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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

Are we doing all we can do to prepare our students for the world of today? See this video and others on that topic here:

Are you doing all you can to prepare yourself for the world of tomorrow?

April 28 Board Meeting Notes

The full Rock Hill Board of Trustees met on Monday, April 28.  The following action was taken:

Approved by a 5-1-1 vote to install a new scoreboard at District Three Stadium and to modify the scoreboard at District Three South Stadium at a cost not to exceed $175,000. Silverman voted against the motion in opposition to using operating funds for this purpose and Vining did not vote for the motion because capital funds were available but not used and the operating funds should have been used for one time educational purposes.

Approved by a 7-0 vote to allow the YMCA to use the Flex Center Gym and two classrooms this summer.

Approved by a 7-0 vote the Administration's recommendation for leadership positions as follows:
        Takela Burns and Larry Christopher Curtis as Assistant Principals at Dutchman Creek Middle School
        Michael Waiksnis as Principal of Sullivan Middle School.

Approved by a 7-0 vote the consent agenda of minutes, personnel recommendations, debt refinancing, and an overnight field trip.

The Board recognized the following students for participating in YouLead York County:
        Danielle Kutz and Ty Youngblood from Northwestern High School
        Catherine Dixon, Sally Horne, and Richard Lee from Rock Hill High School
        Hannah Finch, Taylor Skaggs, and Patrick Williams from South Pointe High School

The Board heard the Superintendent report on Teacher Appreciation Days (May 5 - 9), the next work session will be at Saluda Trail Middle School (May 12), the May Business Meeting will be on Tuesday, May 27 because of the Memorial Day holiday, and the District Retirement banquet will be on May 30 at the City Club (expect 25 to retire).

Dr. Kokolis, Geometry Teacher Lynn Bogan, English Teacher Joe Koon, and Technology Specialist Joel Whiteside gave a Technology report.  You can view examples of Mr. Koon's student work here:

Principal Mary Chandler gave a report on the recently completed, and very successful, Saturday School for 4th and 5th graders. Between 100 and 120 students participated in 11 sessions during the spring semester.

Bill Mabry gave a brief update on the budgeting process.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Using Technology To Communicate School Information

The State Newspaper has an article in today's paper  ( about using the web to communicate with  students, teachers, and the community (actually the world). This is something public schools have been slow to grasp - I suspect largely because they don't see this as one of their core beliefs for educating children. I believe this is the future and it's the schools responsibility to prepare students for it.  Not using technology - or allowing students to use it - is not preparing our students for the rest of their lives.

So why are schools so hesitant to allow this use?  One reason may be found in today's Washington Post  ( ). Quite often, authors don't realize the implications with posting items on the internet.  However, the Open Education Blog  ( ) has a great interview with an elementary principal, David Sherman.  He asks the question, “Protect or Prepare: Which is better for children?” . He goes on to state, "We are very fortunate to work in a school district which places a high value on the use of educational technologies, so many valuable sites are not blocked including YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr,, and other social networking sites. Of course, we have strong filters protecting students from inappropriate material, but generally speaking, we believe that our responsibility as educators in the 21st Century is to teach students how to use the Internet responsibility as opposed to automatically shutting them out of everything which is done in too many schools through the world and across our country.

If you are concerned about how best to use technology, I suggest a visit to Open Education and a follow up to one of David's sites.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Who is Howard Rich?

Some say he is trying to buy the government in SC. Find out one side to the story here:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rock Hill Schools Board Meeting - April 28

Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Monday, April 28, 2008

6:00 p.m. - District Office Board Room


I. Call to Order

Approval of Agenda

(Under consent agenda, all action items will be voted on after one motion
and second to approve them without discussion. If a board member wants any
action item discussed or voted on separately, the board

member, before the agenda is approved, must ask that the action item be
moved to the discussion item section.)

II. Executive Session - Personnel and Legal Matters

III. Citizen Participation

IV. Special Business - Recognition of Graduates of "YouLead York County"

V. Consent Action Agenda

A. Approval of Minutes

1. March 15, 2008, Board Retreat

2. March 24, 2008, business meeting

3. April 14, 2008, work session

B. Approval of Personnel Recommendations

C. Approval of Overnight Field Trip Request

D. Approval of Bond Refinancing

VI. Communications - None

VII. Report of the Superintendent

A. Announcements

B. Technology Report

C. Saturday School Report

D. Preliminary Budget Report

VIII. Review of Work Session

IX. Action Agenda

A. Approval of Scoreboard for District Three Stadium

B. Approval of YMCA Use of the Flex Center Gym and Two Classrooms

X. Other Business

XI. Adjourn

Not on the Test

Many will find this video interesting. Visit Tom Chapin's web site at:

Sign the Petition for High Quality Education in South Carolina

April 2008


Dear Supporter of Public Education,

Today you can sign the petition for a constitutional amendment to insert "high quality education" into our state constitution, replacing the current South Carolina standard of a "minimally adequate education."


Go to , sign the petition and then forward it to friends and supporters of South Carolina's children.


We are shooting for 1,000,000 signatures. Let's make history. Sign and forward now!


Bud Ferillo

Sign the Petition!Now South Carolinians can take action on behalf of our state public school system. By signing the petition, you can join other South Carolinians in support of inserting a "high quality education, allowing each student to reach his highest potential" into our state constitution.  This new language will replace South Carolina's current state standard of "a minimally adequate education."

Legislation to change the state constitution must be passed by a 2/3rds vote of the Senate and House of Representatives in order to put the amendment on the general election ballot for public vote in November, 2010. Join us today!


