a school that has "historically served black students" without removing its black culture will destroy attempts to integrate. White parents are happy to have a diverse school as long as it doesn't come with a black culture. What they desire is the color-blind, middle-class culture found in truly integrated schools. The community board and CCSD must recognize that fact, or the effort will be doomed from the start.

It's taken decades for the Charleston County School District to achieve its de facto segregated schools. 

These parents need all the help they can get.

Friday, December 02, 2016

CCSD Can't Afford Tax Dollar Giveaway

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Does anyone remember an $18-million-dollar shortfall in the Charleston County school budget? Certainly, the reporter failed to remind us in a recent article about the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) now approved by the county for an area of West Ashley. Oh, yes. The CCSD School Board compromised and gave up only 45 percent of revenues from the TIF for the next twenty years or so. 

This maneuver should be called "go along and get along." The developers who carry so much power in Charleston County want to grease the skids. Pressure on the school district brought about this agreement. It stinks. 

If common sense reigned, the district would refrain from draining its revenues. 

Go figure.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

CCSD Teacher Discovers Gullah Dialect!

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Sometimes you wonder what the administration and school board trustees know about the students of Charleston County. I state this because I remember only too well that after an expose in the local rag, the Charleston County School District discovered that reading was important, launching into a plethora of reading catch-up programs as a result.

Now we have, thanks to teachers at Baptist Hill High and board trustee Michael Miller, a sudden focus on the facts of language in the district, namely that rural students, mostly black, don't sound like they're from Ohio. Instead, their speech patterns reveal heavy influence of dialect, namely Gullah. Who knew?

[insert sarcastic comment here]

English teachers constantly deal with all sorts of nonstandard language in the classroom. They always have. Native speakers from Thailand don't know the use of articles (a, the). Students from the Caribbean write in syntax confusing to Americans. Students taught in India reveal long, involved sentences produced previously for British-English teachers. The syntax a baby learns to use remains the default for life. The nonstandard language spoken regularly by parents is a problem only if the teacher makes it one. The way all people speak and the standard English needed for writing are two different languages, if you like.

Your parents and friends (and even the TV announcer) say, "Where are you at?" That's acceptable these days in most contexts, but "Where are you" still remains standard.

"Kids, get off of the sofa!" may be what students hear at home, but "Get off the sofa" remains standard in writing.

I'm using these examples to show that all students need instruction in standard English, not just rural blacks, not just southerners. K J Kearney's comments that "In Charleston if you sound like you're from Charleston, people automatically think you sound stupid" reveal that he hasn't lived outside the South for any length of time. K J--the reality is that outside of the south if you speak with even a southern accent, forget dialect, people assume you are stupid! The only people in the Lowcountry who think blacks (and whites) are stupid because they talk "southern" moved here from New Jersey, Ohio, and [fill in non-southern state here].

Is it possible that schools heavily laden with Gullah-influenced speakers need teachers who grew up in the Lowcountry, South Carolina, and the south? Perhaps culture shock would not then be a problem.

Meanwhile, learning about the fascinating Gullah dialect would be far more useful to teachers than ESOL. These students don't speak a foreign language. They speak a recognized dialect of English!