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Monday, February 28, 2011

Amen to That

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I will lead them to become lawyers, doctors, teachers, presidents,  and good citizens. To help them follow their dreams"  - The Public School Teacher.

How fitting for Public School 22 to close out the Oscars.

Northwestern's Patti Tate, Finalist For SC Teacher of The Year

For the third straight year, the Rock Hill Schools have a finalist for the South Carolina Teacher of the year. Below is the press release issued today:

Five outstanding teachers named finalists for South Carolina Teacher of the Year 
COLUMBIA – Five outstanding classroom teachers were named today as finalists in South Carolina's State Teacher of the Year Program.   
State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said the five teachers were chosen from nominees representing 82 local school districts, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Palmetto Unified School District, the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind and the South Carolina Public Charter School District.  They will travel to Columbia next month for personal interviews with a seven-member state Selection Committee. All are vying to represent more than 50,000 South Carolina teachers in theNational Teacher of the Year Program.  
The finalists, listed alphabetically by school district, are: 

The finalists were chosen by a panel of educators and private citizens with no connection to the agency. The names of the teachers and the schools they represent were concealed from the judges during the selection process.  
“I congratulate these teachers,” said State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.  “The work that they do in the classroom, their leadership among their peers and their efforts in the community honor their profession and reflect a commitment to improving the lives of our young people.”   
The announcement of South Carolina’s 2011-12 Teacher of the Year will be made at the corporate-sponsored Teacher of the Year celebration April 27 in Columbia.  During the next school year, that teacher will participate in a one-year residency program at the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement and serve as a statewide ambassador for the profession.  
South Carolina’s new Teacher of the Year also receives a $25,000.  The four remaining finalists, or Honor Roll teachers, will receive $10,000 each, and all district teachers of the year will receive $1,000 each.  
This year marks the 46th year of the South Carolina Teacher of the Year Program, which has grown tremendously in participation and prestige.  The awards program is a nationally recognized event that honors the State Teacher of the Year, Honor Roll teachers and district teachers of the year.   
Zais said his agency would assist the new Teacher of the Year in preparing his or her application for the National Teacher of the Year program next fall.  Started in 1952, that program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers and is sponsored by the ING Foundation.  
The 2011-12 State Teacher of the Year will succeed Kelly H. Nalley, a Spanish teacher at Fork Shoals School in Greenville. 
The new Teacher of the Year will work with CERRA and the South Carolina Teacher Forum, whose members are district teachers of the year. The residency will include numerous speaking engagements around the state before civic and professional groups interested in education. The teacher also will conduct workshops for other classroom professionals, discuss public education issues with members of the General Assembly and State Board of Education, and work closely with the Teacher Cadet Program that encourages academically able students with exemplary interpersonal and leadership skills to consider teaching as a career. 
Here are details about the finalists:
Beth R. Hinson, biology teacher, Dillon High School, Dillon School District 2
Hinson refers to her last 24 years in the classroom as a “journey of discovery.”  Talented at putting young people at ease, Hinson appreciates and values the uniqueness and diversity her students bring to the classroom.  Teachers, she says, cannot work independently to refine only their skills. Instead, they must work together – developing new techniques and sharing knowledge, skills and practices. National Board recertified, Hinson earned a bachelor’s degree from Wofford College and a master’s degree from Francis Marion College.  
D. Craig Andrysczyk, fifth-grade mathematics and science teacher, Oak Pointe Elementary School, Lexington/Richland School District 5
This 20-year veteran teaches from the back of the room so that he can see who is struggling and who is ready to move forward.  A teacher cadet in high school, Andrysczyk understands that academic success is important but also knows the value of fitting into the community.  A mentor, Andrysczyk says that being a great teacher involves more than teaching great lessons.  He frequently goes out for recess with his students, but never stands and watches them play.  He gets in the game and makes sure everyone who wants to participate has a chance.  Andrysczyk obtained his undergraduate degree from Columbia International University and his master’s degree from the American College of Education. 
Annitra Jean Allman, eighth-grade mathematics teacher, Johnakin Middle School, Marion School District 1
Allman brings a “down-home” style to her teaching, using “folksy” language and different voices and accents as attention-grabbers.  This 34-year veteran knows that it’s not enough to teach a concept well. She also must teach students how to store information so that it’s easily retrieved.  She tries to make difficult content relevant while inspiring students to see uses for what they learn. That sometimes means making her students laugh at a silly rhyme designed to help them remember a process.  Allman earned a bachelor’s degree from Francis Marion University and a master’s degree from Cambridge College. 
Jeffrey C. Eargle, U.S. history teacher, Mid-Carolina High School, Newberry County
Students in Eargle’s classes are involved in the learning process and draw their own conclusions as he facilitates lessons. They create multilayered analytic time lines, engage in discussion via on-line message boards, role-play politicians in historical stimulations and produce original documentaries. They feel comfortable taking risks with their thoughts because they know their opinions and beliefs will not be disparaged or discounted.  Eargle’s life experiences include stints in the Peace Corps and at the South Carolina Department of Social Services.  National Board certified, he earned both a bachelor and master’s degree from the University of South Carolina. He has taught for eight years. 
Patti J. Tate, English teacher, Northwestern High School, Rock Hill School District 3
Always carrying a “big stick,” Tate says, turns young people away from learning.  Her students know that she is a person, too.  She shares interests and information with them, and they trust her. As a result of this reciprocal relationship, they want to learn.  Tate gives them an extra chance to succeed and gets to know them as individuals, showing them that she cares about their success.  Each day, she works to help her students think critically and make real-world connections to what they are studying.  Tate earned a bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree from Converse College.  She is National Board certified and has 24 years of teaching experience.

