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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wes Hayes To Hold Public Meeting February 4th

Wes Hayes will hold his next public meeting in Fewell Park at 1204 Alexander
Rd at 6:30 p. m. Monday February 4th

District Three Information for 1-30

Black History Month
February is Black History Month, so the local news media will be looking for unique classroom or school activities to feature. If anyone wants to promote what's happening in their school, please contact Elaine Baker via e-mail or at 981-1008. Teachers should also note that Clinton Junior College's Dalton Gallery now features a number of exhibits on diversity which are open and free to the public. Gallery hours are from 9:00 a.m. –

8:00 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Friday.
     In addition, February is also the month for observing the following dates:
        <National Children's Dental Health Month, Feb. 1-29
        <National School Counseling Week, Feb. 4-8
        <National FFA Week, Feb. 16-23
        <Presidents' Day, Feb. 18 (a holiday in Rock Hill Schools)
Information compiled by Elaine Baker

<Eighth-graders throughout the district will have the opportunity to participate in "National Ground Hog Shadowing Day" on Feb. 1. According to Lisa Robbins, coordinator, a large number of students will participate.

<Northside Elementary School of the Arts will be recognized on the Senate floor of the S.C. Legislature on Feb. 12 for receiving the Creative Ticket Award from the Kennedy Center. At a luncheon later that day, which will be attended by 75 legislators, district arts persons, and state arts advocates, 25 Northside students will perform a couple of songs they plan to sing at the Kennedy Center in March.

<A publication of the S.C. Reading Recovery Advisory Council, "The Literacy Spot Award 1996-2007: A Quest for Excellence," features an article on District Three and a long article written by Jane Sharp, principal at Belleview. Richmond Drive was the only school in S.C. in 2007 to receive the "Literacy Spot Award."

<The Challenger program now has an inclement weather line, 803.981-1565.
<The York County Council will sponsor a ribbon-cutting celebration at 2:00 p.m. on Feb. 8 in recognition of the completion of the South Pointe Trail, which provides a safe walkway for students attending South Pointe. This project was completed through the collaborative efforts of the County, the City of Rock Hill, Rock Hill Schools, and the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study (RFATS) organization.

<Band directors at all middle and high schools are truly proud of the 80+ students who have been selected for All-Region and All-State bands. Hats off to Jermaine Evans (CHMS), Larry Wells (NHS), Mike Doll (RRMS), Joe Gulledge (RHH), James Turner (SPH), Jocquin Fuller (SMS), and Myra Amler (STMS). Rock Hill High had 25 qualifiers, which was the band's best total in over 20 years.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Resolution to Support H.R. 648

WHEREAS, on January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which applies to all school districts and schools within states that accept federal Title I dollars; and,

WHEREAS, the Rock Hill School District Three Board of Trustees supports the goals of NCLB of raising student achievement; closing the achievement gap; and ensuring that each child has a highly qualified teacher; and,

WHEREAS, the Rock Hill School District Three Board of Trustees continues to welcome the
accountability for improving student and school performance; and,

WHEREAS, the Rock Hill School District Three Board of Trustees has had five years of operational experience in implementing NCLB; and,

WHEREAS, the Rock Hill School District Three Board of Trustees has identified improvements that could be made to NCLB that would eliminate barriers to full implementation of the federal law; and,

WHEREAS, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) developed draft legislation based on input from local school boards across the nation that would address the concerns of local school boards, and improve the implementation of NCLB; and,

WHEREAS, in April 2006 the NSBA Delegate Assembly re-affirmed its support of federal legislation that is consistent with the NSBA draft legislation; and,

WHEREAS, in January 2007 Representative Don Young (R-AK) re-introduced legislation, the No Child Left Behind Improvements Act of 2007, H.R. 648, that is consistent with the NSBA draft legislation; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Rock Hill School District Three Board of Trustees urges local representatives to fully support H.R. 648 by becoming a co-sponsor of the bill; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that the Rock Hill School District Three Board of Trustees seeks the support of local community and civic leaders and appropriate members of the South Carolina General Assembly in encouraging local representatives to become co-sponsors of H.R. 648; and, be it finally

RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution be sent to members of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation, the governor, the members of the South Carolina General Assembly, local public governing officials, and State Superintendent Dr. Jim Rex.

Signed this 28th day of January, 2008, by the Rock Hill School District Three Board of Trustees.
________________________________________ ____________________________________
Robert C. Norwood, Chairman Jim Vining, Vice Chairman
________________________________________ ____________________________________
Walter Brown Mildred Douglas
________________________________________ ____________________________________
Elizabeth Ann Reid Mikki Rentschler
Dr. Jason Silverman

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

School ratings, related stats now available online
Posted on Tue, Jan. 29, 2008
The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee launched a new online service today to assist adults in understanding how to evaluate public school performance.

The school reform watchdog agency joined with the company that produces and manages South Carolina’s state government Web site to provide quick access to annual statistics and other data used to gauge how public schools measure up to academic achievement goals.

In addition to ratings based on annual test score performance, the “searchable database” provides access to other facts, such as enrollment, poverty levels, graduation rates and the amount of money spent on students, teacher pay and instruction.

“The information on the Web site and the school and district report cards are tools for improving our schools and energizing communities,” said Jo Anne Anderson, EOC’s executive director. “The EOC and our partners are pleased to expand information access to wider audiences.”

Each fall, the state publishes annual report cards that includes much of the information now being made available in database form. Every school in South Carolina and all 85 districts are subjected to these annual reviews.

Anderson’s staff said it hopes the new Web site will promote a better understanding of how performance measures are used to evaluate public school performance as well as assist those looking to relocate to South Carolina.

The EOC is working with South Carolina Interactive, a Columbia-based subsidiary of NIC, which provides online services to an estimated 2,600 state and local agencies.

Bill Robinson

Bad Parents Don't Make Bad Schools
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2008; 9:09 AM

A Washington Post poll this month revealed, once again, that D.C. residents put the most blame for their failing public schools on apathetic and uninvolved parents. Many Americans feel the same way about the same school troubles in their areas. They are wrong, but in such a convoluted way that it is difficult for us parents to get a good grasp on what role we play in making our schools bad or good.

