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Friday, September 28, 2007

Schools can't repair all of poverty's ills

Guest columnist

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the United Kingdom this month has released a perceptive and important report on poverty and education. The most significant element of the first eight projects looking at poverty and education is that the negative impact of poverty on student learning is far more devastating than even the best schools can overcome.

While we spend far too much time and money in the United States focusing on increasing test scores, raising standards and holding schools and teachers accountable, the overwhelming evidence from this report, as well as stacks of other research, points to several conclusions that could serve us well in this country if we are willing to begin to focus on the greater social disease and not the symptoms we find in the schools.

The problems in our schools are that our education system is a reflection of our society; we must accept that low student achievement is a reflection of poverty, politics and bureaucracy.

The U.K. study offers the following conclusions about poverty and education:
The correlation between poverty and student achievement is profound and undeniable.
Race is a significant factor in student achievement among children in poverty, and boys seem to suffer disproportionately both in school achievement and in their prospects after schooling.

School quality has a low impact on student achievement (14 percent) when compared to many other factors both inside and outside of school.

“Less advantaged children are more likely to feel a lack of control over their learning, and to become reluctant recipients of the taught curriculum.”

Children value education in general, but children from poverty “are more likely to feel anxious and unconfident about school.”

While this study highlights what we clearly know about the impact of poverty on student learning, it also suggests that we are dedicating ourselves to the wrong things when we claim to desire increased student achievement, and thereby claim to work to close the achievement gap.

A recent and tragic event from the headlines proves to be a chilling metaphor for our misguided efforts.
In her haste to pick up and deliver dozens of doughnuts to her work, a mother inadvertently left her child in a car seat all day; the child perished in the heat. Every time we make claims about increasing test scores, closing the achievement gap or holding teachers and schools accountable, we are spending all our time and money making sure the doughnuts are delivered while we ignore the children trapped in the sweltering car of poverty in their daily lives outside of our schools.

The devastating effect of poverty on a child’s life is formed many years before any child enters school; that impact grows exponentially as that child continues to suffer in life outside school and falls further and further behind in school. As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation study shows, even the best schools cannot overcome the realities of any child’s life outside of that school. Just as in life outside of school, of course, a few overcome poverty, but far too many do not and schools are not equipped to be the sole ticket out.

This does not excuse poor schools; we cannot allow children of any income background to be cheated by poor schools. All schools must have no ceilings and open doors for every child, because many children come from lives with low ceilings and nothing except closed doors.

However, the types of schools all students deserve are not schools that spend every day of the year trying to raise test scores drilling the students in worksheet after worksheet that mimics the tests. The types of schools all students deserve are not schools where the administration commits itself to closing the achievement gap, while no government official makes any real attempt to address poverty and abuse in the hours and days children spend outside of school (which accounts for only a third of each day for about 180 days a year).

Low student achievement and the achievement gap are symptoms of much larger social ills. In Snow White, the evil queen blames the mirror for showing her reality, and instead of addressing that reality, the queen demands a dishonest mirror.

Our schools reflect for each of us those aspects of our society that need us the most children born into lives of poverty through no choice or fault of their own. We must stop blaming this mirror for the reality we try to ignore.

Dr. Thomas, who teaches at Furman University, is the author of Numbers Games.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

District Three School Board Retreat Input

The Rock Hill School District Three Board has scheduled a retreat on Saturday, November 1, 2007 to discuss some of the issues listed below.  Please give me some feedback by clicking on the comment section.


    4th High School

      Should we build a magnet school in the downtown area or a traditional school similar to the existing three high schools?

    Schools of Choice

      Should we make all choice schools, just a few, or none? What should be the criteria for choice?

    5 Year Projections

      What should we be looking at over the next 5 years in our School District? Where do we go from here?

    Bond Packages

      When should we attempt to  build/improve our facilities for growth. What should be the measurement to tell us it's time?

The Good Doctor: Reaching Out to an Unmotivated Student

How the dedication of one teacher helped a child learn to love education.
by Douglas Cruickshank
published 8/8/2007
I was a smart kid and a terrible student.
I started going to school in the late 1950s, and by the fall of 1963, when I entered fifth grade, I had already accumulated a truly dismal academic record: Ds, Fs, Incompletes, and the rare C. I could bore you with a detailed analysis of my young troubles, but they weren't particularly exceptional. Given what many children cope with, they barely qualified as “troubles.” What is worth discussing is how one teacher turned me around.

To be fair, over the years I had experienced several terrific teachers. Even those who weren't terrific did their best, but I was a challenge. Though I'm not a teacher, I have friends and a girlfriend who are, so I believe I have a better-than-average understanding of the extraordinary efforts teachers make to reach students who are clearly capable of getting more out of school than they're getting. A number of teachers made such efforts on my behalf. One succeeded.

It's not news that some children have a tough if not impossible time learning in the typical classroom environment, and that, as they accumulate failures, they cease to believe (if they ever did) in their ability to do what the kid sitting next to them seems to do with ease. If they do the assignments at all, they rarely attempt to do them well. They don't participate in class discussions. They ignore homework, and make no effort to provide the correct answers on in-class tests, which they often don't complete.

That was certainly my story. It's an extremely frustrating situation even for the most experienced, patient teacher. For less experienced teachers, it may be overwhelming. And it's devastating for the student.

I recall my third-grade teacher -- a conscientious young woman, twenty-five or so, and probably in her second or third year of teaching at the time. One Sunday afternoon, she met my mother and me for lunch. She was at the end of her rope. We had a pleasant enough lunch and a long walk, but come Monday morning, nothing had changed.

There were many such get-togethers, parent-teacher conferences, stern talks, promises made and broken (by me), and parents and teachers at a loss for a solution. I was utterly unmotivated. Nothing interested me, especially math. (That was the despair of my father, a civil engineer who carried a slide rule in his pocket and considered algebra and trigonometry relaxing entertainment.)