In The News

Minimally Adequate Education "Unaffordable"





Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Nation at Risk at 25

Published by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. on April 22, 2008 in Educational Policy.

The following commentary appears in the current issue of Education Week.

In American educational history, A Nation at Risk is significant as a very dramatic official recognition in the 1980s that our schools were declining in effectiveness not only in relation to schools of other nations, but also in relation to our own results in earlier decades. In the 25 years since the report was issued, energetic reform efforts have been put forth, to small overall effect. The best single gauge of overall national school effectiveness—the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test of 12th graders––has remained flat, and has even declined slightly. This persistent lack of significant improvement is owing to the unwavering persistence of the very ideas that caused the decline in the first place—the repudiation of a definite academic curriculum in the early grades by the child-centered movement of the early 20th century. Given the continued content vagueness of state standards in early grades, especially in language arts, that underlying condition has not much changed. There is still no definite, coherent academic curriculum in the early grades. That is the principal source of the low academic achievement of our high school students.

The elementary grades are much more important than is apparently credited by philanthropies like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has recently been giving many millions to high school reform—with negligible results per dollar. For many years, the philanthropic and policy worlds have placed a lot of emphasis on the two ends of precollegiate education—high school and preschool. They are right about preschool—but not about high school. The general knowledge and vocabulary required for effective learning at the high school level are the fruits of a long process. The way to reform high school is to prepare students effectively in the elementary years to thrive there. If, in recent decades, high school has become a place where students are offered a smorgasbord of watered-down subjects, that is because watered-down subjects are all that our ill-educated students are now prepared to understand.

Philanthropies cannot be altogether blamed. In their emphasis on high school, they have followed the lead of A Nation at Risk,which was overwhelmingly concerned with high school. Its assumption was that the elementary years are foundational, and should be spent on the enabling skills of reading, writing, and reckoning. The authors therefore conceived the truly decisive arena for educational improvement to be grades 9-12, where there had been a severe decline in verbal and math scores. Indeed, for most of its length, A Nation at Risk ignored the first eight grades of schooling. Then, in its last pages, the report finally alluded to the early curriculum as follows:

The curriculum in the crucial eight grades leading to the high school years should be specifically designed to provide a sound base for study in those and later years in such areas as English language development and writing, computational and problem-solving skills, science, social studies, foreign language, and the arts. These years should foster an enthusiasm for learning and the development of the individual’s gifts and talents. (Page 72)

It was natural for the 18 members of the National Commission on Excellence in Education to seek reform where the most notable declines seemed to appear—and this emphasis on later grades was reinforced by the observation that the declines were being accompanied by ever more fragmented high school curricula. But when we take a longer historical perspective, the watering down of high school was less a cause of its lower scores than a consequence of a gradual decline of learning in pre-high-school grades. In rereading A Nation at Risk, I was reminded of the comment many years ago of a repairman who came to fix a leak in our washing machine. He asked my wife where the leak was, and she replied—“at the bottom.” He looked at her knowingly and said, “Yeah, that’s what they all say.”

“The writers of A Nation at Risk took the how-to view of early education which now dominates the American educational world. Any sensible content that develops the necessary foundational skills will do.”

The writers of A Nation at Risk took the how-to view of early education which now dominates the American educational world. Any sensible content that develops the necessary foundational skills will do. They cannot be faulted for taking this view. How could they think otherwise when there was such unanimity among experts? Here is how they described a hearing on “Language and Literacy,” held in April 1982:

A panel of five commission members … heard testimony regarding the development of the higher-order language skills necessary for academic learning. Six invited speakers presented national perspectives on teaching reading, writing, and second languages, and discussed related concerns with the commission members. Sixteen other speakers presented their views on the hearing topics, predominantly from regional and local perspectives. The general theme provided by the witnesses was that the language skills that should be emphasized were the more sophisticated, integrated, concept-oriented skills of comprehension and composition. (Page 55)

Throughout their report, the commissioners implied that the battle for educational improvement in the early grades would be won when they went beyond the basics and emphasized these “higher-order skills.” As a consequence, neither the commissioners nor their witnesses said anything about the actual content of early schooling. The path to improvement was considered to lie less in the substance of the first eight grades than in developing higher-order proficiencies regardless of the topics studied.

Decades later, elementary schools continue to follow the advice of the anti-curriculum experts, and work to achieve higher-order skills like “critical thinking” and “problem-solving.” Yet, according to international studies, these turn out to be the very skills that our students lack compared with students in Asian and European countries that have placed less emphasis on formal skills and more emphasis on coherent year-to-year subject matter. Higher-order skills are important, but they are not gained best by endlessly focusing on them. Anybody who is reading this probably possesses the skills advocated by A Nation at Risk. They can read the words with comprehension, and think about them critically. Somehow we have gained these higher-order skills without being taught them directly. Few of us learned critical thinking by taking lessons in critical thinking.

How did we manage that? Cognitive science is clear on the point—through practice. By the time A Nation at Risk was published in 1983, cognitive psychology had achieved a consensus about the importance of long practice and the content-based character of most academic skills. But the science of psychology was not often alluded to in A Nation at Risk, and today, 25 years later, there is still little crossover between cognitive science and educational policy.

A Nation at Risk simply assumed that gaining an academic skill such as reading or reckoning is independent of the specific curricular content through which the skill is taught. This is wrong. There is a scientific consensus that academic skill is highly dependent on specific relevant knowledge.

