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Friday, August 29, 2008

Raising The Bar

There is a good article in Friday's Wall Street Journal which highlights the impact parents have on a students quality of education.  Highlights are below, but it is worth reading the full article at:
Raising the Bar: How Parents Can Fix Education
August 29, 2008; Page W9
Everyone, it seems, has a complaint about the schools. Indifferent bureaucracy, change-averse unions, faddish curricula, soaring school taxes matched with mediocre student performance -- the list is long and seemingly unchanging.
At the start of yet another school year, it's time for some radical change in your local schools -- a specific change that only parents can bring about. It's a thing already being done in some far-off countries but that remains strangely rare here in America. It's something I've tried -- and, despite the skepticism of friends and neighbors, it seems to work.
[How Parents Can Fix Education]
Heidi Stevens
What is this miracle that lies within the reach of nearly every family? It's simple. All you have to do is to start insisting that your children fully apply themselves to their studies -- and commit yourself to doing your part. That means making sure they do all the work expected of them as well as their abilities allow. It also means making sure everything at home stands behind these principles and supports the idea of learning.
These will sound like obvious ideas. In fact, given all the distractions of modern life, it is a radical departure from the normal order of things. Let's face it: More than budgets or bureaucrats, more than textbooks or teachers, parents are the reason that kids perform as they do in school......

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

US News & World Report Tips for First Time College Students
10 Must-Do's the First Week of College
August 27, 2008 12:23 PM ET | Lynn F. Jacobs, Jeremy S. Hyman | Permanent Link

With the start of the academic year, it's time to switch out of vacation mode and into work mode. Pronto. Not in a few days, or a few weeks—or, horror of horrors, a few months. Because what you do the very first week of the semester can have a major impact on what comes out the other end gradewise. So don't skip these must-do's for the first week of college.

1. Take charge.
2. Get your a** to class.
3. Grade the prof.
4. Be sure you're in the right league.
5. Scrutinize the syllabus.
6. Start your (note-taking) engines.
7. Buy the books.
8. Program your schedule.
9. Find yourself a cave.
10. Get down to business.

Read the descriptions for each item at:

Voucher Supporters and SAT Results

With the release of the 2008 SAT results in South Carolina, the pro voucher folks have started up their chants that they can do it better and cheaper. Let me suggest that we give them a chance to prove it - NO - not with vouchers - let them take over one of our poor performing schools and demonstrate they can do better with less on the same standards that public schools are forced to deal with. I'm not saying they can't do it - just - their argument would carry a lot more weight if they could demonstrate it. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2008 York County Area District SAT Results

State Rank DISTRICT Test Takers 2008 Seniors 2008 Seniors Mean Scores 2008 Average Composite Score**

2008 # in Class % Tested Critical Reading Math Writing 2008 Difference From 2007
2 FORT MILL 391 534 73.2% 521 533 504 1558 6
25 YORK 124 320 38.8% 493 510 466 1469 40
26 CLOVER 199 382 52.1% 482 511 476 1469 (20)
31 ROCK HILL 502 911 55.1% 481 500 471 1452 (5)
45 CHESTER 91 305 29.8% 462 489 440 1392 3
53 LANCASTER 234 605 38.7% 454 477 440 1371 0

Notes From August 25 Rock Hill Schools Board Meeting

*approved minutes of the July 28 and August 11 meetings of the board; personnel recommendations; overnight field trip requests from Rawlinson Road Middle and South Pointe High; the S. C. School Boards Insurance Trust Interlocal Governmental Pooling Agreement; and distribution of board member Jim Vining's August compensation to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library; Vote was 7-0

*Supt. Moody made the following announcements:
        -The school board's next work session will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, September 8,  in the media center at Castle Heights Middle School.