Yet I was a big reader from an early age. I was fascinated by nature and the several animals I kept, and from age six I collected and studied butterflies and other insects, never missing the Friday-afternoon bug club facilitated by the local children's librarian. I was the youngest of five children in a family of talkers, so I was comfortable with adults and frequently conversed with older people. I was precocious in my vocabulary, speech, and spelling. (I did actually excel at my school’s monthly spelling bee.) And yet, my academic performance was abysmal. I just didn't see the point of it all.

Then came fifth grade.
Two things made an indelible impression on me that year: The first was the news, delivered in a man's sad, deep voice over the school's PA system one November morning: President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. The second was the owner of that voice, Dr. Foster. As horrific and incomprehensible as the assassination was, the impression Foster made on me was of a much more personal, deeper, and enduring nature.

Foster was the school principal. He also taught fifth grade. He was the quintessential academic in appearance: graying, close-cut hair; large, thick tortoise-shell glasses; and tweed jackets with leather elbow patches. He was funny, sometimes strict, always lively, occasionally all business, and other times not. He drove a Mercedes-Benz that was long past its glory days. To me, he looked like someone's grandfather. He was forty-four.

Within the first few days of school, he started coming by my desk or finding me in the schoolyard. He'd joke with me a little, or we'd talk for a bit. He'd pepper me with questions about my dog, my favorite type of butterfly, what sort of plants I liked to grow, the last book I'd read, how I got that scratch on my forehead, which country I’d most like to visit, what I found interesting about Egypt (the pyramids), what I would like to be when I grew up (a veterinarian), and so on.

Sometimes I'd arrive at school early and Foster would ask me to help him move chairs or clean a blackboard or roll in the movie projector. As I helped him, we'd talk -- but never about school, my grades, or anything happening in class.

What he was doing, I realize now, was getting to know me and establishing a friendship, trust, and rapport. But on another level, Foster was looking for a way in and a way past the effective obstacles I'd devised -- trying to discover how to reach me and get me to apply my intelligence in class. He was constructing an intellectual-emotional profile, learning about my interests and aspirations, looking for a way -- any way -- to turn me on to education.

One day, as the class was nearly finished with a math test I had not yet started, I was staring out the window at a large tree. Foster walked over and pulled up a chair next to mine. "Liquid amber," he said. "Five-pointed leaf; rarely three, four, or six; almost always five." He went on to tell me about the spiral symmetry of sunflowers, pinecones, the Fibonacci numbers and the golden mean, which I'd never heard of. "Stick around after class," he said. "We'll talk about the pyramids, and not just the ones in Egypt. The ones in Mexico." Pyramids in Mexico?

"Yes, there are many pyramids in Mexico, and, like the Egyptian ones, they're all very interesting mathematically,” he explained as I help straighten desks later. “The big pyramid at a place called Chichén Itzá, for example, has four staircases with a total of 365 steps -- the number of days in a year. Some say it's a kind of calendar or clock."

He'd noted that I'd brought a copy of The Guinness Book of Records to class one day, and that I had a fascination for numbers when they related to something real that was interesting to me, not as abstractions. He started coaching me in math, but always using examples in nature, pyramids, crystals (I had told him I was a rock collector and especially fond of crystals), or from Guinness. He'd somehow bring animals into an equation or a history lesson -- whatever worked. Foster took a similar approach with all subjects, always finding ways to interpret topics in a way that related to my life or my interests.

But he did not focus solely on me. There were half a dozen kids in that class doing poorly when the year began, and he brought us all up to speed, keeping the other fifteen or twenty kids moving along as well. He had queried the other struggling students much like he had me and found ways to work their personal interests into our lessons. I got straight As for most of that year.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend, discussing our bleak academic pasts, and I told her about Foster. I'd thought about him many times over the years, but I had no idea what had become of him. I hadn't seen him in more than four decades. "I wonder if he's still around," I said to my friend. "It would be interesting to look him up."

Less than a week after that, while having coffee and reading the news, I came across a short article on the San Francisco Chronicle Web site: "Daniel A. Foster, a longtime...educator and expert on federal education programs, has died. He was 88...He wrote scores of articles on education law and served as the president of the National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators." Foster worked for thirty-four years, from 1947 to 1981, in the same school district where I had been fortunate enough to encounter him. Over the course of his career, he had been a teacher, a principal, and a district administrator.

More importantly, from my perspective -- and, I suspect, from that of the many struggling, indifferent kids whose paths he crossed -- he had an almost preternatural ability to connect with students and motivate them. He did it by being compelling and kind and funny, sharing his vast, erudite knowledge, and doing so in a way that made students crave more.

His technique -- whether it was that or an astonishingly acute intuition is hard to say -- was to connect a student’s experience to the world at large through what he was presenting in the classroom, and put those experiences and a specific subject in a unique, personalized context. He did it by relating what he was teaching to the student’s own interests, experiences, and enthusiasms. The result for the student was that learning, education, and schoolwork did, finally, have a point.

It was a profound leap of understanding for me and those other problem kids to make. I appreciated it at the time and appreciated it even more as the years rushed past. I only regret that I didn’t get a chance to thank Foster.

Douglas Cruickshank is the former editor of

As China rises, speaking its language becomes a practical advantage.

Language: Learn What a Billion People Already Know
by Milton Chen
published 9/2/2007
Credit: Rob Colvin/Getty Images
PREDICTION: Chinese will be the new French.
This is a multipart article. Click here to go to the beginning.
Across the country and the world, Chinese language learning is exploding. What had been a mysterious and arcane language studied only by Asian specialists is now the subject of fast-growing interest in schools and universities.

In 2004, according to the Asia Society, 263 American schools and school districts offered Chinese. That number had increased to 477 by May 2007, when the College Board's Advanced Placement exam in Mandarin was administered for the first time. In addition, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah all have pending legislation to fund Chinese-language programs in their schools. This linguistic sea change is tidal, not sudden, but the trend toward the teaching and learning of Chinese, particularly Mandarin, as a valuable new second language, is clear to see.

Trained teachers of Chinese are in short supply in American schools, however, so the Chinese government has stepped in to help, and the Freeman Foundation, which fosters East-West understanding, has funded six universities to develop teacher-training programs for Chinese. From first graders in immersion programs to MBAs seeking high-paying posts in Shanghai, the number of people learning Chinese is growing fast.