In his superb book The Number Sense, Stanislas Dehaene makes an observation about high expertise in mathematics that has general application to most academic skills. He asked how it could be that some people who are only very modestly above average in basic math abilities should, after a time, perform astonishing feats of mental calculation—far beyond what ordinary people can achieve. The key, it turns out, is the little phrase “after a time.” Mental calculators are made, not born. They begin with a tiny basic advantage in math ability. This leads them to take pleasure in math. The process of doing problems and practicing calculations is a rewarding activity for them, and they practice math more and more. Those of us who lack that tiny initial edge take less pleasure in the activity and practice it much less.

What makes a math genius is thus in large part what makes a great musical performer—a small advantage in talent leads, over time, with long effort, to a big advantage in achievement—as in the old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.” In general, it is not some Kryptonitic superiority of Superman-like endowment that accounts for high expertise in any subject, but rather tenacity of practice (lasting on average some 10 years). What is true for math and music is also true for language abilities. Wide knowledge and a large vocabulary—the prerequisites to high achievement in high school—are gradual accretions. You cannot gain them by a sudden intensive incursion into high school.

The time is ripe for a new edition of A Nation at Risk that gives due attention to the need for a definite academic core curriculum in the early years. With a slow, tenacious, and effective buildup of knowledge and vocabulary in elementary school, high school will almost take care of itself.

Good teachers teach to the test
That's because it's eminently sound pedagogy.
By Walt Gardner

from the April 17, 2008 edition

Los Angeles - I have a confession to make. For the entire 28 years that I taught high school English, I taught to the test. And I'm proud to finally admit it.

I know that fessing up to this perceived transgression will reflexively draw clamor from everyone with children in school. That's because teaching to the test is considered tantamount to cheating on your income tax returns. But stay with me here: This type of reaction is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of both curriculum and instruction.

If we're being honest, teaching to the test is done by almost all other effective teachers. In fact, I did so – along with many other an effective educator – way before teachers were evaluated on the basis of their students' ability to perform on the standardized tests that now constitute the sine qua non of accountability.

That's because it is eminently sound pedagogy.

There is a distinct difference between teaching to the broad body of skills and knowledge that a test represents (good), and teaching to the exact items that will appear on the standardized test (indefensible and illegal). Teaching students how to answer a particular set of items that appears on a test shortchanges them ethically and educationally. The confusing part arises when we fail to make that distinction.

Let me be more concrete. If one of the goals of an English course is for students to gain the ability to write a persuasive essay that contains a thesis statement supported by evidence, then it behooves the teacher to provide students with practice writing persuasive essays that contain both.

Practice is accompanied by critique from the teacher. It's the feedback from the teacher that lets students know if they're on the right track to mastering the required skills.

Technically, this is teaching to the test, but because students do not know beforehand what question they will ultimately be asked, it is instructionally defensible, helpful, and educational. In fact, it would be irresponsible for a teacher to provide students with practice writing descriptive or narrative essays that aren't the type to be tested. It's not that such writing is wrong or harmful. On the contrary, both have their places in English classes. But giving students such writing practice does not help them master the skills to write persuasive essays – the types of essays that are on the test.

In sports, coaches have long "coached to the game." They identify the best way of transferring practice onto the game field. They design routines and scrimmages that mimic as closely as possible what will ultimately be required in a particular game.

If track coaches want a team member to run the 100-meter dash, for example, they don't have them run a 10K. There may be some overlap, but it is not enough to justify the time and effort involved to spend a good chunk of practice working on it.

Again, that's different from coaches fixing the game or the race.

The distinction is crucial in today's debate over the method used to identify effective teachers because it also calls into question another widely misunderstood concept – the curriculum.

In an attempt to help schools provide a quality education, reformers mistakenly believe that covering as much material as possible is the way to go. But this approach is counterproductive. It overloads teachers by designing a curriculum that emphasizes breadth over depth.

The result is that teachers are given far too many targets to aim at in their lessons. These extensive lists of high-blown objectives certainly look impressive on paper, but they cannot realistically be addressed by teachers in their day-to-day instructional decisions. This is particularly the case when classes are composed of students with a wide range of individual differences. And this doesn't even take into consideration the time constraints of a given school year, which puts great pressure on teachers in planning their lessons.

In light of the demands of the accountability movement, teaching to the test is an issue that needs to be fully understood.

So the next time you hear that your child's teacher is "teaching to the test," think about this: The teacher may well be engaging in perfectly solid instruction.

Walt Gardner taught for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a lecturer at the UCLA Graduate School of Education.

Find this article at:    

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Report From KIPP Charters

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 20, 2008; 7:20 PM

Educators argue often whether their work should be judged by test scores. There are thoughtful people on both sides of the debate. We journalists tend to focus on exam results because so many of our readers say that is what they want, and such information is relatively easy to get from regular public schools.

Private schools, unfortunately, rarely provide such information, and data from public charter schools have also been difficult to obtain. Charters are public schools; their students, unlike private school students, take the same state tests regular public school students do. But they are not part of the public school systems that have staffs assigned to gather and release test score results, so their data sometimes emerge in a haphazard way, or not at all.

Thank goodness, then, for those few charter school groups that focus intently on test data and make that data readily available to the public. Those school networks include Achievement First, Aspire, Green Dot, Edison, IDEA, Noble Street, Uncommon Schools, YES and a few others designed to give children from low-income families the extra time, encouragement and great teaching they need.