        -"open house" for parents from 6:30-8:00 on the following nights:
                Thursday, August 28 – All five middle schools
                Monday, September 8 – All three high schools.
                Tuesday, September 9 – The Applied Technology Center
        -Wednesday, September 10, will be the first of six late start dates this.
        -Recognizing that reading is the primary skill all children must have, all York County school districts and a number of community partners are making it possible for all children in York County, from birth to age 5, to receive a free book each month from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  To receive the books, parents in Rock Hill can register their children between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12, at the Rock Hill Family Resource Center, which is located at the intersection of Black and Orange streets. A number of community

leaders will be on hand to read to children throughout the day. For additional information, parents should call ParentSmart at 803.981-1557.

        -The dedication of Mount Holly Elementary School and Dutchman Creek Middle School has tentatively been scheduled for Sunday afternoon, October 5. More information will be provided in mid-September.

*accepted as information a summary of the school climate survey as presented by Keith Wilks in a PowerPointe presentation. Mr. Wilks told the board that the survey was devised by the S. C. Dept. of Education, and that it was completed by randomly chosen 5th, 8th, and 11th grade students, teachers, and parents in every school district in the state. Questions asked revolved around homework, school safety, home/school communications, etc.

*received a report from Serena Williams, Coordinator of Community Services, on students who had dropped out of school during the 2007-08 school year. Ms. Williams stated that home-school workers had visited the homes of the students during the summer in an effort to get them to reconsider returning to school. Of the 70 students who were located, 17 indicated that they would like assistance on returning to school.

*approved for first reading board policies JBCC (School Choice), JKD (Suspension of Students), JKE (Expulsion of Students), and JIC (Weapons in School; Vote was 7-0

*encouraged citizens to consider making donations to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in care of the Early Learning Partnership of York County (see announcements from Dr. Moody above).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rock Hill Folks in Greenville News

Clemson freshman Sarah Hornsby gets help from her father, Ron, moving into her dorm this past Saturday. (BART BOATWRIGHT/Staff)

Actually Sarah's father is John - don't know why he wanted them to think he was Ron. This was in an article in the Greenville News about Managing Time and Money in College. Read full article at:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Darth Vader Explains the Pythagorean Theorem

A little fun with a math lesson.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

India Hook Profiled in Single Gender Class Article

India Hook Elementary fifth-graders Tripp Hornsby and Zachary Cawley in Rock Hill compare heights in an all-boy class. CMS now has some single sex classes. DAVIE HINSHAW –

India Hook Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Nikki Godfrey-Hill is surrounded by boys in her class on the first day of school. Proponents say single-gender classes address differences in how boys and girls learn and mature. DAVIE HINSHAW –

ROCK HILL Austin Bailey was psyched about starting fifth grade on Wednesday.

“All my friends are in this class, and there are no girls to bug you,” said Austin, whose classroom door at India Hook Elementary sports pirate skulls and crossed swords.

At the all-girl class next door, a multi colored pirate ship has dolphins jumping alongside and a sail saying “Welcome aboard!” Rebecca Evans and Hannah Simpson are equally happy to be there, saying they'll do better without boys picking on them.

These 10-year-olds are part of a trend that's booming in South Carolina and spilling into Mecklenburg County: Separating adolescent genders so teaching can be tailored to different brains and bodies.

Boys are more likely than girls to flunk classes, rack up discipline violations, be assigned to special education and drop out. Some say that's because traditional classrooms set boys up for failure by demanding that they sit still, keep quiet and focus for long stretches of time.

Expect controversy

Segregation of any kind can be controversial, Chadwell says. When he spoke Tuesday about the “drama” that ensues when girls interpret tones of voice, he got a sharp rebuke from a woman on Hopewell's faculty: “That's the same illogical stuff that says women can't be principals or president.”

Chadwell said he's not talking about limiting anyone. Separate classrooms are designed to break down stereotypes.

“There's nothing about gender differences that says boys and girls can't learn the same things,” he said.

Or as India Hook teacher Nikki Godfrey-Hill says, her boys and Carman Austin's girls are on different roads to the same destination. “My road is a lot different from hers and a lot noisier.”

Natural styles

Austin and Godfrey-Hill attended a talk by Chadwell last year. As he described what works for boys and girls, they kept whispering to each other.

Austin – soft-spoken, well organized, given to focusing on a task until it's finished – realized she's a natural girl teacher.