In response, the Chinese Ministry of Education developed Chengo, a Web site for English-speaking secondary school students, and China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language has established Confucius Institutes to promote Chinese language and culture around the world, in partnership primarily with local universities and public school districts. In the United States, these facilities are located at more than a dozen universities and on a Chicago Public Schools campus.

The establishment of these institutes could go a long way toward clearing up misunderstandings about Chinese language and culture. For example, Mandarin, the official national dialect, has four tones, often the most challenging part of learning Chinese for English speakers. One sound, such as "ma," can be written in many ways with such diverse meanings as "mother" or "horse," and each must be correctly pronounced in one of the four tones. Regional dialects, such as southern Cantonese, involve widely varying pronunciations but all share the same characters. (In terms of regional variations, American English isn't that different.) To read a newspaper requires knowledge of about 4,000 characters.

But within this complexity lies simplicity and beauty. Unlike Romance languages such as French, for example, Chinese requires no conjugation of verbs and shifting of tenses. The Chinese simply say when an event or action occurred. Chinese characters, often quite daunting at first, have their own system of roots, called radicals, that give clues to their meanings. For instance, words related to water all share the same three "droplets" on the left side of the character. Mastering the writing of characters has the additional benefit of opening a window on the world of Chinese calligraphy, regarded as one of the highest art forms, traditional or modern.

And those who do take up this activity are in good company: As a Chinese official said at the announcement of the AP Mandarin exam, "Many Americans think that Chinese is difficult to learn, but we have more than a billion people who speak it."

Milton Chen is executive director of The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What are Drop Out Rate Trends?

What are the dropout rates of high school students?

The status dropout rate represents the percentage of an age group that is not enrolled in school and has not earned a high school credential (i.e., diploma or equivalent, such as a General Educational Development [GED] certificate). Status dropout rates are reported for 16- through 24-year-olds. The status dropout rate for this age group declined from 15 percent in 1972 to 9 percent in 2005. A decline was also seen between 2000 and 2005, the more recent years of this time span (11 vs. 9 percent).

Status dropout rates and changes in these rates over time differ by race/ethnicity. The status dropout rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics each generally declined between 1972 and 2005. However, for each year between 1972 and 2005, the status dropout rate was lowest for Whites and highest for Hispanics. Although the gaps between the rates of Blacks and Whites and Hispanics and Whites have decreased, the patterns have not been consistent. The Black-White gap narrowed during the 1980s, with no measurable change during the 1970s or between 1990 and 2005. In contrast, the Hispanic-White gap narrowed between 1990 and 2005, with no measurable change in the gap during the 1970s and 1980s.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). The Condition of Education 2007 (NCES 2007-064), Indicator 23.

Percentage of high school dropouts (status dropouts) among persons 16 to 24 years old, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1972-2005                                    
Year    Total1  Race/ethnicity2                
                White   Black   Hispanic       
1972    14.6    12.3    21.3    34.3   
1980    14.1    11.4    19.1    35.2   
1985    12.6    10.4    15.2    27.6   
1990    12.1    9.0     13.2    32.4   
1995    12.0    8.6     12.1    30.0   
1996    11.1    7.3     13.0    29.4   
1997    11.0    7.6     13.4    25.3   
1998    11.8    7.7     13.8    29.5   
1999    11.2    7.3     12.6    28.6   
2000    10.9    6.9     13.1    27.8   
2001    10.7    7.3     10.9    27.0   
2002    10.5    6.5     11.3    25.7   
2003    9.9     6.3     10.9    23.5   
2004    10.3    6.8     11.8    23.8   
2005    9.4     6.0     10.4    22.4   
1Includes other race/ethnicity categories not separately shown.
2Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Beginning in 2003, respondents were able to identify as being more than one race. From 2003 onwards, the Black and White categories include individuals who considered themselves to be of only one race.

NOTE: The status dropout rate is the percentage of 16- through 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school and who lack a high school credential. A high school credential includes a high school diploma or equivalent credential such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. Estimates beginning in 1987 reflect new editing procedures for cases with missing data on school enrollment items. Estimates beginning in 1992 reflect new wording of the educational attainment item. Estimates beginning in 1994 reflect changes due to newly instituted computer-assisted interviewing.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). The Condition of Education 2007 (NCES 2007-064), Table 23-1.

Related Tables and Figures: (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources: (Listed by Release Date)

Clarendon panel puts educational onus on parents

SUMMERTON Educators, community leaders, members of the faith community and parents agreed Monday that getting parents involved in their child's education at an early age is critical to improving education in Clarendon School District 1.

Sponsored by the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs, the third of 13 town meetings was held at Scott's Branch High School to address the educational needs of children.

"By reaching out to these communities, we are hoping to build a grassroots network that will support the work of the commission as we complete our study on education and community outreach programs, promote the Education and Economic Development Act of 2005, advocate for increased parental involvement in education and support legislation that improves education for all," Aisha Staggers, the commission's program coordinator for African-American Affairs, said in a prepared statement. "Ultimately, this network will be the driving force for change in South Carolina."

Staggers acted as facilitator of the two-hour roundtable discussion with panelists Dr. Rose Wilder, superintendent of Clarendon 1 schools, Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments Executive Director Jim Darby, Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis, Clarendon 1 Board Chairman John D. Bonaparte, the Rev. Dr. William T. Johnson, pastor of Taw Caw Missionary Baptist Church and Ben Boozer with Clemson University Extension Service.

"How well are we preparing our children to compete in the global economy and in South Carolina's work force?" staggers asked the panelists. "Are we investing our resources early enough to ensure that all children excel in their educational experience? And provided that all things are truly equal at school, is that enough to save our children from poverty and deprivation?"

The consensus was that poverty is not the lone reason the educational needs of the children in the district are not being met.

Wilder said parents need to begin preparing children for pre-K before they reach the age of 1.

"From zero to 3 years of age is vital," Wilder said. "The brain is like a sponge and we're not doing what we should between the ages of zero and 3."