The most advanced of this bunch, in both information dissemination and achievement gains, is the Knowledge Is Power Program -- KIPP -- a 14-year-old network that this summer expects to have 66 schools in 19 states and the District. I am obsessed with identifying and examining the most successful efforts to reverse our long national neglect of school children from poor families, so I have made KIPP a special project. My book about the organization's surprising beginnings will be published in January. I have started work on a second book about KIPP's national growth, and I have tried to make this column the best source of news on KIPP educators and students.

Today, KIPP releases its new annual Report Card, available for the first time on its Web site, Its test score results continue to be impressive. No other program has shown gains as great for as many poor children as KIPP has done. But what caught my eye were two new developments. First, KIPP's focus on building fifth- through eighth-grade middle schools seems to be shifting toward an emphasis on starting elementary schools, as its first efforts in that direction bear fruit. Second, even in one of its strongest cities, Houston, the birthplace of KIPP, the new report reveals that bad first-year results for new KIPP middle schools are still possible, and the organization, as its leaders often admit, still has much to learn.

The report reveals the growing influence of Richard Barth, 41, a former Edison executive who was named chief executive of the KIPP Foundation in December 2005. The foundation does not run the schools. Each principal makes the decisions for his or her school, with input from the director of the cluster of KIPP schools in that area. For instance, the two young teachers who founded KIPP in 1994, Dave Levin, now 38, and Mike Feinberg, 39, direct the KIPP school clusters in New York City and Houston, respectively. The foundation, begun by Gap clothing stores founders Doris and Don Fisher, selects and trains the KIPP school principals, key to the program's success, and supports them with research and analysis.

Barth, like many KIPP leaders and teachers, came out of the Teach for America program, which places high-achieving recent college graduates in disadvantaged schools. He was among the first staff members of that rapidly growing organization and is married to its founder, Wendy Kopp. He has overseen the expansion of the KIPP leadership training program, arranged a five-year randomized study of KIPP results and conceived a dual purpose for his organization. KIPP helps its communities, the report says, "by transforming the lives of the kids we serve in our current network of schools; and [b]y inspiring others -- as we continue to reach more students in more communities--to reconsider what is possible in public education."

The report reveals that Barth has set a goal of expanding KIPP's network to 100 schools serving 24,000 students by the year 2011, slightly ahead of the KIPP average of nine new schools a year since it began to expand in 2001 from Feinberg's and Levin's first two schools. In an interview, Barth said much of this growth will still be middle schools, which make up more than 80 percent of the KIPP total, but a shift is under way toward more elementary and high schools.

The need for high schools has been obvious for some time. The two original KIPP schools in Houston and New York placed their graduating eighth-graders in private schools--including some famous ones like St.Mark's--and public magnet schools that could be counted on to demand the same high standards. But since 2005, many more KIPP eighth-graders produced by the Fisher-financed expansion have been seeking high-school placements, and there is not enough room in good high schools to serve them all. Jim O'Connor, principal of the KIPP Ascend middle school in Chicago, told me this month that five students from his last year's eighth grade who are in regular public high schools are having the most difficult time, because their schools lack the focus on strong academic results they found at KIPP.

There are five KIPP high schools now, two more expected to open this summer and at least three more planned by 2010. Yet that growth is not as impressive as the rise of KIPP elementary schools. By this summer, there will be eight of them, a number that Barth said could easily double by 2010. Barth told me that the elementary school leaders are finding that KIPP's focus on imaginative and demanding teaching and longer school days is raising disadvantaged pre-kindergartners and kindergartners to normal suburban achievement levels very quickly. Given that success, he said, it makes no sense to limit his organization to opening middle schools that have to struggle to rescue fifth-graders who start two or three years below grade level. It will take several years, but KIPP leaders envision a day when most KIPP students will start at age 4 or 5 (depending on when state funds for charter schools kick in). By high school, those leaders assert, their students will be learning at a level just as sophisticated as the children of affluent American families who attend schools like St. Mark's.

This summer, KIPP will have about 16,000 students, about 60 percent African American and 35 percent Hispanic. About 81 percent will be from families poor enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies.

Many education experts wonder if KIPP will be able to find enough principals and teachers with the energy and dedication to work 9 1/2 -hour school days, plus every other Saturday and three-week summer sessions. The frequently asked questions page of the KIPP Web site says schools are developing ways to prevent teacher burnout. Among KIPP teachers, it says, there are "young parents who leave at 5 p.m. to pick up their children from daycare, part-time teachers who job share, and teachers who continue to work past 5 p.m." It says 53 percent of KIPP teachers are white and 47 percent are African American, Hispanic or Asian American.

Per-pupil funding for KIPP schools, the new report says, varies widely, "from a low of less than $5,000 per student at a school in the Midwest, to a high of approximately $13,000 per student at some of our schools on the East Coast." Schools raise extra funds through government grants and community donations, which allows them to spend on average an additional $1,100 to $1,500 per pupil above and beyond usual school costs for longer school days, weeks and years and for annual field trips and costly facilities.

Nonetheless, the Web site says, KIPP schools spend the same or less per student than most urban districts, even when counting the extra KIPP fundraising. "One of the ways that KIPP schools do this is by being relatively lean on administrative costs," the Web site says.

The new report details the achievement records of the 49 KIPP schools that have significant test results. Almost all show the strong gains that have made KIPP so popular with parents. But fifth-graders at the Liberation College Preparatory School and Spirit College Prep, new schools in Houston, declined in both reading and math achievement in their first year, based on standardized tests administered by KIPP to keep track of each school's and each child's progress.