Tim Hawkins Homeschool video

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Learning From Mistakes

A TED video:

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Message For Parents About Sexting

This shouldn't be necessary, but it is.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rock Hill Schools To Hold February Business Meeting on Monday

Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Monday, February 28, 2011

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. Special Business

A. Recognition of “Distinguished Climbers”

B. Recognition of Saluda Trail Middle School

C. Recognition of Castle Heights Middle School

D. Recognition of Alan Streeter

E. Recognition of Lynn Fulton-Archer

F. Recognition of Palmetto Gold & Silver Award Winners

G. Recognition of Newest National Board Certifiers
III. Citizen Participation

IV. Consent Action Agenda

A. Approval of Minutes

1. January 24, 2010 business meeting

2. February 14, 2010 work session

B. Approval of Personnel Recommendations

C. Approval of Field Study Requests (3)

D. Approval of Use of Facilities (Impact Church)
V. Communications

VI. Report of the Superintendent

A. Announcements

B. Literacy

C. Joint Meeting with Legislative Delegation

D. Federal Programs

E. Financial Crisis Plan
VII. Review of Work Session

VIII. Action Agenda

A. Approval of Budget Timeline

B. Approval of 2011-2012 School Calendar
IX. Other Business

X. Adjournment

Getting Kids To Follow Rules

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Types of Schools

From the edReformer blog:

10 Blended High School Models

by Tom Vander ArkDecember 26, 2010
Blended high schools incorporate multiple modes of learning to prepare students for college and careers.  Blended learning is a shift of instructional responsibility for at least a portion of the day to an online environment to boost learning, staffing, and or  facilities productivity.
Following are 10 blended high school models in operation or development:
1. Student blend: where students have the ability to choose online courses, about 1.5 million students are blending their own learning.  This model may not be intentional on a schools part (in fact, they may counsel against it especially if money follows the kid).
2. Credit Recovery blend: this part time blend is usually school initiated and lab conducted with server-based products (e.g., NovaNet, Plato) or online curriculum (e.g.,Apex, Aventa).
3. Dropout Recovery: full time individualized alternative placements for students that are 1-2 years behind (e.g.,AdvancePath*, CIS PLC)
4.PBL blend: the New Tech Network is probably the best example of a project-based learning blend on a PBL platform, but the model is still pretty teacher intensive.
5. Subject blend: math and foreign language are the two easiest subjects to implement a competency-based model (i.e., individual progress).
6. Upper division blend: every high school should at least offer online upper division courses including AP, dual enrollment, and IB (when available) online; it’s a great way to expand choice, ensure consistent quality, and save money.
7. Flex-blend: K12 runs full time online schools where students study at their own pace and teachers are available on demand.  Yorktown is a private version in Dallas.
8. Check-in blend: where required, online operators provide one day a week check in (or drop-in) support.
9. Turnaround blend: Alverez & Marsal is working with Connections Academy on a blended turnaround school model.
10. Social blend: I’m most interested in combinations of individualized playlists (e.g., School of One) and PBL on a social learning platform like Edmodo.*
Let me know if I missed one and drop me a line if you want to discuss blended high schools (
More blended learning on edReformer:
* Learn Capital portfolio company