"The community needs to grab the bull by the horns and come to grips with education," Boozer said. "The community needs to do more."

Bonaparte said the district needs to use test data to set the strategies in motion for improving education.

Dennis was blunt when he called for holding parents accountable for their children's education.

"Parents now are much younger," he said. "They aren't as responsible as their older counterparts. They are not being held accountable. We need to identify programs, identify parents and then hold them accountable."

Johnson said he believes the lack of education in the younger parents might be at the crux of the problem.

"Many of the children's parents maybe didn't graduate," Johnson said. "Maybe they don't understand what they need to do or how to go about getting the job done."

Wilder said "parents only come to school when they want to come."

"Parents need to meet (the district) halfway," she said. "We give our all every day. I can't ask any more of my teachers. We need to stop making excuses for certain groups."

Staggers said data from all the meetings will be compiled and the information will serve "to aid districts and communities" in their efforts to address the educational needs of their particular communities.

(This group is scheduled to be in Rock Hill on Oct. 1)

Test scores show little progress

S.C. 8th-graders provide only bright spot in results on national assessment
Performance by South Carolina elementary and middle school students who took a nationally recognized test this spring showed little improvement over results posted two years ago, according to a federal report issued Tuesday.

The state’s average scores on reading sections of the National Assessment of Education Progress that fourth- and eighth-graders took were below the national average. So was the state average on the math section taken by fourth-graders.

Only S.C. eighth-graders did well enough on math to top the national average for that grade level.
Nationally, test scores in math show promising increases, as did scores by fourth-graders on the reading section, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

NAEP scores are used to provide a snapshot of where students across the country stand academically in core subjects.
Here is what you need to know about the test scores:
What is the National Assessment of Education Progress?
It is a test administered randomly to children that attempts to measure what they know in key subjects, such as math, reading (English) and science. Since every state accepts federal money to supplement funding for schools with a high percentage of poor students, they must provide access to a sampling of students to take the tests.

Who took the most recent tests?
Fourth- and eighth-graders in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools. In South Carolina, about 7,100 fourth-graders took tests in reading and math, while another 5,300 eighth-graders took similar tests in the same subjects.

Why are the tests important?
The federal government uses results on NAEP tests to gauge progress public school students are making nationally toward a 2014 goal that every child will consistently score proficient, the second highest of a four-tier rating system. (The highest is advanced.)

How do NAEP tests compare to Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests that S.C. students in grades three through eight take each spring?

They are similar, but not identical. South Carolina modeled its PACT program after the federal testing system. NAEP is the one yardstick that can be used to compare the performance of all students nationally.

How did my child’s school or school district do?
The U.S. Department of Education report includes only state-level statistics.
How did South Carolina children measure up to their peers?
Math scores were stronger than reading scores at both grade levels, but none were statistically different from those posted by a different group of S.C. students in 2005. According to state Education Department, here is how it said South Carolina’s 2007 scores ranked:

Math, grade 4: 36th
Math, grade 8: 29th
Reading, grade 4: 43rd
Reading, grade 8: 41st
Is there any good news for South Carolina in this latest measure?
Eighth-graders turned in the strongest performance on the math section. According to the state Education Department, that group posted a better average score than 16 other states, including Florida and Georgia as well as Michigan and Rhode Island.

How can I learn more about the test?
Visit online.
Grade 4 reading Nation | 220 N.C. | 218 S.C. | 214

Grade 4 math Nation | 239 N.C. | 242 S.C. | 237

Grade 8 reading Nation | 261 N.C. | 259 S.C. | 257

Grade 8 math Nation | 280 N.C. | 284 S.C. | 282

Source: The National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Vining Comments on Board Action

Fund Balance and Excess Funds
John Hair, soon to be retired Finance Director of the District, had recommended a very conservative balance of two months operating expenses for the fund balance. He stated at the meeting that  the amount needed to keep our bond rating in place was between 1 and 2 months, but he liked to be conservative and recommend the full two months.  He had concerns about future funding but felt there was a good chance  funding would be adequate as long as the state stood by their obligations and he didn't have a problem having just a few days short of a two month supply.  He reported that "non recurring" funds were just that - they may not be there the next year, and in fact, there could be a deficient amount due to the inexact science of forecasting revenue (Board Chair Norwood reported there had been no deficits since he had been on the board - making them more like recurring funds instead of non recurring). Five members of the Board were comfortable with the financial picture going forward.  I was not one of those, but agree with Mr. Hair that the current financial snapshot of the district would be fine being under his two month suggestion. Having a very conservative outlook has allowed our district to weather state shortfalls when a lot of districts were struggling to keep teachers.

Security Equipment
A lot of our existing equipment is analog and not very practical.  We have areas which are not covered.  Digital technology will give us capabilities we've been needing for a long time.  I believe it will eventually act as a deterrent once the word gets out.  Modern schools, such as Blythewood and Dorman High School, were built with this technology.  I've been disappointed that ours have not - and it's time we moved into current technology.  It's an unfortunate reality that we need these devices. The funding approved will not complete the need.

Professional Development
It's hard not to approve Professional Development. I've approved large increases for the past 5 years - and we have made little progress on any of our No Child Left Behind measures. I suggested the development be used for a particular "need' area such as, having every third grader be proficient in reading before moving to 4th grade (one of the recommendations from the Riley Institute on SC educational needs) - so we could see the results of the professional development. The administration did not think this was a good idea so I voted against the measure.

District Three Stadium Improvements
The scoreboard has potential to generate funds for the athletic organizations. The net result would be less district money going to athletics. The example given was Byrnes High School, which, when their scoreboard is paid off, will reportedly generate $100,000 per year. The difference is they used no tax dollars and are relying on a community/business partnership to make it work. The administration presented no plan for how this would work here. Without an organization and structure in place, revenue generation will not be what Byrnes has experienced.  However, it is possible for this to be a winner project - plus the players (Northwestern and Rock Hill) and fans will enjoy the scoreboard - it will indeed be a showcase for our district and community - one everyone will be proud of. I voted against it because we were given no details and South Pointe players would be left out.