Feinberg said his Houston staffers are somewhat puzzled by the results, because the same students did better on the Texas state tests. He has concluded that "we, the adults, failed to set the kids up for success on that particular test," the Stanford 10 Achievement Test. "At KIPP Spirit, the school leader stepped down for health reasons near the beginning of this year, as the pace was too much for her," Feinberg said. "The new school leader is ready to run this marathon. In both Liberation and Spirit, the school leaders and teachers have reviewed the results of both TAKS [the state test] and Stanford, and like all good teachers do, they are re-teaching, making adjustments, uncovering the holes, and simply put, teaching more and teaching better."

For the first time, the report summarizes the results for the 1,000 students who have completed all four years at 25 KIPP middle schools. On average, they jumped from the 40th to the 82nd percentile in math and from the 32nd to the 60th percentile in reading, unprecedented results for that many poor children. Many KIPP students move out of their neighborhoods, or decide they do not want to work that hard, and do not complete the four years, but KIPP leaders say they are working on retaining more students and are showing some progress.

KIPP has also just released, after requests from me and San Francisco blogger/journalist Caroline Grannan, a detailed account of how many KIPP middle-school graduates have gone on to college, the primary goal of KIPP instruction. KIPP spokesperson Debbie Fine said staffers at the two original schools, and at the KIPP to College program, have been keeping track of all 546 students who have completed eighth grade since the two schools began in 1995. (The first year of KIPP, 1994-95, was an experimental program inside one Houston elementary school, most of whose students did not continue in the program.) Of those students, 447 have matriculated to college, for an average college matriculation rate over five years of roughly 82 percent.

That is more than four times the average matriculation rate for black and Hispanic students from low-income families, but KIPP's ability to maintain that progress will be tested in the next few years. Next year, the first students from the major KIPP expansion that began in 2001 will be ready for college. KIPP is also collecting data on obstacles its graduates encounter in college, and how many of them earn degrees.

Those numbers are more difficult to acquire than fifth-grade test scores, but they are also more important. I hope the other school networks trying to give our poorest children the educations they deserve will also be keeping track of their graduates, and sharing what they learn with the rest of us.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Possible Boys Soccer Championship Preview Monday Night at Northwestern High School

Two of the best boys soccer programs in South Carolina will face each other
at the Northwestern field this Monday, April 21 at 7:00 PM. Northwestern and
Spring Valley have reached the championship game the last two years with
Northwestern winning in 2006 and Spring Valley in 2007. Both are top ranked
again this year and Northwestern has the returning player of the year, Enzo
Martinez. Look for one of the best games to be played in the state this
season. Also expect a good chance for rain. This match-up has already been
postponed twice for rain and the Spring Valley/Northwestern game has
historically been played in the rain.

April 14 Work Session Notes

Several Old Pointe Teachers made presentations on what Old Pointe Elementary
is and what their part is in making it what it is.

Consultant, Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, gave a report on a recent audit of the
district's Gifted and Talented Program. The review covered the elementary
building-based pullout program, the middle school advanced classes and the
high school honors, AP, and IB opportunities. Conclusions: "The Rock Hill
Gifted Program needs to 1) provide consistent offerings in each building
within elementary, middle, and high school levels, 2) develop a standard
K-12 differentiated curriculum framework, 3) develop a communication model,
4) provide on-going professional development, and 5) develop a program
accountability system." The Commendations were: "Use of research-based
curriculum materials in some buildings. Some strong programming in place.
Advanced courses at middle school a strong option. Using pullout time for
math course. Meeting students daily for pullout options." Recommendations
were: "Develop a consensual vision and philosophy for the gifted program.
Define differentiated content, strategies and materials. Develop a
curriculum scope and sequence. Provide a differentiated research-based
materials menu. Adapt curriculum and instruction for low SES students. Plan
for social-emotional curriculum integration. Provide consistent K-2
services. Develop grading policy and appropriate measures for judgment.
Collect pre-post evidence of student learning. Develop uniform standards for
gifted services district-wide. Include consistent foreign language
opportunities. Use gifted student performance data for program
decision-making. Assign resource personnel to each building for multiple
roles. Create a professional development plan. Develop a communications
plan. Develop and update documents. Align with best practice standards in
gifted education." The Action Plan is thus: "Organized around major themes
from the recommendations and commendations. Five core themes: consistency,
curriculum challenge, accountability and assessment, teacher preparation,
and communication. Examples of action plan steps developed. Recommend
implementation across 1-3 years. Appoint a committee to oversee the plan.
Develop a timeline and indicators of success."

The district made a presentation that they will be going for District SACS
(Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accreditation instead of
individual school accreditation.

Dr. Jaworowski gave an update on the School Improvement Process which was
started at the first of the year.

John Hair reported only one scoreboard vendor submitted a bid for the
District Three Stadium scoreboard and this would be over the already
approved amount of $300,000. Several options were considered with feedback
from the Board. The Administration will have a recommendation at the April
Business meeting.

The administration gave a progress report on the 2008-09 budget process.
The budget will be presented to the board at the May work session.

The administration gave a report on the interest savings which may be
possible with refinancing debt.

The board voted 7-0 to support the administrations recommendations for
contracts for the 2008-09 school year.

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Passion for Teaching and Opinions

An interesting debate from a teacher blog in California.


Just "Cowboy up and get to work".

I am often amazed at the ability of education pundits, those that haven't stepped one foot in the classroom, to constantly blame teachers for the problems of the educational system. While I fully admit that teachers could be doing more (God knows that I mentioned that we need to represent our profession better many times on this blog), I disdain the fact that society and the government constantly don't admit the other factors in the education of children; student apathy, parent apathy, little funding, and idiot testing, really matter.