Do unsupportive parents create pathetic schools or do pathetic schools create unsupportive parents? It is the most frustrating of chicken-and-egg questions. Many education experts will say it is a bit of both, but that's a cop-out. Most of our worst schools are full of low-income children in our biggest cities. No one has yet found a way to revive those schools in any significant way by training the students' parents to be more engaged with their children's educations. It is too hard to do and too unlikely to have much impact on the chaotic school district leadership.

What has worked, again and again, is the opposite: Bring an energetic and focused leader into the school, let that person recruit and train good teachers and find ways to get rid of those who resist making the necessary changes. Great teaching makes great schools, and once you have a good school, parents become engaged and active.

This happens, if you think about it, not only in our most disadvantaged neighborhoods but in those places where the rich folks live. Why do parents moving to this area flock to the suburbs where the housing is most expensive? It is because they have the best schools. Why are those schools full of parent volunteers? Because those mothers and fathers know their children are being given the best possible instruction and realize that their extra efforts will enrich an already good product. Schools that reject parental help and are slow to rid themselves of inadequate teachers -- there are some even in wealthy neighborhoods -- are readily detected by parental radar and find their PTA meetings poorly attended.

Yet we still blame parents for bad schools, a vestige of the racism and classism that distorts popular opinion on education everywhere. Stroll down any street in America and ask the neighbors about the local school. If it is full of the children of affluent parents, they will say it is great place to learn. If the children are largely from low-income, largely minority homes, they will say it is not a good school, even if some of its teachers have made great strides in raising achievement. When I write stories praising such schools for confounding expectations, I invariably get e-mails saying I have to be wrong, that such kids with such parents just can't be doing what I am seeing them do.

The Washington Post survey proved this point in a vivid way. When asked what was the biggest of a list of problems in D.C. schools, the highest portion of respondents, 20 percent, said parental apathy. When asked to read a list of issues and check all that they thought were big problems in the schools, parental apathy at 76 percent came in a close second to condition of facilities, 78 percent. (That is also an incorrect answer. I have visited some terrific schools in creaky buildings, but that is an issue for another day.) The choice that got the lowest number of votes as a big problem was quality of the teachers. Only 47 percent picked that issue, even though it is clear to anyone who has seen a bad school change to a good one that the teaching is by far the most important factor. (To be fair to D.C. teachers, I am talking about the quality of the teaching, not the quality of the teachers, which in some circumstances may not be the same thing. Good teachers stuck in a badly run school rarely do their best.)

Parents, no matter how much money they have or how difficult their lives are, are often smart about schools. They can figure out which ones are adding value to their children's lives, which are not, and they act accordingly. Mount Vernon High School in Fairfax County was struggling to keep middle-class families from moving away in the early 1990s as low-income families moved into the Route 1 corridor and standards lapsed. A group of community leaders, including then-school board member Kris Amundson, former superintendent Robert R. "Bud" Spillane, then-assistant superintendent Nancy Sprague and former Mount Vernon principal Calanthia Tucker, introduced the International Baccalaureate program to the school and staffed it with exceptional teachers, like Betsy Calhoon and Bernie Glaze. Three years later, Amundson was hearing middle-class parents at cocktail parties brag about their children being admitted to IB at Mount Vernon.

Or consider an example in a New York City neighborhood much like the poorer parts of the District. Dave Levin and Frank Corcoran, both in their 20s, tried to start a middle school called the KIPP Academy in the South Bronx in 1995. Parents were not impressed. Some called them crazy for thinking they could make any headway in a school system that had disappointed them for so long. But Levin and Corcoran kept at it and succeeded in adding some first-class veteran teachers, such as Charlie Randall and Jerry Myers, who were decidedly not crazy. Five years later, KIPP test scores were the highest in the Bronx. When the local school board considered a plan to eject the school from its building, 200 parents showed up and chanted, "KIPP! KIPP! KIPP!" incessantly until the plan was shelved and the meeting adjourned.

The Jan. 21 Post story by David Nakamura and Jennifer Agiesta that accompanied the poll results indicated that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee understands this dynamic. She said the school system cannot demand more of parents until it offers better services. "I have seen firsthand how parents are treated in our schools," she said. "I can't blame them if they do not jump to volunteer."

Nor, I think, can they be blamed if they protest when Rhee tries to close their neighborhood schools, having learned that change in the D.C. schools is rarely for the better. But Rhee has spent all of her professional life doing exactly what has to be done, finding ways to get the best principals and best teachers so parents will have a great school to rally around. It is always a risk for any D.C. parent to hope that school system leaders will finally do it right, but at least Rhee, unlike most D.C. residents, doesn't think the sorry state of education in the city is the parents' fault.

How students perform key to chief's rating
School board selects form for McGinley's evaluation
By Diette Courrégé
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Charleston County School Board will base 80 percent of Superintendent Nancy McGinley's evaluation on objective criteria, the majority of which will be the district's academic performance.

The school board agreed in a 6-2 vote Monday night on the criteria it will use to grade the superintendent's performance. It's a three-part evaluation with a total of 10 categories, and 60 percent of her review will be tied directly to student performance. The criteria also will hold McGinley accountable in areas such as finance, operations, capital improvements, human resources and leadership. She will be evaluated for the first time this fall.

McGinley submitted two versions of a document that could be used to evaluate her, and the board chose the one that used more objective criteria. McGinley said she prefers an objective evaluation and was absolutely prepared to be held accountable for the district's progress. The bottom line is student performance, and her job is to lead annual improvement in that area, she said. The criteria used in her review is consistent with what will be used in principal evaluations, she said.

Board members David Engelman and Arthur Ravenel Jr. voted against the evaluation form, and board Vice Chairwoman Nancy Cook abstained.

Engelman said he voted against the form because the two most important factors to show the superintendent and district's performance were the district's SAT scores and graduation rate. He'd prefer to see her review based solely on those indicators, he said. Graduation rates are a component of the way high schools are rated on state report cards, and SAT scores aren't accounted for in the evaluation form.

Ravenel said he voted against the evaluation form because the only way he saw fit to judge the superintendent and district was by the absolute and improvement ratings given by the state on report cards. Those criteria made up a portion of the review, rather than the entirety as Ravenel would prefer.

Cook abstained from voting because she said while the criteria were getting more objective every year, the board didn't go far enough in clearly articulating its expectations for the superintendent. Cook said the board should be more detailed about the targets it wanted the superintendent to meet. For example, it should go as far as to define the number of unsatisfactory- and excellent-rated schools that would be acceptable or specify how much the achievement gap would be closed, she said.