Artificial Turf is kind of like buying a new car every year.  You can't economically justify it, but you can justify it by "non" economical reasons. Artificial turf does provide year round service and allow for more usage than currently.  It is not maintenance free and without issues of it's own (vs. grass).  The District Three Turf has deteriorated in recent years - for whatever reason - and something needed to be done. We built a district stadium at South Pointe (2 stadiums and three schools should equal less use than 1 stadium and 2 schools). We also spent extra money on the Castle Heights football field for the same reason.  But, we somehow have not been able to manage this to lesson the load at district three.  I am opposed to the use of the field for soccer because we currently have regulation soccer fields at each school - giving us a competitive advantage (and an envious position with other school districts who have to play on football fields). I also oppose the use of the stadium for graduation.  We've worked hard making our ceremonies dignified - this would be a step back (not to mention rain outs - although that might be a good thing right now). The new artificial turfs are much improved. Yet, NFL players recommend natural grass by a 3 to 1 margin. That's good enough for me. For that, and fund balance issues, I voted against artificial turf.

Correspondence to the Board was overwhelmingly in opposition to the stadium improvements. Most wanted to use the funds to pursue more academic measures, or to keep the fund balance in good shape.  Although the expenditure seemed large, it represents only 0.8% of the budget - and the reality is - there are many more things, necessary things, in the budget, which would not be considered of an "academic" nature.  I really appreciate the large number of folks who took the time to write, email, and call with their concerns and suggestions. The passion for education was very warming, and a testimony of what our community represents. But these issues are now behind us. It is time to accept the decisions and make them work for the community. Thanks.


District Three To Spend $1 Million on Football Stadium Renovations

Following a comprehensive discussion on how to use the $3.7 million in excess funds from the 2006-07 operating budget, the board voted to purchase security camera systems for secondary schools and for school buses up to $750,000 (7-0 vote); provide professional development funds for personnel in all schools in the amount of $350,000 (5-2 vote with Reid & Vining against); purchase artificial turf for the District Three Stadium in the estimated amount of $700,000 (5-2 vote with Silverman & Vining against); purchase a jumbo, customized scoreboard for use in the District Three Stadium at an estimated cost of $300,000 (5-2 vote with Silverman & Vining against); and put the remaining excess in the district’s fund balance.

In other business, the school board . . .
ulistened to the following citizens express their opinions about using a portion or portions of the approximate $3.7 million excess in revenues for the 2006-07 school year or put the money in the district’s fund balance:

     Jeff Nicholson—anti appropriation for additional staff development funds and pro use of money for additional Promethean boards for teachers

     Dennis Partlow—pro economic impact that could result from community or area use of the District Three stadium with the addition of field turf and technological scoreboard

     Bill Warren—pro improvements at District Three Stadium through addition of field turf and scoreboard
     Caroline Allen (South Pointe student)—pro use of money for educational programs (labs at South Pointe not adequately supplied)

     Billy Parker—pro improvement at District Three Stadium through addition of field turf
     Johnny Walker—pro real grass due to cost and better use of taxpayer money
     Wayne Tomberlin—pro real glass due to cost and better use of taxpayer money
uapproved personnel recommendations, minutes from the Aug. 27 and Sept. 10 meetings of the board, and approved overnight field trips requested by Ebenezer Avenue, Northwestern, Castle Heights, and Rawlinson Road;

uheard Supt. Moody make the following announcements:           
        4A public forum on the proposed elementary, middle school, and high school reassignment plans will be held at 6:00 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, in the Sullivan Auditorium. This is a change in time from previous notifications.

        4Following the NHS vs. RHH alumni flag football game on Sept. 22, two of three events in the Sports Extravaganza 2007 still remain. The Ride 2 Read Motorcycle Benefit Rally will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Northwestern High School, and a benefit golf tournament will be held on Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Waterford Golf Club. Proceeds from all three sports events will help fund the Power of Mentoring Program.  For information on the motorcycle rally or the golf tournament, interested persons can call 981-1006 or check out the "Power of Mentoring" information on the district's website,

        4The district has planned two important meetings in early October. Chairpersons of School Improvement Councils will meet from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, in the District Office Training Room to receive an update on state SIC initiatives.

        4On Oct. 5, from 11:30-1:00, a meeting will be held with local pastors to discuss potential sites within the community, and possibly within churches, where school board members can talk with parents and others without school-age children about public education in District Three.

        4Northwestern High School will host the board’s next work session on Monday, Oct. 8. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the school's media center.

          4The second of six late start dates will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 10. Our first late start day on Sept. 12 went well. We had a number of students who reported to school at the regular time, but principals had made provisions for them. One segment of our current "School Talk" show is on late start days and what teachers plan to accomplish on these dates.

        4Students will have two holidays in October: Monday, Oct. 15, a Consortium staff development day, and Friday, Oct. 26, a teacher day in District Three.

ulistened to Assoc. Supt. Luanne Kokolis and Susan York highlight the reassignment process for populating Mount Holly Elementary and Dutchman Creek Middle School and reducing student capacity at Old Pointe Elementary and at Rock Hill High during the 2008-09 school year;

uheard Dr. Kokolis state  the 15-day enrollment reflects an increase of 374 students over our 135-day enrollment taken last spring. She stated that this increase aligns with the land use study that was introduced to the board last spring and which cited that the district will be growing by an estimated 400 students for the next few years.

uheard an overview by Harriet Jaworowski on plans for staff development days on Oct. 15 and Oct. 26; 

uwatched a PowerPoint presentation while Sheila Huckabee and Keith Wilks reported on their visit in early September to Opportunities for Learning, a charter school in California, and its possibilities for expelled students (grades 7-12) in District Three. Representatives from Opportunities for Learning will visit with York County superintendents and other administrators and state department officials on October 3 in District Three to discuss program requirements. This is a very successful program in California, but would require some major concessions from the Department of Education and State Legtislature before it can become a reality here.  This is one of programs the district is investigating after the Board directed them to start taking action to improve our drop out rates.