Take for instance Friends of Dave (blogroll), who is a fellow Ukiah blogger who made the common reference to "other jobs have less than favorable conditions so teachers should stop bitching" argument.

    I think all too often in public education, we continue the same strategies year after year and we blame student apathy, parent apathy, too little funding or high-stakes testing for our failed teaching practices and educational strategies. If the goal of public education is to educate students, we can't stop trying simply because students or parents aren't making it easy. As I've said before, fireman don't ignore fires that are started by dumb decisions made by a homeowner. Police don't ignore calls from people who have made bad choices. Doctors don't stop treating fat people because they made bad diet and exercise choices.

First of all, California constantly makes the mistake of CHANGING teaching strategies that have worked in the past to satisfy.......well, someone who was bored I guess. You could hate "drill and kill" to death, but the memorization of multiplication tables sure worked a hell of a lot better than that "whole math" crap.

Now for the "fireman, policeman, doctor" remark, which is often used when non-classroom related people decide to pop off about what's right for education. Last I remember, firemen, doctors, and police are all given the tools of the game to make learning work. No, I'm not talking about gimmicky learning programs or "one laptop per child" tools, I'm talking about schools that are palaces and not dirty, in disrepair, or straight out crumbling. I also don't remember doctors being told, "you don't get O2 today", cops being told, "you don't get bullets today", or firemen being told, "sorry, your allotment of water was used up this week". In many cases, a teacher is ill-equipped for the job, ill-supported for the job, and then told to preform. Donald Rumsfeld was basically fired for saying, "You go to war with the Army that you have, not the Army you want", but teachers are told that every day.

And by the way, firemen are never blamed for starting the fire, policemen are never blamed for committing the crime, and doctors aren't blamed for people getting fat. Teachers are most certainly a target of blame for the lack of education of children, even though they have no control over a multitude of variables. Teachers still teach, firefighters fight fires, police control crime, and doctors treat patients, but only one of those is actually held accountable at the end of the day to entities that they have no control over; the other factors of a student's life. Firefighters aren't held accountable for the meth lab fire, they put it out. Police aren't held accountable for the domestic violence, they arrest the suspect. Doctors aren't held accountable for patients getting diabetes, they simply try and treat the condition. Yet teachers are somehow given lessor tools, more government oversight, less pay, and are supposed to be held to a greater accountability over things they have no control over?

    The duty of public education is to educate. If our instructional strategies aren't working for large groups of our students, but other schools are having better success with the same students, we need to stop whining and making excuses and start looking to those successful schools for the answer. Schools aren't relieved of the responsibility to educating students simply because they're making it hard. Cowboy up and get to work.

Simply put, not nearly as easy to implement. I'm sure that the income of "successful schools" has plenty to do with it. Anyone that doesn't think that schools with money are more successful are in dreamland. Then add it Second Language Learners, increased Special Education populations, lack of money, sue-happy parents, towns with increased drug culture, lack of money, equipment from the 1990's, shoddy infrastructure, a district wide lack of vision or business sense, oh yea, and lack of funding. You say that California spends over half its budget on Education? Ok, when it walks into my classroom let me know. While your at it, let me know when you find a successful school that manages to operate through all these problems. I'll be glad to jump on board.

In the meantime, until you make every effort to supply teachers with the tools needed to succeed, stop blaming them.

Oh yeah, while I'm making this blog post, I'm doing the following:
-updating my Moodle for the classes
-instant messaging with a student about an assigned book; Persepolis
-communicating with another student on Facebook about attending U.C. Irvine

I also graded essays this evening. Doctors, firemen, nor policemen take that kind of work home with them.

Yee hah.

Chairman Norwood on Straight Talk

Hear a replay of Rock Hill Schools Chair Bob Norwood on Straight Talk:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

District Three News for April 16

Compiled by Elaine Baker,  Rock Hill Schools Office

Music Programs Rated Superior
The district administration is proud of the following music programs which received ratings of superior at recent state festivals and contests: Northwestern's 9th grade, concert, and symphonic bands; Rawlinson Road Middle School Band; Rock Hill High's 9th and concert band and the symphonic band; South Pointe's Stallion Corral Concert Choir; and South Pointe's Orchestra. Congratulations to the students and their directors.

<Congratulations to the Central Child Development Center on its selection by the RH Branch of the American Assn. of University Women for an AAUW Educational Foundation Named Gift Honoree. The Center will be recognized at a dinner on April 29 at the Pope John Center.

<Rock Hill High's Baseball Team will hold its annual chicken BBQ on April 18 from 11:00-1:00 and from 4:00-6:00 on the school's baseball field. Plates, which include a chicken leg quarter, beans, cole slaw and bread, will sell for $6.

<Hats off to the students and staff at Old Pointe Elementary who raised almost $10,000 for the American Heart Assn. through the "Jump Rope for Heart" program. P.E. teachers Jason Werts and Jacob Stancil, coordinators, also deserve a round of applause.

<For those who need pine needles, look no further. The Northwestern cheer teams will sell bales for $4.50 on April 26 at 1355 W. Main Street (location for Regal Graphics). Contact for pre-orders.

<The Choral Department at Northwestern will present its Spring Show, "The Rhythm of Life," at 8:00 p.m. on April 30, May 1, and May 2. For tickets, call the Choral Department office at 981-1226.

<High school literacy coach, Jason Johns, and his RHH history study group are featured in the new S.C. Dept. of Ed.'s brochure "S.C. Reading Initiative: Advancing the Literate Lives of K-12 Students." The brochure contains great information on the program, the role of a literacy coach, and data on student achievement.