At least one person questioned the board's decision to hold the discussion of the evaluation form in executive session. Jon Butzon, chairman of the Charleston Education Network, said there was no reason for that conversation to be in private and that it should have been public for reasons of transparency and public confidence.

School board Chairman Hillery Douglas said the discussion probably could've been held in open session. The board wasn't intentionally discussing it in closed session to keep folks from knowing what the board was doing, he said. It's been the board's practice to talk about this issue privately, although that doesn't make it right, he said. In the future, he said he'll pay closer attention to items such as this being talked about in public.

Reach Diette Courrégé at 937-5546 or dcourrege@post

Education reform bill would end PACT tests
Article published Jan 29, 2008
By Robert W. Dalton
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | Updated: 11:35 am
State Rep. Bob Walker will introduce legislation this week to overhaul the Education Accountability Act, and his plan includes eliminating the much-maligned Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests.

The state Legislature passed the EAA in 1998 to establish standards for improving K-12 education.

“It’s been 10 years, so it’s time to look at our accountability act and see if it’s working or not working,” said Walker, R-Landrum, chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee. “One thing we’ve heard is that we need to improve our testing to give teachers and parents more information.”

State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said the changes are long overdue. He said the system is despised by “anyone who has direct contact with it.”

“When I was running (for office), I heard everywhere I went that people didn’t like the system we had, didn’t like PACT and didn’t like the scorecards. I made a promise then to try to improve the system.”

A new testing system would replace PACT beginning in the 2009-10 school year and would be a diagnostic evaluation designed to give parents and educators an idea of where students stand in meeting grade-level expectations.

A writing portion would be taken in March, with all multiple-choice portions taken at the end of the school year. Results would be returned in the summer, so parents and educators would be able to assess a student’s progress before the beginning of the next school year.

One of the criticisms of PACT is that it’s an accountability tool, not a diagnostic test. And results usually aren’t available until well into the school year.

The end-of-year tests would measure the ability of students in grades three through eight in math and English. Science assessments would be given in one elementary grade, one middle school grade and once in high school.

While PACT scores are reported in four categories
below basic, basic, proficient and advanced scores of the new test would be reported in three: Not met grade level standard (not met), met grade level standard (met) and demonstrated exemplary performance in meeting grade level standard (exemplary).

For reporting purposes required by the No Child Left Behind Act, students scoring met or exemplary would be considered proficient. Under PACT, students scoring proficient or advanced are considered proficient.

Walker said the state would be changing its definitions, not its rigorous standards.

“We established one of the toughest accountability systems in the country, and it’s very important for people to understand that it’s not going away,” Walker said. “But when it comes to No Child Left Behind, we want to make sure we’re in line with what other states are doing.”

Walker said the new testing system would align with the state’s standards.

Denver Merrill, a spokesman for pro-voucher group South Carolinians for Responsible Government, said the bill is an effort to make the state’s results look better than they are.

“If you condense to only three categories, certainly more people will be included in a higher level of achievement,” Merrill said. “We agree there is a need for reform, but at the same time, we can’t lower the standards. That’s not going to do any good in the long run.”

Rex said he’s not surprised by the criticism, especially from SCRG. SCRG head Randy Page recently wrote an op-ed piece comparing the public education system to communism, drawing an angry response from Rex.

“There are groups always willing to criticize public education for not being willing to change,” Rex said. “Finally we get a change that’s long overdue, and they want to criticize us for that.”

The legislation also proposes changing the terms that describe a school or district’s performance on the annual report card required by the EAA.

The labels are excellent, good, average, below average and unsatisfactory. The new rankings would be school or district of academic distinction, academic recognition, academic progress, academic review or academic priority.

Schools designated in academic review or academic priority would be required to formulate special plans for improvement and would be subject to state intervention.

Spartanburg School District 6 Superintendent Daryl Owings said he doesn’t think the current system gives a clear picture of student performance relative to grade level. He hopes the new plan changes that.

“All of us want a fair measure of the progress children are making in their educational growth,” Owings said. “We want to be accountable, but we want a system that gives an accurate measure. Right now, I don’t think we have that.”

1/28 District Three Board Meeting Notes

The Board approved the Consent Agenda 7-0 after removing two band trips to Hawaii and the Sunset Park Year Round calendar for further discussion.

The Board approved a resolution, to be sent to our South Carolina Congressional Delegation, urging them to revise/modify the No Child Left Behind ACT and not wait until after the November election.  The vote was 7-0.

The Board approved numerous policies for first reading after removing the policy JICH which dealt with drugs and alcohol which was not intended to be up for revision. The vote was 7-0.

The Board voted to approve band trips to Hawaii after the administration stated the trips would have scholarships available, would not be counted toward a class grade, and they would investigate why one school's trip requires more missed classroom time than the other.  The vote was 6-1 with Brown voting against because it is outside the continental US.

The Board heard a recommendation from the Administration that Sunset Park Elementary school be converted back to a traditional calendar (from year round calendar) but the school would remain a magnet - with details to follow at the February Work Session.  Most Board members felt the administration should put everything together before voting and the measure was defeated 3-4 with Reid, Douglas, Silverman, and Vining voting against.

The Board approved 7-0 the appointment of  Elaine Belton as Executive Director of Finance and Jamie Quinn as Director of Renaissance Academy. Elaine will be replacing Leanne Lordo who resigned to accept a position in Fort Mill and Jamie's position is new and will be heading up our alternative school, the Renaissance Academy, which will be starting up in February.

Richmond Drive was recognized as the only Literacy Spot Winner in the State of SC last year (as an individual school).  Our district has 9 schools which have been recognized since the award has been given - around 20% of all that have been recognized in the state. District Three was recognized as a District Literacy Spot winner along with Spartanburg One, Union, and Florence One.

Victor Harlow addressed the Board with a request to revisit the zoning of his neighborhood to Mount Holly from Oakdale since he will have to drive by Oakdale to get to Mount Holly (lives off Hwy 72 at the Chester County Line).

The Superintendent stated that the District Stadium update scheduled for January would now be done at the February Work Session.

Montrio Belton addressed the board with a request to keep Sunset Park as a Year Round Calendar School.

The Superintendent reminded the Board to purchase tickets to the District's foundation Gala. Walter Brown reminded the Board the Gala would be on the first day of the state school board convention.