ulistened to Walter Wolff talk about the district’s new program, Phoenix Bound, for middle schoolers ages 14-17 who have failed one or more grades. Students can initially earn one unit in Earth Science in Phoenix Bound; and then as they move to the  Crossroads Program, they can earn three high school credits in English, math, and global studies. Dr. Wolff stated that the program has met with initial success, and that he is hopeful that students will continue in school and be able to catch up with their age-appropriate class. This is a program the district has implemented after the Board directed them to begin immediate steps to start addressing drop out rates and graduation rates.

uheard Dr. Kokolis provide an update on the audit for the District's Effectiveness Needs Study. She stated that Drs. Don Thomas and Dale Holden are compiling data for an annual audit of the standards set forth in the study from last year, and that when the audit has been completed, the comparative report and study analysis will be presented to the board. The report completed last November showed District Three to be under performing in comparison to Districts with similar demographics in South Carolina.

ulistened to Chairman Bob Norwood review topics discussed at the board’s work session on Sept. 10;

uapproved for first reading board policy IKE/IKE-R (Promotion/Retention) and second reading of GBEB (Staff Conduct) and GCQF (Discipline, Suspension and Dismissal of Professional Staff) (Vote was 7-0);

udetermined that Trustees Norwood, Douglas, Brown, and Reid will serve as voting delegates at the annual business meeting of the S.C. School Boards Assn. on Dec. 1;

uagreed that they would contact members of the local legislative delegation to encourage them to schedule visits in our schools until Oct. 19 as part of a national initiative titled “Legislators Back to School.”

uThe administration removed a request for an overnight trip after several Board members objected to no scholarships being offered for students per Board Policy.

Zipporah Little was approved as the Co-ordinator for school-based mentoring and Anthony Thomas was approved as an Assistant Principal for Rock Hill High School.  Vote was 7-0.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Greenville Schools Sending a Message

Greenville sending message it cares about students

Published: Monday, September 24, 2007 - 2:00 am

By Judy Snyder

Last month, 150 teachers, school administrators and volunteers from
numerous local businesses and community organizations tried a unique
approach to raising the number of students who will graduate from high
school. They visited the homes of the students who failed to show up for
school during the first week at two local high schools.
These dedicated individuals wanted to send a message that the Greenville
community sees value in every young person and cares about their
education. Families found total strangers at their doors saying we want
your sons and daughters to be in school because it is important to them
and important to the welfare of our entire community.
This event put a public face to Graduate Greenville -- a community
effort to raise graduation rates. But it is just one of several
strategies and actions that Graduate Greenville is initiating to solve
the problem of dropouts in Greenville County through a partnership of
Greenville County Schools, The Alliance for Quality Education and United
Way of Greenville County.
Graduate Greenville is based on the three R's of Rigor, Relevance and
Relationships. Not only do we believe all young people can learn but we
believe they have the right to a challenging curriculum that prepares
them for the workplace or further education. We believe that curriculum
can be made relevant to the times in which these young people live. We
also believe that every young person deserves a strong relationship with
an adult who cares for them and will help them dream big and attain
those dreams.

We realize that many students need extra support on the way to attaining
the prize of a high school diploma, and it is our goal at Graduate
Greenville to give that support. To accomplish this, Graduate Greenville
is involved in the following additional activities:
Identifying potential dropouts during the transition from middle school
to high school.
Providing summer enrichment programs for identified students to give
them the tools and the self-confidence to be successful in the 9th
Training for teachers to increase their effectiveness with disengaged
Providing students at targeted schools with a "graduation coach" to act
as an advocate and go-between with teachers, to build a relationship of
trust with the student and the student's family, and to provide
counseling and academic support and encouragement.
Matching up struggling students with community mentors through Big
Brothers Big Sisters of the Upstate.
Researching and developing alternative programs for students to earn a
Providing information and support to students, parents and the community
through a soon-to-be-announced 24/7 telephone line and Web site.
Advocating for the involvement of the community in the solution of this
priority community problem.
All of these activities are taking place because Graduate Greenville
teams made up of leaders from the Greenville County Schools, the
business community and numerous other groups meet on a regular basis to
discuss, plan and implement ways to involve the citizens of Greenville
County in keeping our students in school until they graduate. The door
is being opened for these students, but only a community-wide effort can
make it possible for all of our children to pass through that door to
the success of graduation and beyond.

Herald Education BLOG

Herald Reporter Jessica Schonberg has started an education BLOG at:

Be sure to visit and add comments.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

North Carolina Southern Baptist's Against Public Schools

Southern Baptist Leader Says Public Schools Hostile Toward Religion

Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist seminary president told a North Carolina newspaper that public schools are not neutral toward religion but rather hostile to people of faith.

"In the public schools, you don't just have neutrality, you have hostility toward organized religion," said Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, as quoted by the Raleigh News & Observer. "A lot of parents are fed up."

Yesterday and today the Southern Baptist Convention seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., is sponsoring a Christian School 101 workshop to train church leaders to open private schools.

The long-term aim of the workshop, launched in 2006 at the former church of past SBC President Jim Henry, is for Southern Baptists to build a new alternative education system of church-based Christian schools to compete with the government-run education system.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina helped promote the conference, mailing out materials and posting a press release about it on the convention Web site. In it, one of the conference speakers, S.L. Sherrill, founder and superintendent of North Raleigh Christian Academy, gives his views on why pastors should attend the Christian School 101 workshop.

"A lot of pastors are afraid that a seminar like this is about getting your kids out of public school," Sherrill said. "What we're trying to do is show the value of Kingdom Education. It is not about pulling the kids out of the public school. It's about showing pastors the value of Kingdom Education, so they can share that with parents and give these parents the opportunity of a choice."

But the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools, the group offering the program, makes it clear that if thousands of Baptist school were to open across the country, then "schooling that has been used to secularize our nation and its children could be used to give them a sacred education instead."

SBACS says children from ages 5 to 18 spend 16,000 hours in school, compared to about 1,600 hours in church. They view that as a main reason that studies show that 88 percent of children leave the church within four years of high school graduation.