Godfrey-Hill, who loves roller-blading and hunting, realized that the loud, fast-paced personality that had hindered her as a child could be a plus in teaching males.

As she took her 17 boys through first-day paperwork and rules, she peppered them with quips, fist-bumps and high-fives. They began to realize they wouldn't get in trouble for making a little noise.

“Capiche?” she asked them after giving instructions.

“Capiche!” they called back.

She took them through the list of things they can't bring to school.

“The next one I hope we don't have to worry about in here,” she said.

“Drinking?” a cutup said.

“Nail polish and makeup.”

Cue the groans and gags.

Other versions

Fifth-graders at India Hook chose whether they wanted a single-sex class; there were just enough for one class each. Students at Fort Mill Middle, also in York County, had the same option – and Godfrey-Hill's 13-year-old son said no.

Read the full article here:

A Teacher's Comments

I read several education blogs. "From the Trenches of Public Ed" ( - by Dennis Fermoyle - had these interesting comments about public schools and some of the problems they face:
1. Whenever the performance of the students in a school is poor, it is assumed that the teachers and administration in that school must be doing a lousy job. In some cases this might be completely true, in others it might be partially true, but it some other cases it might not be true at all. What people, who don't spend their time in classrooms, don't understand is how important the make-up of the students in a classroom is. I have posted about the positive effect that good students can have on each other, but obviously there are some other students who can have a very negative effect.

Not to brag (ahem, ahem), but...I have a good reputation as a teacher in my community. I have received a teacher of the year award and coach of the year awards, so I think I do a pretty good job at handling groups of young people. But I have six classes every year, and some years the differences in learning that is taking place in those different classes is enormous. How can that be when the same person is teaching all of them? The answer is in the make-up of the students in those different classes. Give me a classroom of kids with a reasonable amount of motivation, and kids--who are not a bunch of little angels--but show a reasonable amount of respect for authority, and I can be an impressive teacher. But throw me into a classroom with a few kids whose sole purpose in coming to school each day is to disrupt and see how much attention they can draw to themselves, and some others who couldn't care less about learning anything, and I doubt that I'll impress anyone. Although I've never taught in one of those "failing" inner-city schools, I suspect that they have more than their share of classrooms that are like that. When that's the case, I don't care who the teachers are or who the principal is, not much learning is going to take place.

This is why I am so concerned about charter schools and vouchers. Parents who don't care about their kids' education are not very likely to take advantage of those options. Parents who do care about education are, and their kids are the ones who are the most likely to be positive influences in their classrooms. Take a number of them out of a public school, and leave all the negative influences and pretty soon a decent school might become a bad one.

When there is a truly bad school, however, I can't argue against choice. I don't want to leave any child who really wants an education to be stuck in an impossible situation while we wait for my dream-reforms to happen.

2. I don't think non-teachers realize how few disruptive kids it takes to ruin a class. Having one truly disruptive kid in a class is a major headache, but if you just have three or four it can completely ruin a class. In his book, The Death of Common Sense, Philip K. Howard talked to teachers and was surprised to learn that in even those so-called "bad" schools most kids behaved pretty well. It is a small minority of kids who were ruining education for everyone.

3. Since the 1960s, a number of factors have made it much more difficult for public school teachers and principals to deal with unruly kids. The first move came when the Supreme Court ruled that education is a "property right" that can't be taken away from a student without due process of law. Shortly after that, the Court ruled that any school official can be sued if he or she is determined--by the courts, of course--to have violated a student's "property right." After that, laws were passed saying that students couldn't be punished for their disabilities, and this was followed by the number of kids in schools labeled EBD and ADHD skyrocketing. So if a school official wants to suspend or expel a student, or even kick him out of class; watch out! I'm not saying it's impossible to discipline public school students, but it definitely ain't easy.

Going along with 2 & 3 is the fact that disruptive kids tend to be those who have grown up testing limits, and many of them are definitely not stupid. They are constantly pushing to see how far they can go, so by the time they're in high school, they are experts at playing the system. To make matters worse, when some other students, who would normally be okay, see what disruptive kids get away with, they can also become major problems.