Group opposes private school choice

What Sumter can teach the rest of us about schools
Posted on Mon, Jan. 28, 2008
Associate Editor

AND THEN there were 84.
As one of its first actions in the new year, the Legislature agreed to merge Sumter County’s two school districts.
It marks only the third time in 11 years and apparently just the fourth time in the last half-century that the Legislature has agreed to consolidate school districts.

At this rate, we could be down to one district per county by, oh, about 2080.
There are many reasons our small state needs to whittle down the number of school districts. For Sen. Phil Leventis, it’s a matter of preparing the schools, and his community, for a new economy.

“We’ve just got to think out of the box and move ahead, and I think that in years to come the district will be better equipped to spend whatever money they’ve got more effectively and efficiently consolidated,” he told me the day the House approved his bill. “There’s no magic in consolidation, but we do think that the opportunities are unlimited, especially vis-a-vis the old 1950s thinking of how the school districts should be aligned.”

District 2 is a doughnut; District 17 is the hole, centered in downtown Sumter. They were what remained when the county’s 25 districts were collapsed into two in 1951. Pressure points have emerged as growth occurred along the district lines, splitting subdivisions, and sometimes houses, in half.

Rep. David Weeks told me of people upset because their kids couldn’t go to school with their next-door neighbors, or had to go to a school 20 miles away while the ones down the street attended a neighborhood school. Although poverty and racial concentrations are nearly identical in the two districts, there remains what he calls “an us-and-them mentality.”

“You have this idea of the city folk downtown getting the good stuff and the county folk getting the not-so-good stuff,” Rep. Weeks said. “That has been the notion that has prevailed over the years.”

Sen. Leventis filed his bill after he convinced top administrators from the two districts to realign the boundaries to reunite neighborhoods and the school boards dismissed the plan, even refusing to comply with a law the Legislature passed last spring to implement the changes.

Consolidation has been opposed by the usual suspects: school board members and senior administrators. The local NAACP also came out against it although Rep. Weeks, a longtime member, points out that only 14 people showed up for an anti-merger meeting to which 300 were invited. The night before the Legislature convened, a Sumter County Council member tried to push through a resolution to oppose it; he lost 3-4.

It’s hard to pin down concrete reasons why anyone without a job at stake opposes the merger. Mostly, critics call for more study. But legislators have studied the issue. They looked at Aiken County, a county with similar size and demographics but one school district. There, according to state calculations, 63 percent of the district’s money goes into classroom instruction. It’s 59 percent in Sumter 17 and 54 percent in Sumter 2.

“If the combined district can get the total spending on classroom instruction up to a level of 60 percent, there’ll be three to four to five million more dollars going to classrooms in Sumter,” Sen. Leventis said. “And that’s symbolic of the things we think they can achieve. Two has some outstanding programs seventeen doesn’t; seventeen has some outstanding programs that two doesn’t. We don’t think children in the county should be barred from those programs based on arbitrary lines.”

From a financial standpoint, consolidating small districts not just in Sumter, but across the state is a no-brainer. If two districts with 9,000 students each can save $3 million a year by cutting out central-office duplication, imagine how much could be saved by consolidating some of the 23 districts that have fewer than 2,500 students each. Check that. You don’t have to imagine. Harry Miley, a respected economist, put the figure at $26 million when he did a study for the state in 2003.

Yet you see how rare the efforts are to consolidate individual districts. And the perennial push by Rep. Ken Kennedy to pass a one-district-per-county bill has generated no enthusiasm, even with rhetorical support from Gov. Mark Sanford and House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

A big reason is that the factors in Sumter County are very much at play in other counties that insist on maintaining separate and often unequal school districts: The lines reflect deep economic, social and often racial divisions within communities. Change is fiercely opposed by school officials, who often have as large a political power base as legislators. In addition, residents of small communities often see consolidation as a threat to their local schools, which are the only thing holding their communities together.

Education Superintendent Jim Rex is trying a different approach, urging the Legislature to approve incentives for districts to consolidate, or at least to merge administrative functions. That has the best chance of passing the Legislature, and it’s one reason Sen. Leventis sees the Sumter merger as part of “a slow but inexorable trend.”

“I believe that in ten years, people will recognize this as a sea change in thinking of education in Sumter County,” he said, “and it will have happened in more places around the state, and we’ll all be delighted that we moved into the 21st century.”

And not a moment too soon.
Ms. Scoppe can be reached at or at (803) 771-8571.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

EdReach Newsletter - January 25, 2008

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EdReach EdReach Week ending January 25, 2008 EdReach

School breakfast participation rates rank second in nation

Participation by South Carolina students in the school breakfast program last year was 101 percent, and the ratio of serving free and reduced price students at lunch and breakfast was the second highest in the nation, according to a report by the Food Research and Action Center. Read More.

Special TV broadcast will focus on how to find money to pay for a college education

A special two-hour program to assist students and parents in looking for ways to pay for a college education airs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, January 27, on South Carolina ETV. Read More.
On The Air
In The News
What Others Are Saying Administrator Resources
Teacher Resources
Student Resources
Rex on the Road
Dates to  Remember
Message From Jim Rex
Dear Friends,
As we end the week marking the celebration of the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, there are some things that we must commit to do to keep Dr. King's dream alive.
We have come a long way since Rosa Parks sat down and stood up for all of us. We have come a long way since President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. And we have come a long way since Dr. King outlined his dream. But the dream is not complete.
The dream is not complete when more than half our schools have at least 70 percent of their students living in poverty; when one in every five schools has an enrollment with more than 90 percent of the students in poverty; when half of our high school students don't graduate in four years; when a third don't graduate at all; and when we send our children to schools along the Corridor of Shame with holes in the walls, leaking roofs, broken toilets, and other Third-World-like conditions.
The dream is not complete when we as a state do not guarantee equitable and adequate funding for all of our students, whether they're urban or rural, rich or poor, black or white.
When I ran for State Superintendent of Education in 2006, a lot of people thought that I couldn't get elected. We proved all the doubters wrong, and we did what many thought couldn't be done.
As a matter of fact, we're still doing what they say can't be done. We are focusing on a five-point plan for South Carolina's schools that includes accelerating innovation, increasing public school choice, refining accountability for maximum results with minimum testing, elevating and reinvigorating our teaching profession, and providing fair and more equitable funding for schools.
A year to the day before his life was taken in Memphis, Dr. King spoke from the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City. That day he said something that has stuck with me.
He said, "Silence is betrayal."
It's not enough to feel empathy for the children of this state living in poverty, going to underfunded, outdated, and ineffective schools. It's not acceptable to go about our daily lives knowing about these conditions and doing nothing about it.
Dr. King said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
If you're not standing on the mountain top, yelling at the top of your voice to correct these injustices, it's the same as supporting them.
Being silent betrays tens of thousands of children, their families, their communities, and the future of our state.
The time is now to stand up, speak out, and be counted. We have waited in the wings for too long for someone else to fix this problem. This isn't someone else's problem. It's our problem. And we must fix it.
I believe that we have the potential to change course and make South Carolina the envy of the nation when it comes to our public schools. And I think we have the potential to turn around the generations of apathy and neglect that have left so many of our students, schools, and communities behind.
No one person can meet this challenge. We must do this together - if the dream is to be complete.
Jim Rex
State Superintendent of Education
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Friday, January 25, 2008