<As part of their Honoring Hometown Heroes project, kindergarten students at Oakdale will hold a Recycling Fun Day during the morning of April 22 and honor local people who work to keep our community clean and healthy. Students will participate in 10 stations with activities such as making newspaper hats, planting flower seeds, and going on a litter pick-up walk while learning how to reduce, reuse and recycle.

<Students of Christen Phifer, art teacher at Rosewood, have learned what it means to celebrate creativity, New Orleans style. Like a number of art teachers in the U.S., Christen responded to a call for artwork from Artsonia, the online art museum. Rosewood's art can now be viewed online at http:// HYPERLINK ""

Putting the Public Back in 'Public Education'

From the Blog "TeachMoore" comes an interesting essay worth reading.

Ever come across something that made you wonder whether the author had been reading your mind?

I've experienced just such an epiphany with the recent article by David Mathews of the Kettering Foundation that appears in Phi Delta Kappan, called The Public and Public Schools: The Coproduction of Education.

I'll resist the urge to quote the entire article, but here's one of several passages that had me shouting, "Amen!"

"The accountability that people do want is more relational than informational. Americans don't object to using test scores, but they think the scores should be used for diagnostic purposes rather than for punitive ones. Citizens want face-to-face accountability, with educators giving a full account of what happens in classrooms and on playgrounds. Most legislated accountability measures don't create a relationship of shared responsibility. Instead, the laws leave citizens on the outside looking in."

As Mathews thoughtfully develops in this piece, the public (including, but not limited to parents and teachers) have a deeper role in the education of all of our children than just attending the PTA or making sure Jasmine does her homework. As he deftly notes, "The community itself is an educational institution." Raising well-educated children has always required more than what could be done within the confines of a classroom or school day. Even more so as information and social interactions are less and less bound by physical space or time. Wiser parents have always understand this concept and sought out learning opportunities outside the schoolhouse, or exploited teachable moments during the ordinary activities of life.

Before the old proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child" became a socio-political catchphrase, it was a heartfelt practice in neighborhoods and towns.The entire community took the raising and teaching of children as a collective responsibility. I could as much expect Mr. Alexander across the street to quiz me on my times tables as I could my teacher. Mrs. Duncan at the corner store was well within her rights to chastise me for acting "unladylike" in public, and would make sure my mother heard of it before I made it home. I, and thousands of other children in our communities, first learned the art of public speaking not at school, but in church.

It was the neighborhood little league team (before the ascendancy of Hummer-driving "soccer moms" and overly-aggressive fans and Dads) where we learned what it meant to work together, never quit, be gracious in loss, and thankful in victory. The local public librarian knew all of us and our favorite books. In its better days, my hometown Detroit Public Schools made sure every pupil attended at least one concert of the Detroit Symphony and visited at least one of the local museums each school year. The deterioration and fragmenting of neighborhoods, along with the dispersion of families (among many other factors) has resulted in the weakening or loss of these community interactions which so richly supplemented children's formal education.

Another high point in Mathews' piece is the reminder that: "Schools were made public for democratic, not pedagogical, reasons. And the educators who administer schools and teach in them are unique among professionals in their historic relationship to democracy." Educators have always had a higher calling than simply to generate a workforce; we were to produce thinking, responsible citizens. However, we were never expected to do it entirely on our own.

Mathews also points out what has come to be a common misperception of the relationship between the broader public and the work of its schools: ""These days, the most common strategies for restructuring the relationship between the public and the schools treat citizens as consumers."  Mathews, correctly, points to NCLB and other such school reform initiatives as results of this view.

I would argue further that the push for application of free market principles in the reform of schools is insidiously counterproductive and may actually threaten American democracy in profound ways. Developing a rating system for schools based on flawed, limited testing instruments, then publishing those ratings in a push to get parents to shop around for educational options sounds like democracy in action. In reality, it exacerbates existing inequalities in educational and social resources.

The goal should not be to see how many schools we can close down or force out of business (considering in many places the schools that exist are seriously overcrowded), but rather how many schools we as a nation of citizens can reclaim, restore, and reconnect to the communities from which they should organically grow. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

South Pointe presents Joseph and the Amazing TechnicolorDreamcoat

The South Pointe High School Performing Arts Department is presenting
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on May 1-3 at 7:30 PM and
May 4 at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $5.00 for students and children and
$10.00 for adults.

On April 29 at 9:30 AM they will be performing for Elementary Schools
and on April 30 at 9:30 AM for Middle and High Schools. Students of all
ages will love the production!

Jimmy Chrismon
Theatre Director
South Pointe High School

Monday, April 14, 2008

If you teach long enough, sadly, this will probably happen

I wish the story below was not true, but sadly, many teachers have stories such as this.

Sunday, April 13, 2008
I spent this morning before church reminiscing about a former student. As I counted the years backward, he couldn't have been out of his late teens by now. He'd been a troubled young man-- running around loose, mother blaming everyone and everything but refusing to place any limits on him. He'd been expelled from a private school, and we had been charged with trying to turn him around. He stayed out, he drank, he smoked weed, he boasted of exploits with girls-- and this was as a 7th grader.