The bottom line to all this is that when teachers and principals are faced with disruptive kids, all the pressure is to put up with them. The damage that is done to the education of the students who are stuck in those classes becomes a secondary concern, if it is a concern at all.

4. This last one involves what I suspect is a misunderstanding about my motives. When I go back and forth with other bloggers on this subject, I always get the feeling that they think I'm an educational Neanderthal who wants to throw a bunch of kids out of school. Believe it or not, that is not the case.

I honestly believe that if teachers had the power to remove disruptive and apathetic kids from our classes, we wouldn't have to use it very often. I have great faith in students' ability to adapt and to live up to expectations. As I said earlier about disruptive students, they are expert at knowing how far they can go. Make it clear that in order to remain in a class or in a school that certain behavior standards must be met and certain effort standards must be met, and nearly every student would meet those standards.

I have been a teacher, but I have also been a coach. In high school athletics, coaches have the power that I believe teachers should have in their classrooms. If kids don't do what is expected, they will be shown the door. During my twenty years in Warroad, there has been a grand total of two kids who have been dismissed from our hockey teams because of attitude and discipline problems. I know that there are big differences between sports and academics, but there is no doubt in my mind that a major reason for that low number is that the kids in sports clearly understand that there are certain things that won't be tolerated.

I also don't want to give the impression that public school classrooms all around America are loaded with disruptive and apathetic kids.
Jay Matthews wrote an article earlier this year in which he complained about the public schools that are poor in America, but he also said this:

Our best public schools are first-rate, producing more intense, involved, and creative ­A-­plus students than our most prestigious colleges have room for. That is why less-known institutions such as Claremont McKenna, Rhodes, and Hampshire are drawing many freshmen just as smart as the ones at Princeton. The top 70 percent of U.S. public high schools are pretty good, certainly better than they have ever been...

Despite my harping about unruly students, most of my own classes are actually pretty good, but I definitely have had classes that were awful because of a few disruptive students. When that happens, it's frustrating because I feel like I should be able to do so much more about those kids than I can. There have been times when I have actually been embarrassed when I've seen kids in the hallway who wanted to learn something but were stuck in one of those classes. I have no doubt that in many of those so-called "failing" schools across the country, teachers are feeling the same frustrations I do, only a lot more often.

Public schools definitely have their problems, but I believe in them. I went to a public school, I've taught for 34 years in public schools, and my three sons went to public schools. They are all successful in their careers, and I've seen so many of our other graduates who have been as successful as they've wanted to be. My feelings are best summed up by one of the best quotes I've ever heard, and it comes from the late Albert Shanker, a teachers' union leader who was even admired by many conservatives:

We are about to create a system of choice and vouchers, so that ninety-eight percent of the kids who behave can go someplace and be safe. And we're going to leave the two percent who are violent and disruptive to take over the schools. Now, isn't it ridiculous to move ninety-eight percent of the kids, when all you have to do is move two or three percent of them and the other ninety-eight percent would be absolutely fine?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rock Hill Schools Business Meeting on Monday, August 25, 2008

Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Monday, August 25, 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. Citizen Participation


       III. Special Business

                 A.  Recognition of Walter Brown for new Boardmanship Level

                 B.  Recognition of Teachers of the Year


        IV. Consent Action Agenda

               A. Approval of Minutes

               1.  July 28, 2008, business meeting

               2.  August 11, 2008 work session

               B.  Approval of Personnel Recommendations

               C.  Approval of Overnight Field Trip Requests (2)

               D.  Approval of SCSBIT Interlocal Governmental Pooling Agreement

               E.  Approval of Distribution of Jim Vining's August Compensation to Imagination Library


     V. Communications


      VI. Report of the Superintendent

A.  Announcements

B.  Opening of School Report

C.  NORESCO Report (Energy saving contract)

D.  Climate Report (Survey of opinions on schools)

E.  Dropout Intervention


      VII. Review of Work Session


VIII.     Action Agenda

A.       Approval of Policy JBCC - 1st Reading
B.       Approval of Policies JKD, JKE, JICI – 1st Reading


    IX.    Other Business

        X.     Executive Session

       XI.     Adjourn

Fort Mill School Superintendent on WRHI's Straight Talk

Fort Mill Superintendent Keith Callicutt can be heard on WRHI's "Straight Talk" archive page:

York District One Superintendent on Straight Talk

Dr. Russell Booker, Superintendent of York District One schools can be heard on WRHI's "Straight Talk" archive page:

Jim Rex on Straight Talk

South Carolina State Superintendent of education Jim Rex can be heard on the WRHI "Straight Talk" archive page here:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Do you Teach or Do you Educate?

Mary on MTV

Anderson, South Carolina’s Bailey Hanks won MTV’s reality show to find the next Elle Woods. You can read the write up in Sunday’s Charlotte Observer: . Northwestern High School graduate Mary Fishburne was also a contestant on the show.

Mary, a Vanderbilt University graduate, has performed many concerts for local charities and has been an outstanding performer since she was in Ebinport Elementary School.

I Will Derive!

Who says math can't be fun!

Candidates File for Rock Hill School Trustee Positions

At the close of filing today, the following candidates had signed up for election to the Rock Hill School Board for the November General Election:

District Three - Mildred Douglas and Deborah Broome
District One - Ann Reid
District Five - Walter Brown
At Large - Bob Norwood, Jose' Brito, Lance Fillet, and David Griffin

Good Web Site for Parent Information on Schools

Smarter Than an Eighth Grader?

Take the quiz and find out!

Rock Hill Schools Announces District Teachers of the Year

In a back to school gathering today, the Rock Hill School District announced the following Awards:

Beginning Elementary Teacher of the Year, 2007-08       Lesslie Goodman Pursley

Beginning Secondary Teacher of the Year, 2007-08        Rebecca Rockholt

Honor Roll Teachers of the Year, 2008-09                        Pattie Bechtler and Christi Beard

Teacher of the Year for 2008-09                         Bryan Coburn

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wes Hayes on TV to talk about School Funding Reform

"In Our Schools" TV program will focus on comprehensive revenue, funding reform
COLUMBIA  A special live edition of the "In Our Schools" television program this coming weekend features a roundtable discussion on funding 21st century public schools in South Carolina.  
The one-hour telecast airs at 6 p.m. Sunday, August 17, on South Carolina ETV.  "In Our Schools" is a series designed for parents, educators and community partners and produced by ITV, which is part of the Department of Education, with ETV's assistance. 
The August 17 program will be hosted by State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, who will lead a conversation with business, education and community leaders on the negative impact of property tax reduction legislation, on the shortfall in funding for education and on the need for comprehensive revenue and funding reform.  Viewers can participate in the program by e-mailing their questions to
Rex's guests on the telecast include:
As the new school year gets under way, Rex is starting another round of town hall meetings statewide to build support for public school funding reform legislation.  His major themes are the need for student-centered funding, teacher pay reform and new fiscal accountability measures.   
Laying the groundwork for a new system of fair and equitable funding by addressing the way South Carolina raises and distributes all state revenues – with a special focus on public schools – is Rex's chief priority before the new legislative session in January 2009.    
Sunday night's program will be repeated on August 21 and 25 and on September 8 from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Channel 301 for taping by schools (unlimited rights).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