Oconee schools (and Rock Hill Too) make 100 Best list

By David Williams
Thursday, January 24, 2008
WALHALLA America’s Promise Alliance, founded by Gen. Colin Powell, again has recognized the School District of Oconee County as one of the 100 best communities in the nation.

Aiken, Charleston and Rock Hill were the only other communities in South Carolina to be honored.
According to an Alliance news release, the organization believes the success of the nation’s children is grounded in experiencing five promises: caring adults; a safe place; a healthy start; an effective education and opportunities to help others at home; in school and in the community.

“We are so honored to again be recognized as a community that values its young people and is willing to go the distance to provide for their physical, social and academic needs,” said Mike Lucas, superintendent of the Oconee district.

The school district also earned the recognition last year.
Winners are eligible to apply for up to $300,000 in grants from the Alliance. Last year, the school district used its share of the grant money, about $60,000, to place school nurses in the district’s four middle schools.

The honor has also been displayed on billboards at key highways entering the county and is used to support other grant applications.

Kay Powell, a spokeswoman for the school district, called the award a reflection of the day to day life in Oconee County.

“It’s a chance to let people know it’s a way of life in Oconee County,” Ms. Powell said. “Our consistent focus is quality of life.”

The School District of Oconee County serves more than 10,400 students at 23 school sites and has numerous partnerships including business, industry and Call Me Mister based at Clemson University that places black males pursuing teaching degrees in the classroom. The application for the award, prepared by Jennifer Dodd with the school district, also noted the partnership with volunteers from Keowee Key and the Junior Golf program that has served more than 550 students and retirees work with more than 450 at-risk students in a swim program.

Cheryl Varee Gilliam, a student at Tamassee-Salem High School, said an abundance of opportunities exists for young people in Oconee County.

“There are clubs and sports for all age groups, such as regular school sports to recreational sports and other leagues for all ages,” Ms. Gilliam said. “The clubs are for all people and there are also opportunities for non-English speaking people to take night courses to learn English through the schools.”

Brandi LeAndra Kay, a student at West-Oak High School said she appreciates what she has learned growing up in Oconee County.

“I have been in this same community from birth and I must say that I wouldn’t have wanted to have grown up any other way,” Ms. Kay said. “My community has taught me to appreciate the hospitality and kindness of others.”

The 100 Best competition began in 2005 and this year there were 750 entries from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Because of a tie, this year 101 programs were honored in 37 states and there were 44 three-time winners.

Horry schools ponder ads in buses
Posted on Fri, Jan. 25, 2008
State gives districts option to sign with vendors
By Claudia Lauer
The Sun News

Advertisements targeting school-age children could be making their way to Horry County school buses.
The S.C. Education Department has given the OK to school districts to start the advertising program under a general contract it signed with SAC Inc., an advertising firm in Warrenville, at the end of November.

"The state has given us the option, and we had a meeting with the advertising vendor that was purely informational," said Teal Britton, Horry County Schools spokeswoman. "There are lots of things that are yet to be determined, in terms of what the financial benefit would be to school districts."

The advertising company's contract with the state specifies that SAC will receive 20 percent of the revenue for each ad; the state, about 80 percent.

"The way the contract works is 80.1 percent of the gross income goes to the state technically because the state owns the property," said Don Tudor, director of the state Education Department's transportation office. "We recognize that these revenues should be appropriately shared with the school district. It is not the state who will be responsible for determining if the advertising is appropriate, and it's the children that make the advertising valuable."

Tudor said the Education Department is trying to determine what an appropriate split of the money with school districts would be. Schools pay 40 percent of the transportation budget for buses, he said, so the Education Department started with the understanding that they would give the schools at least 40 percent of advertising revenues.

"No number has really gotten a sign-off from the state superintendent," Tudor said. "If all of the advertising were sold and the state were to split the potential revenues 50-50, Horry would stand to make about $300,000 a year. Quite frankly, we don't know that they [SAC] can sell the ads and that it will generate that income. If the schools decide it's too much trouble, they can end their agreement."

Tudor said the Education Department hopes to have preliminary revenue-percentage numbers worked out by today. The official percentage split will be decided by the General Assembly during budget talks in the next few months, he said.

Britton said the school district would not consider the advertising until after the revenue split was decided. She said there are other issues that are harder for the district to resolve.

"Where children are captive audiences, is it appropriate to subject them to advertising that isn't necessary? That's a question that this raised for us," she said. "Is this an appropriate thing to place inside of an educational environment?"

Britton said the school district had no immediate plans to move forward with the advertising.
The one-year contract signed by the state Education Department includes four, additional one-year renewal options. The contract specifies that school districts would be given the option of allowing the advertising and if they did allow it, the districts would be responsible for determining what material was appropriate for students, Tudor said.

"If the school district wanted to, it could say we don't want fast food advertisements or carbonated beverage advertisements. It really is at their discretion, or it could even be set up so that it's at the discretion of school clusters or individual schools," he said.

SAC Inc. representative Stuart Carpenter said in an e-mail Wednesday that businesses have already shown interest in the advertisements.

"Recently we have been doing test sales" in the Myrtle Beach area. "We have interested advertisers from your average local business [restaurants, etc.], all the way up to major universities," Carpenter wrote.

Tudor said the advertisements would be placed inside the bus above the windows. They will be the width of a window and no more than 11 inches tall. They would be easily removable with a heat gun, he said. SAC Inc. would be responsible for upkeep and installation. Tudor said the company might explore an option in which it would pay a stipend to local parent-teacher organizations to help with that upkeep.