The first parent-teacher conference we had with his mom was amazing in her lack of influence over her kid. It was one of those conferences where we had to stop in the middle of it and tell the kid that we would not tolerate him talking to any adult in the way he was talking to his mother and basically threaten to kick him out of the conference. It was that bad. He was a good-looking boy, and it was a good-looking family with expensive clothes and all the material advantages. Certainly his family had lots of money, but not a lot of common sense went on in that house, it was obvious. We cared for him, we enforced rules even when his mother threatened to go to the superintendent at every turn, we refused to respond to his tantrums or manipulation, we tried one-on-one with him, but nothing seemed to work. We refused the mother's demand-- and I am NOT kidding-- that we call the house every morning to get him up since she huffed that she couldn't do it herself.

I moved to the high school at the same time he did. I would see him occasionally in the hallways during class time and direct him back to class. Then one day, I didn't see him any more, and was told he was on long-term suspension. That was the last I heard about him except for the occasional overheard story of him at some party from the rest of my students.

I opened up the paper this morning and was working my way through as is my wont on a Sunday after I have done my morning prayer and told my kids to get up and get moving before we go to church. I got to the obituary section, which I usually skip over with a cursory glance, when a picture of that young man jumped out at me. I knew that face.

It didn't say why he died, but it was far too soon. I have no idea what happened to him after he dropped out of our high school and our alternative program. His life was all too brief, and never really happy. He certainly didn't know what to do with himself. I had hoped that he had gotten some sort of plan in place, and thought about him from time to time, especially when conference time would roll around and I would think about some of the doozies I had sat through in all the years.

How very sad. What a waste.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

White Board for under $100

Researcher Johnny Lee became a YouTube star with his demo of Wii Remote
hacks -- bending the low-cost game piece to power an interactive whiteboard,
a multitouch surface, a head-mounted display ...
Why you should listen to him:
To understand Johnny Lee, just take a look at his personal Projects page.
Aside from his Wii Remote hacks -- voted the #1 tech demo of all time by
Digg -- you can see all the other places his mind has turned: typography,
photography, urban renewal ... to say nothing of his interesting sideline in
Little Great Ideas, like the hypnotic "___ will ___ you."

When he's not hacking Wiimotes, Lee is a graduate student in the
Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

"This guy deserves a medal."
Cmdr Taco, Slashdot

Teens and Drinking

The Herald recently had an article written by Karen Bair and Jessica
Schonber on teen drinking
( A main point from the
student survey was the impact parents have on preventing teen drinking. How
can parents do this? An excerpt from the management book, Everyone's A
Coach, by Don Shula and Ken Blanchard may give you some insight:

"In the typical organization, the most frequent response people get to their
performance is no response. We have a name for the kind of manager who only
notices employees when they make a mistake. We call this a
"leave-alone-zap! Manager." You leave the person alone long enough for them
to fail, and then you move in and zap them. The leave-alone-zap! is the
main strategy in what I refer to as "seagull management." Seagull managers
fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly off somewhere.
Let me give an example of why this approach is inappropriate and
self-defeating for a coach.

Studies show that among teen-agers, there are significantly less incidents
of drinking, drug use, indiscriminate sex, and fatal traffic accidents
occurring before 12:00 midnight than after that hour. Suppose that the
parents of a sixteen-year-old learn about this and say, "We'd better get our
son home earlier." They announce to him, in no uncertain terms, that they
want him home by 12:00 midnight. The next time he's out with his friends
and sees it is 11:30 p.m., he says, "My parents want me in by twelve. I've
got to leave." His peers start shaming him: "What are you, man, a momma's
boy? Are they going to tuck you in?" He's getting a negative response from
his all-important peer group. He's a good kid, though, so he bears the
negative response and says, "No, I've gotta go." But when he walks in the
door on time at home, where are his parents? They're either gone or asleep.
He's lucky if he gets a lick from the dog. This is a typical no-response.

Now let's see how the "leave-alone" results in a "zap!" First, let's look
at the score in terms of who has noticed what: so far, the teenager has one
negative response (from his peers) and one no-response (from his parents).
Which will have the greater effect? Negative noticing will win, going away.
It's no contest. Most people will be impacted more by a negative response
than by a no-response. This is why it's so important to be there to praise
good behavior. In some companies we give managers a set of buttons that
read, "I was caught doing something right" and tell them to give a button
to an employee when they notice good performance. The recipients appreciate

If this is a typical no-response case, what happens when the boy goes out
the next night? At 11:30 when he makes his announcement that he needs to be
home by midnight, his friends start in on him again. This time he thinks to
himself, "Am I crazy? I got home last night on time and nobody noticed.
Why should I take this grief from my buddies?" Tonight he arrives home at
1:00 a.m. where are his parents this time? They're at the door yelling at
him, "We told you to be home by twelve! We're sick and tired of your lousy
attitude." Seagull management in action. This puts the kid in a lose-lose
situation: if he does what his parents want, he gets beat up by his
friends; if he does what his friends want, he gets grief from his folks.

It's important to be there to praise the good behavior so that you send some
points up against the negative ones that the peers are bestowing. And if
you want your children to be home by a certain hour, do whatever it takes to
be there to reward their good behavior. If you're asleep, set an alarm. If
you're out with friends, announce to them by 11:30, "We told our son to be
home by midnight, and we want to be there when he comes home." When the kid
walks in, make a big fuss over him, hugging and kissing him and making a big
show of celebration. Sound corny? Guess what-it works. My sister and I
never stayed out late because the moment we left the house my mother would
start baking things for our return. We came home early because it was a
good deal! There were all kinds of goodies waiting for us. Old-fashioned?
Sure, but our friends loved to come to our house, not only because the food
was great but because my mother would play the piano and everyone would sing
and dance.

Positive consequences encourage people to repeat good behavior. And if
you're not involved with your people, you won't notice their good work."

No one said being a parent was easy.

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