York County 2008 ACT Scores

Average ACT Scores by South Carolina  Public High School District for 2008   Graduates
School District English Math Reading Science Comp
York 4/Fort Mill 21.0 22.6 22.4 21.9 22.1
Lexington 1 21.5 22.5 21.9 21.8 22.0
Lexington/Richland 5 21.4 22.6 22.3 21.5 22.0
Anderson 1 21.3 22.3 21.5 21.1 21.7
Dorchester 2 21.4 22.0 21.6 21.5 21.7
Pickens 21.1 21.3 22.0 21.1 21.5
Anderson 3 20.7 21.7 22.2 20.5 21.4
Anderson 4 20.7 21.4 21.7 20.8 21.3
Oconee 20.9 21.3 21.5 21.0 21.3
Greenville 20.6 21.2 21.3 20.8 21.1
Anderson 2 20.4 20.6 21.4 21.0 21.0
Spartanburg 6 20.7 21.4 21.0 20.4 21.0
Spartanburg 5 20.6 20.8 21.1 20.7 20.9
Spartanburg 1 19.9 20.7 21.3 20.7 20.8
Aiken 20 21 21 20 20.5
Florence 5 20.2 20.6 20.2 20.3 20.5
Spartanburg 2 20.0 20.9 20.4 19.9 20.4
Spartanburg 7 19.6 20.5 20.6 20.1 20.3
Anderson 5 19.4 20.8 20.0 20.3 20.2
Charleston 19.7 20.4 20.3 20.0 20.2
Spartanburg 4 19.3 21.4 19.9 19.8 20.2
Horry 19.3 20.6 20.1 19.8 20.1
Beaufort County 19.4 20.0 20.3 19.7 20.0
Greenwood 50 19.4 20.9 19.6 19.7 20.0
York 3/Rock Hill 19.1 20.3 20.1 20.1 20.0
Richland 2 19.0 20.8 20.0 19.6 19.9
Florence 1 19.3 19.6 19.8 19.6 19.7
Kershaw County 18.9 19.6 20.2 19.5 19.7
Sumter 17 19.3 19.1 20.1 19.7 19.7
York 2/Clover 18.8 20.7 19.2 19.5 19.7
Barnwell 45 19.0 20.0 19.5 19.3 19.6
Dillon 3/Latta 19.1 20.1 17.8 20.1 19.5
Barnwell 29/Williston  18.5 20.2 18.9 18.9 19.3
Cherokee 18.4 20.3 19.0 19.3 19.3
Laurens 55 18.8 20.0 18.7 19.4 19.3
Lexington 2 18.3 19.4 19.6 19.5 19.3
Newberry 18.6 19.5 19.2 19.4 19.3
Spartanburg 3 18.5 19.6 19.3 19.1 19.3
Edgefield 18.2 20.1 19.1 19.1 19.2
Georgetown 18.4 19.3 19.3 19.1 19.2
York 1 18.0 19.8 19.3 19.0 19.2

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rock Hill Schools August 11 Work Session Notes

The Board agreed a future retreat would be good to discuss goals and how to communicate them and to develop advocacy strategies. There will also be a review of the self assessment results and the administration will provide Board assessment from the Superintendent's Leadership Team. A decision on when the retreat will be held will be made at the next meeting.
The Board agreed to send a letter to the local legislative delegation (and their November Competition) outlining our concerns about funding issues in South Carolina. We've heard within the last week that our funds will be cut by  $1.5 million and we can probably expect another cut by the end of the calendar year.
The Board made comments on several policies and will vote on them at the August Business Meeting.
It was announced the Administration is having a meeting this week with prospective advertisers for the scoreboards at District Three and District Three South Stadiums.
The Administration is making changes to the facilities policy to accommodate the extra expenses that would be required for rental of District Three Stadium.
The administration was challenged to be sure we were not charging booster groups too much for the use of our facilities.
The Administration reported that District-wide SAC's Accreditation will be in full swing this semester with a target of January for achieving accreditation.
The Board endorsed the new Professional Code which will be kicked off at the "Back to School" gathering on August 15. The Code is as follows:
Put Students First
Nurture Relationships
Work Together for a Shared Vision
Grow Professionally
Continuously Find Ways to Improve
The Board voted 7-0 to approve the administrations recommendations for personnel changes.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rock Hill School Trustees Up For Election

At Large Representative Bob Norwood will be seeking his fourth term on the Board

District 1 Representative Ann Reid will be seeking her third term on the Board

District 3 Representative Mildred Douglas will be seeking her third term on the Board

District 5 Representative Walter Brown will be seeking his third term on the Board.

Filing for these seats remains open until August 15, 2008. Voting will be during the General Election in November.

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