"First, I don't know that the advertisements themselves will be something that we feel is appropriate. Second, [the maintenance] is not something I think we would be interested in," said Carla Ivey, president of Myrtle Beach Elementary School's parent-teacher organization.

"I don't think they realize the amount of work we already do. I don't know that if we added something to our list of responsibilities, that we would want it to be something that didn't involve helping our children's education."

Contact CLAUDIA LAUER at 626-0301 or

Thursday, January 24, 2008

District Three Board Meeting on Monday



Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Monday, January 28, 2008

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


I. Call to Order

Approval of Agenda

(Under consent agenda, all action items will be voted on after one motion
and second to approve them without discussion. If a board member wants any
action item discussed or voted on separately, the board member, before the
agenda is approved, must ask that the action item be moved to the discussion
item section.)

II. Citizen Participation

III. Special Business

A. Recognition of Richmond Drive as a Literacy Spot Winner

B. Recognition of State Department of Education Volunteer Award Winners

C. Recognition of Palmetto Reading Council Distinguished Teachers of the

D. Recognition of Schools Receiving Scores of Excellent on State P.E.

E. Recognition of Jim Vining's Service on Rock Hill School Board

F. Recognition of Rock Hill School Board

IV. Executive Session - Personnel Matter

V. Consent Action Agenda

A. Approval of Minutes

1. November 26, 2007, business meeting

2. December 10, 2007, work session

3. January 14, 2008, work session

B. Approval of Personnel Recommendations

C. Approval of Overnight Field Trip Requests (7)

D. Approval of Sunset Park Calendar

E. Approval of Annual Audit Report

VI. Communications - Victor Harlow

VII. Report of the Superintendent

A. Announcements

B. English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Report

C. School Locator Update

D. Mentoring Update

VIII. Review of Work Session

IX. Action Agenda

A. Approval of Resolution to Support Bill H.R. 648 Regarding No Child
Left Behind

B. Approval of Policies AC, DFAC, JB, JBCC, JI, JII, and JICH/JICH-R,
1st Reading

X. Other Business

XI. Adjournment

District Three Information for 1-24

Compiled by Elaine Baker, District Three Communications Director

Gala Set for February 28
Thursday, Feb. 28, is the date and South Pointe will be the location for this year's Gala sponsored by the Rock Hill School District Foundation. The Gala will begin at 6:30 with a scruptious meal from Outback and topped off with entertainment by a number of student groups. Tickets, at $50, are now available from Serena Williams by calling 981-1006 or 980-2005. As always, proceeds from the Gala will be used to provide grants to teachers for innovative projects not covered by district or school funds.

          As a side note, the Foundation was recently approved as eligible to pursue United Way funding. This means that the Foundation has been designated as financially and programmatically sound as a nonprofit organization  and in a position to purse national-level funding for our schools.

<In celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, students at Old Pointe have made pinwheels and decorated them with symbols and words to express how they can make the world a better place. They will end their "Pinwheels and Parade" project on Jan. 25 around 10 a.m. when the students and staff view all the pinwheels, sing patriotic songs, listen to students read their related writings, and walk in front of the school in a Peace Walk.

<Richmond Drive will have a prom dress sale from 4:00-6:00 p.m. on Feb. 1. They will then have a yard sale from 8:00 a.m. until noon on Feb. 2. Proceeds from both sales will go toward funding a school track. (The yard sale will include only household goods and any remaining prom dresses.)

<Hats off to Chris Howle, Denise Ice, and JoAnn Keller, Senior Beta Club sponsors at South Pointe, who are really proud of the members of the Beta Club. Club members provided over 40 Christmas packages for students at the Central Child Dev. Center and presented the Center with a $400 donation to purchase equipment.

<You are invited to attend "Dessert Theatre" at 7:00 p.m. Feb. 11 at Northside Elementary School of the Arts. The Northside Arts Explorers will perform their musical extravaganza which will be showcased at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., in March. Proceeds from ticket sales ($5) will help with fundraising efforts for students traveling to Washington.

<Calling all bowlers! Junior Achievement of York County will sponsor a Bowl-a-Thon on Feb. 23 to support the JA programs in our district

Message to Public School Advocates From Walter Brown

This message is from Walter Brown, who oversees the Rock Hill School Board's advocacy efforts.

As the 2008 Legislative session begins in Columbia, it is a good time to take a hard look at issues that could affect public education in the state.

In his State of the State address, Governor Sanford is pushing for tax cuts and a call to curtail spending.  It is interesting to note, however, that he is still promoting the idea of education tax credits or vouchers to help parents send children to private schools.  This is a rather interesting move in light of the fact that his proposed budget plan would reduce the state's budget by $326 million, in part by cutting subsidized health care for some poor children.

Is a reduction in healthcare for poor children, while promoting a tax credit for those that can afford private schools, contradictive?  Governor Sanford would also like to have the Superintendent of Education an appointed position.  The Chair-elect to the State Department of Education is a woman who home schools her children.  She holds a seat on the board by appointment from the Governor.

It is never too early to let your representatives hear from you on any issue.  If you support public education, now is the time to begin making your voices heard.

There was also an announcement in The Herald from Senator Greg Gregory.  He will not seek re-election.  Senator Gregory represents an area that includes some of our schools' attendance zones.  Senator Gregory, according to the article, is sponsoring six resolutions to amend the State Constitution to give the Governor the power to appoint the Superintendent of Education, Treasurer, Comptroller General, Secretary of State, Adjutant General, and Commissioner of Agriculture.  All of these bills are in committee.  Everyone needs to ask themselves if we really want a Governor to have this authority?  Is it important for me to have the opportunity to vote for these offices?

We are seeing more and more of the control being moved to Columbia and the power of the vote being taken from the everyday citizen.  Is this truly what we want for our state? 

Let your voices be heard by those that are convening in the General Assembly.  Contact your representatives now.
Walter Brown

S.C. second in school free meals
Staff report
Thursday, January 24, 2008
South Carolina students eligible for free and reduced-price meals receive lunch and breakfast at the second highest rate in the nation, with 59.2 percent of students participating in both the school lunch and breakfast program last year.