The solution, the group says, is for Southern Baptists and other Christians to get involved in a movement to return God to the classroom by starting Christian schools.

Southeastern Seminary already offers a master's degree in Christian school administration. Its purpose, according to the seminary
catalogue "is to equip God-called men and women for leadership in Christian schools."

"Are we going to be satisfied with the thousands of hours children spend in an environment with the absence of support for what we hold dear, and in many cases, hostility to it?" Ken Coley, a professor at Southeastern who runs the program, asked the News & Observer.

Southeastern isn't the only SBC seminary encouraging alternatives to public schools. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote a column two years ago saying the time had come for responsible Christian parents to develop an "exit strategy" from public schools.

Mohler revisited the issue as recently as Aug. 3, when he chided churches on his daily radio program for not doing enough to help parents make informed choices about their children's education.

"At the very minimum an evangelical church should be a place that calls parents together in order to say, 'Where should we educate our children? How should we make those decisions? How can we support each other in making the right decision for our children?'" Mohler said.

"At the next level I hope churches will think about sponsoring Christian schools."

SBC President Frank Page has said he agrees that Christian students are under attack for their beliefs in many public schools today, and he hopes more churches will begin offering Christian schools. But Page, who says two of his three daughters graduated from Christian schools, believes it is up to parents, and not the denomination, to decide where their children should be educated.

While not all Southern Baptists agree it is time to give up on public schools, at least one Baptist state paper editor believes such a consensus is building. In a special edition of the Southern Baptist Texan handed out free of charge to messengers who attended the 2007 SBC annual meeting in San Antonio, Gary Ledbetter wrote an editorial about people calling for an exodus from public schools titled "Almost They Persuadeth Me."

"Consensus or not, public schools lose a little ground with Christian parents every year," Ledbetter wrote. "There is little sign of reform and less movement toward parental control of the institution. It deserves to lose ground with us."

"Every year, my enthusiasm for government-supervised education is harder to maintain," Ledbetter wrote. "I fully expect it will be worse next year than it is this year. I also expect whatever problems it takes to push your buttons will eventually do so--in your town or the town of your grandchildren."

Ledbetter said churches need to be ready with alternatives when large numbers of parents decide that enough is enough.

"When I think of the Exodus story I can't help but see Charlton Heston leading a cast of thousands out of a movie-set Egypt," Ledbetter said. "One day there are millions of the Hebrew children in Egypt and a few days later, not one. The removal of Christian families from public schools will not be that way.

"Think instead of an oppressed minority leaving a repressive political regime. A few get out early, others need a more urgent threat, others escape through some kind of underground rescue movement, dogs baying in the background. Some will stay too long. I'm convinced that we'll leave, not as a denomination or as churches or even as a faith, but as refugees whose alarms go off according to different sensitivities. Eventually we'll all leave public education or wish we had."

Bob Allen is managing editor of

Also see:
SBC Leader Urges Churches to Discuss 'Exit Strategy' From Public Schools
No Baptist Left Behind
'Exit Strategy' Advocate Wants to 'Bankrupt' Public Schools
North Carolina Baptists Promote Conference Aimed at Starting Christian Schools

Friday, September 21, 2007

Schools Spend All They Can Get

          Schools Spend All They Can Get, Study Shows

Author: Karla Dial
Published by: The Heartland Institute
Published in: School Reform News
Publication date: September 2007

In conducting a study to determine whether consolidating school districts would save Michigan taxpayers money, a researcher found evidence showing school officials spend as much money as they can.

While that didn't surprise Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom and author of the study, released in May, he was surprised how much that factor affects education spending.

To control for other variables in his study, "School District Consolidation, Size and Spending: an Evaluation," in order to isolate whether consolidation saves money, Coulson compared two theories on how public officials spend it.

"One was that if there's a lot of demand, they spend more, and if there's not, they spend less," otherwise known as the benevolence theory, Coulson explained. A competing theory from economics--public choice theory--says when public officials make a decision, they consult their own interests, just like a shopper would.

"What do public officials do if they're looking out for their own interests? They spend more money, because the bigger the budget you control, the more power you have," Coulson said.

Powerful Predictor

Coulson said the study showed public choice theory is 15 times more powerful as a predictor of spending than the benevolence theory.

"I thought the public choice model would explain more, but that it's 15 times more powerful as a predictor, it just blows me away," Coulson said. "It is the single most powerful indicator of how much they are spending. So that's by far the most powerful variable.

"If I wasn't already convinced that there are serious problems with the design of our public school model, this would do it," Coulson said.

Robert Enlow, executive director of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, a national school choice advocacy group based in Indianapolis, agreed.

"It's common sense that school districts spend as much as they get, if not more," Enlow said. "We all know that, but I've never seen it proved like this before. It seems this study does a good job of evidencing that."

Systemic Problems

Michigan taxpayers spend $19 billion annually on public education, said Ryan Olson, an education policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland. And though per-pupil spending has doubled over the past 30 years, even after adjusting for inflation, students' performance has stagnated or worsened.

"This study shows that Michigan policymakers would do well to pay attention to the finding that school officials spend as much as they're allocated," Olson said. "Spending more money just doesn't work. We should look at incentive reforms, providing more parental choice in the state."

Possible Savings

Olson noted other ways school districts can stretch funding.

"Andrew [Coulson] spoke in the study about introducing a meaningful incentive structure, but schools in Michigan are finding they can work within the system to produce savings," Olson said, citing ideas such as "competitive contracting for janitorial and food services, and competitive bidding on health insurance."

Olson said a Mackinac Center survey of Michigan school districts in 2006 showed 38 percent bid out transportation, food, and janitorial services.

"Many are realizing significant savings," Olson said. "One contracted for janitorial and busing services and is saving about $408 per pupil per year. What superintendent of a school board would turn down a $408 [per child] funding increase?"

Better Methods

Coulson called his discovery "an utterly damning finding for the system."

"It means there's nothing you can do to increase the efficiency of the system that will have an impact unless you change the incentives by injecting competition and school choice," Coulson explained. "If we don't do that, spending will continue to go up, and shuffling districts around won't make a dent in that."