The School Breakfast Scorecard 2007, a report by the Food Research and Action Center released Wednesday, found that the federally funded school breakfast program serves nearly 37 million breakfasts each year in South Carolina, with an average of 222,500 students participating each day. Nationwide, more than 8.1 million students per day took part in the school breakfast program during the 2006-07 school year.

Nationally, only 45 low-income children get breakfast at school for every 100 students who eat a free or reduced-price lunch. But the report praised South Carolina's efforts to promote breakfast and highlighted a video produced by the state Department of Education that focuses on creative ways to bring breakfast to more students.

The report found that many students miss out on breakfast at home because of poverty, stagnant wages, rising food costs and long commutes for parents to work. State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said that studies have shown a link between healthy breakfasts and student learning and that it's vital for the state to provide nutritious school meals.

Copyright © 1997 - 2007 the Evening Post Publishing Co.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Education Week Open House

Dear Educator:

This Open House, from January 15-30, is the perfect opportunity for you to
experience unlimited, premium access to for FREE. You have nine
days left to find out why is the one site top educators visit on
a regular basis, and where you can now interact with your colleagues. Just
a few reasons this site is such a great K-12 tool:

a.. Quality Counts 2008: Tapping Into Teaching, including online only
a.. Video of the Press Conference launching this year's report
b.. State Highlights Reports, to see how your state performed
c.. NEW! Grading Calculator, recalculate grades using your own weighting
b.. The current issue of Education Week
c.. All issues of Teacher Magazine and Digital Directions
d.. 25 years of searchable archives, so you can research topics of
a.. No Child Left Behind
b.. Curriculum and learning
c.. Special Education
d.. And much more!
e.. All of our special reports from the Research Center
f.. Daily News, with K-12 updates from newspapers around the world
g.. Associated Press, education news updated throughout the day
If you like what you see, you can even extend your FREE ACCESS by starting a
4-Week Free Trial. It's that easy to stay on top of the major issues facing
educators today.

Please take advantage of this great opportunity, and forward this invitation
to your colleagues who like to be informed as well. They will appreciate
your effort!

Best regards,

Virginia B. Edwards

Editor and Publisher

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gang Expert Bobby Kipper

On Thursday, January 31, the district will host national gang expert Bobby Kipper in a parent information session about school safety. The session will be held in the South Pointe High School Auditorium from 7-8:30.  Mr. Kipper will also address warning signs of violence and bullying. 

Administrators found his presentation to be informational, entertaining, and real. 

Thurs., Jan. 31, 7-8:30 at South Pointe High School, presentation by Bobby Kipper, gang expert

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Google for Educators

The Best Features for Busy Teachers
These user-friendly tools will keep you and your class inspired, inventive, and organized.
by Sara Ring
published 1/14/2008
Tools for Teachers: Google for Educator Links
Google Docs: An online word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation editor  that allows for easy organization and communication.

Google Book Search: A searchable online library that provides reference details, book excerpts, and purchasing information.

Google Maps: Detailed street, satellite, and topographical maps you can personalize and enhance.
Blogger: An online journal requiring no HTML coding that allows you to post and share information.
Among all the links and downloads out there, it can be hard for teachers to know which ones work best. Google has made it easier by creating Google for Educators, which compiles some of the search engine's most useful features in one place. Whether you're teaching Spanish or social studies, mathematics or music, there's a free Google feature that will make your lessons more dynamic and your projects more organized. The lively, informative Web site offers step-by-step visual tours and even videos to help you get set up. Below are some of the most useful features the site has to offer:

Google Maps
Many of us have used Google Maps to find driving directions, but its usefulness goes way beyond getting from point A to point B. Before a field trip, your students can study the area they will visit through a variety of maps, including street, terrain, and satellite views. Then document your trip by creating personalized maps that include your route, as well as fact balloons, photos, and even videos.

Melissa Browning, a third-grade teacher at Brooklyn's PS 8, had her students use Google Maps for their unit on mapping. "We used Google to locate our own street addresses and find different locations in the United States and in the world," Browning explains. "My students love using the computers; it makes learning a lot more interactive." She also used Google Earth in this unit, and she had students search on Google Image Search for photos of the animals they were studying. "I love using this technology in the classroom," Browning says. "It makes it easier for teachers to have this information at their fingertips. It's all there for us."

Google Docs
Google Docs is particularly handy for teachers when revising students' work. It allows you and your class to track what changes have been made, save each revision, and collaborate in real time. And it's a great organizing tool: You can easily upload old documents in other applications to Google Docs so all your files are accessible in one place. Not only can your students create electronic documents and spreadsheets, they can also instantly access and edit each other's essays, post their work to a blog, publish it as a Web page, and create eye-catching presentations -- all within the same program.

Blogger allows you to create your own blog that contains important information about your class, assignments, and upcoming tests. It requires no HTML, and you can easily update and edit it from anywhere. Your students can create their own blogs to display writing and photos and to share information with each other. And you can set all blogs to "private" so only those users you approve may access them.

Google Book Search
Google Book Search, the electronic equivalent of browsing through a library, is a great way to find new books for your class to read or for your students to use as research tools. You can browse through specific categories, type in keywords, or search for particular titles. Each result includes the information you'd find about that book in a card catalog, plus a table of contents, links to book reviews and related works, and other resources. For instance, in the results for Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, you'll find links to scholarly works about the novel.

For copyrighted books, the results may provide a few sample pages, but for books in the public domain, you may be able to read the entire work online. If you want to keep track of your searches, you can create an online library of books by clicking "Add to my library" for any book you'd like to include. You can review, rate, and do a full-text search on the books in your library, and you can share the link with others.

Google Book Search also lets you buy any book online or search for it at the nearest library.
That's only a sampling of the features Google for Educators offers. There's also Google Groups, for online discussion, Picasa, for photo editing, Google SketchUp, to create three-dimensional designs, and much more.

So, try out a feature that's new to you or use a familiar tool in a new way to see how Google can make your lessons more effective and more convenient.

Sara Ring is a contributing writer for She lives in Los Angeles.
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Merit Pay

For Love and Money
As veteran educators retire and good young teachers drop out, incentive pay may be the answer to making the center hold.

by Roberta Furger
published 9/1/2007
Credit: Rob Colvin/Getty Images
PREDICTION: Merit pay and other new approaches will be seen as the best answer to getting and retaining gifted teachers.

This is a multipart article. Click here to go to the beginning.
In the world of K-12 education, incentive pay for teachers -- programs that reward good teaching and encourage the most effective educators to share their talents with the highest-need students -- have become the reform du jour.

Since last year, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded nearly $75 million in grants to schools and school districts interested in developing systems that reward good teaching and compensate teachers for taking jobs in hard-to-staff schools (low-performing and typically high-poverty schools). Districts from California to Texas to North Carolina are tapping into these new funds to address two of the thorniest issues in education today: how to develop fair and accurate ways to measure effective teaching, and how to find sustainable strategies to balance the distribution of experienced teachers, who now tend to be disproportionately represented in high-performing (and typically more affluent) schools.

Few people argue with the underlying principles fueling the growing interest in incentive plans. Just as we assign the most accomplished doctors to oversee the most complex medical cases, shouldn't we be making sure that the students and schools with the greatest need are taught and led by our most experienced and effective educators? And shouldn't schools, like businesses, acknowledge and reward good work? Sure, agree many teachers, parents, administrators, and policy makers. But the devil, as they say, is in the details.

In Florida, for example, teachers widely criticized a merit-pay plan approved by the state legislature in 2006 as unfair and divisive because it allowed for only one-quarter of all teachers to receive bonuses. The plan has since been revamped to include, among other things, compensation for teams of teachers who have a role in moving kids and schools forward.

"We've been down this road before," says Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University's Charles E. Ducommon Professor of Education, noting that merit-pay plans were also introduced in the 1920s, the 1950s, and the 1980s. "We know that there are strategies and options that have some good potential, but there are also really predictable pitfalls to be aware of and design around," she cautions. The risk of failing to learn from past lessons is significant, Darling-Hammond adds, because poorly thought-out programs can cause teachers to become demoralized and even leave their districts, just what the programs are meant to prevent.

Still, many teachers applaud these efforts for developing holistic metrics for effective teaching and for including classroom teachers in all aspects of program development and implementation. Administrators, for their part, are finding these programs to be effective at encouraging experienced teachers to transfer to the most challenging schools.

The best incentive plans are those that go beyond rewarding select teachers whose students score higher on standardized tests, says Darling-Hammond; they use multiple measures to evaluate teacher performance and create career ladders capable of supporting and rewarding all teachers. "You don't just want to lift the boat of a few teachers," she advises. "The goal should be to improve the instructional enterprise in an entire school or district."

Roberta Furger is a contributing writer to Edutopia.
What's Next > Alternative Schedules

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The Merits of Merit Pay

Ten Tips on Pay-for-Performance Reform
How to link teacher compensation to teacher accomplishment -- and a look at a school that makes it work.
by Laura McClure
published 1/15/2008
Merit pay can sometimes seem like the third rail of educational policy: It's politically dangerous, potentially explosive, and liable to burn anyone who touches it. But now, this powerful controversy is proving to be hard to ignore as salary bonuses and peer review resurface as hot reform topics in 2008.

Pay Points
Below are ten recommendations by principals and other educators on how to implement reform and avoid catching fire:

    • Make sure teachers are competing against mediocrity rather than one another. "A merit system has to incorporate a belief in teacher mentorship and teamwork," explains Hillary Miller, a former public elementary school teacher in Austin, Texas.
    • Ensure that there's enough project funding in the bank to last at least five years, because a great merit-pay system a school can afford to offer for only a short time leads to disillusionment rather than hope.
    • Make sure the size of the committee involved in creating the system and maintaining it is reasonable; too many voices delay decisions. (One teacher says five to seven people is a good rule of thumb.)
    • "Teacher buy-in is a must," reports the Center for American Progress, in Washington, DC. In Chicago, for example, 75 percent of the teachers in a school must vote yes on a pay-structure change before the system can be instituted there.
    • Judge a teacher's effectiveness using agreed-on evaluation tools, not based on how students perform on one test.
    • Engage teachers in the development of an objective, rubrics-based evaluation tool. Try out the tool, and then refine and revise it.
    • Offer at least 15-20 percent of base pay as a potential annual bonus. A teacher's added pay "has to be transformative," says Nínive Clements Calegari, coauthor of Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers and a member of the Edutopia advisory board. "You can't offer her $500, $2,000. You have to make it worth it."
    • Start with volunteers for the alternate-pay program -- especially new teachers and those with five years of experience or less -- before extending the plan to veteran educators.
    • Continually offer training to new and experienced peer reviewers.
    • Listen to the advice administrators and peer reviewers provide, and solicit ways to improve the program.

Where It Works
Picture (Metafile)
Principal Yvonne Chan with students at the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center.
Photo courtesy of Yvonne Chan
One school demonstrating particular success with a merit-pay system like the one outlined above is the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, in Pacoima, California.

Vaughn, a low-scoring public elementary school in its pre-charter school incarnation, implemented many of the reform tips and went on to win numerous accolades, among them a National Blue Ribbon Schools Award. The school won the award, which recognizes outstanding public and private schools nationwide, due in no small part to changes in its teacher-pay structure.

At Vaughn, Principal Yvonne Chan has instituted a system in which teachers can earn an additional $17,000 a year in performance-based bonuses. When you consider that the average elementary school teacher makes about $45,000 a year, it's obvious that that kind of money is a big incentive. "Leaving the district was a no-brainer," says Andy Carbonell of his switch to teaching sixth-grade math at Vaughn after eleven years as an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"My base pay at Vaughn is virtually identical to the district's," Carbonell points out. "But when you include all the possible bonuses and incentives, my salary is substantially larger."

Chan offers one last tip: "Principals and administrators must opt in first."
Laura McClure is a freelance writer and editor in San Francisco.
What's in a Name?: A Phrase's Controversial Past
"'Merit pay' is a phrase that makes a lot of teachers' skin crawl," says Nínive Clements Calegari, coauthor of the book Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers. Calegari, now a strong supporter of merit pay, admits that as a public school teacher herself ten years ago, she was heartily against the idea. "What happened historically is that it was instituted atrociously -- and there was only enough money to give a couple of superstar teachers extra pay," she says." Well, no one likes that."

Past experiences aside, Calegari believes that if merit pay is done correctly, it's a crucial means to raise teachers' salaries. "It's the only thing that will make the profession prestigious, competitive, and sustainable," she notes. "And you need that to really reform schools." But the Reagan-era failures of merit pay have led many supporters of the concept to distance themselves from its traditional name. The nom du jour for linking teachers' salaries to how well they and their students do: pay for performance. -- LM

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