As for his intended subject, school district consolidation in Michigan, Coulson found taxpayers would save more money by breaking large districts into the optimal size of 2,900 students rather than consolidating small districts. But the savings would not be worth the trouble of completely redrawing district lines statewide, he said.

Coulson plans to release a national study on his findings later this year.

Furman Study Released On SC Education Opinions

Furman University study shows consensus among South Carolinians for
improving public education

GREENVILLE - Results of a new research study confirm that there is broad
base support for improving South Carolina's public education system.

The study conducted by the Riley Institute at Furman University shows
that Palmetto State citizens are concerned about high quality early
childhood education programs, programs for struggling students, and
teacher recruitment and retention. The non-partisan research project is
the largest and most comprehensive ever done on public, K-12 education
in the state. More than 3,000 hours of interviews with nearly 800
people representing all of South Carolina's school districts between May
2005 and November 2006.

"These results are reassuring," said State Superintendent of Education
Jim Rex. "They confirm what we've been saying all along.
There is consensus in South Carolina for improving public education and
moving our schools forward. Business leaders, community members,
parents, and educators are all on the same page. The general public has
not taken its eye off the ball."

According to Furman officials, the study's goal was to learn what the
primary stakeholders in the state's education system had to say about
the strengths and weaknesses of South Carolina's public schools and to
gather their recommendations for improving education at the early
childhood/elementary, middle school and high school levels.

Those participating in the study included businessmen and women,
parents, students, school board members, teachers of all levels,
superintendents, and principals from every county and school district.
In addition to answering a 160-item questionnaire, the stakeholders
participated in lengthy focus group discussions.

The study found a great deal of consensus across every stakeholder group
for a large number of initiatives, such as small class size, family
literacy programs and parent involvement, dropout prevention programs
beginning in 8th grade and a curriculum more reflective of the state's

"We believe it is highly important for policymakers and all of us to
know what people at the grassroots level are thinking about public
education in South Carolina, at the place where the work is being done,"
said Don Gordon, director of the Riley Institute. "And to ensure we
heard a geographically and intellectually diverse number of opinions, we
talked to a broad sample of people in every school district in the
state, from the smallest to the largest, the wealthiest to the poorest.
"We also didn't want the participants to simply answer a few perfunctory
questions and be on their way. We conducted lengthy discussions with
each group and got into a great amount of detail. What we discovered is
that folks are passionate about public education in South Carolina and
they want to make our schools as strong and efficient as possible."
Gordon said that Riley Institute officials are in the process of meeting
with key South Carolina legislators and providing them with results of
the study. "It was our goal to compile as much sound and useful
information as possible and then provide that information to those who
make policy decisions about public education in our state," he said.
"This is especially important for our students who in today's global
world are competing for jobs with those from other states and also from
other countries, such as China and India."
According to project director Brooke Culclasure, there was a broad
consensus on a significant number of important educational strategies or
opportunities and the vast majority of participants in all categories
expressed intense interest in improving education in the state. "There
appears to be a real hunger to be an active participant from the
grassroots working up, addressing issues that they really see as
important on the ground every day," she said.
The study was conducted by the Riley Institute's Center for Educational
Policy and Leadership and funded by a $600,000 grant from the William
and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has been making grants since 1967 to
help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the
world. The California-based foundation concentrates its resources on
activities in education, the environment, global development, performing
arts, philanthropy and population.
For a detailed list of the research findings, visit the Riley
Institute's web site at

Actual data can be
found at:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

School Board Meeting on Monday, September 24, 2007

Meeting of the Board of Trustees
Monday, September 24, 2007
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
IV. Consent Action Agenda
A. Approval of Minutes
1. August 27, 2007, business meeting
2. September 10, 2007, work session
B. Approval of Personnel Recommendations
C. Approval of Overnight Field Trip Requests
V. Communications
VI. Report of the Superintendent
A. Announcements
B. Reassignment Report
C. Enrollment Report
D. October Professional Development Days
E. Options for Youth
F. Phoenix Bound
G. Effectiveness Needs Survey
VII. Review of Work Session
VIII. Action Agenda
A. Approval of Fund Balance Transfer to Football Field, Professional Development, and Security.
B. Approval of Promotion/Retention Policy IKE/IKE-R, 1st Reading
C. Approval of Personnel Policies GBEB & GCQF, 2nd Reading
D. Assignment of Delegates for SCSBA 2007 Delegate Assembly
IX. Other Business – Legislative Contacts
X. Executive Session – Personnel Issues
XI. Adjournment

Herald Education Contact

Jessica Schonberg
Education Reporter
The Herald
132 W. Main St.
Rock Hill, SC 29731
(803) 329-4072
(803) 329-4021 (fax)

District News 9-20

"Family Fun Day" Geared Up for September 22
The event will take place in the District Three South Stadium from 11:00-3:00 on Saturday, Sept. 22. Families can tailgate from 11:00-1:00 and then enjoy the NHS vs. RHH alumni flag football game at 1:00. Vendors, including many schools, will be selling pizza, cotton candy, hotdogs, hamburgers, nachos, popcorn, ice cream, roasted/boiled peanuts, snow cones, freeze pops, Italian ice, drinks, BBQ, fried fish, and chicken plates. Face painting, games, and crafts will be available, as well as spirit dolls and a dunking booth provided by Rock Hill High. Everyone will also want to purchase an alumni game T-shirt. A $2 donation will be requested for the funding of the district's new "Power of Mentoring" program, but no one will be turned away!

<Principal Linda Crute was notified in May that Northside would receive the S.C. Creative Ticket School of Excellence Award from the S.C. Alliance for Arts Education for making the arts an integral part of the education of students. On Sept. 17, Ms. Crute received a call from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, announcing that Northside is now one of five Creative Ticket National Schools of Distinction.

<Finley Road recently had a visit from the Charlotte Bobcats, including coaches, players, and Rufus the Mascot. The guys not only met with students in a school-wide assembly to talk about their love for reading, but they painted a corner in the school library in their team colors and included Bobcat memorabilia.

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