Monday, February 21, 2011

Showcase of Arts on WRHI's Straight Talk

Straight Talk: 02/21/11 Lee Gardner & Serena Williams

Monday, Feb. 21st
Lee Gardner, Family Trust FCU
Serena Wiliams, Rock Hill Schools Community Services Coordinator
The Rock Hill Schools Foundation and how it funds grants, Upcoming Showcase of Arts and the challenges of funding schools in a recession

A Long Discussion on South Carolina's Budget

From the SC Prog Blog:

The budget is a moral document

Dr. Holley Ulbrich
Senior Scholar, Strom Thurmond Institute

A budget is a moral document. It expresses our values and our priorities as South Carolinians. It reminds us that each of us, four million plus South Carolinians, has needs to be met and gifts to offer the world.
One of our most deeply held American values is justice. We try to do that work of justice and compassion as individuals and through congregations and other private organizations. But the task is enormous. These scattered and individual efforts are not enough. Fifteen percent of South Carolinians lives in poverty—the 9th highest rate in the country.

Our underfunded schools are failing to develop our children’s talents and prepare them to become self-supporting, contributing members of society. We are not taking on those reciprocal responsibilities to one another as fellow citizens of South Carolina. The budget is an expression of our obligations to one another, and at present our budget demonstrates a lack of commitment, a failure to pay more than lip service to our shared values.
To treat everyone justly and fairly, we need to provide them with both freedom and opportunity. Freedom is not just freedom to, it is also freedom from. The four freedoms—freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want and fear—are all essential to human flourishing. Our children will not have that freedom and opportunity without providing them an adequate education for a demanding 21st century economy.
Those who cannot earn enough on their own—the disabled, the sick, the elderly, the children in single-parent homes where working mothers can’t earn enough to meet their needs—do not have freedom from want and fear, or opportunity to escape from poverty. Prisoners who are overcrowded and lack access to exercise and education have little or no opportunity to re-enter society as productive human beings leading meaningful lives.
The failure to maintain the state’s infrastructure, especially transportation infrastructure, will make it increasingly difficult to attract and retain business firms to provide employment opportunities for our workers, who still suffer from one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Yet our state General Fund spending per person, adjusted for inflation, is lower than it was 10 years ago-$1,156,compared to $1,229 in the 1999-2000 budget. The 2010 budget per person was at the 1984 level in constant dollars. We are asking our teachers, our prisons, our colleges and universities, our health services and public safety officers to do more with less, and do it with 21st century technology.
Is there another way? Yes.
The budget is a moral document not only on the spending side, which displays our priorities for all to see, but also on the revenue side. How much are we able and willing to contribute to meeting the needs of our fellow citizens? By any measure, our state and local tax system has failed to reflect our shared values of justice, of freedom, of compassion, and of opportunity. Instead, we have focused on tax cuts and failed to update our antiquated revenue system, standing idly by while our tax base continues to erode.
Taxes are low in South Carolina, and getting lower. South Carolina ranks 47th out of 51 states (including the District of Columbia) in taxes as a percent of income and 51st in taxes per capita. Yet low taxes have not succeeded in the supposed goal of attracting and retaining industry, because business firms care about more than taxes. Business location studies show that firms care about an educated work force, an adequate transportation system, a consumer market that can afford to buy their products and services, and quality of life for the firm’s employees.
South Carolina’s sales tax system is eroding rapidly. One factor in that erosion is tax cuts over the last 10 years. Changes in the income tax that allow unincorporated business to file at the same 5% rate as corporations and eliminate the bottom bracket (which affects all taxpayers) on the individual income tax have cost the state more than $200 million a year. State-funded property tax relief has been a major drain on the state’s revenue.
The homestead exemption for the elderly and the original relief on the first $100,000 of owner-occupied property takes is one drain on state revenue. The shortfall in revenue from the extra penny of sales tax to fund additional relief to homeowners under Act 388 is a second source of drain on the General Fund- $124 million in the current fiscal year. Together, these three state-funded sources of property tax relief are reducing revenue available for public services by about $546 million a year. Added to the two income tax changes, these tax breaks just about cover the shortfall in the current budget.
In addition to the legislative changes above, there are some problems with the revenue system that slow the growth of revenue so that it cannot keep pace with growth of population and inflation. Growth of sales tax revenue lags behind growth of personal income, in part because South Carolina has failed to follow the lead of other states in responding to the change in how households spend their money. In 1970, 45% of consumer spending was for tangible goods, which is the base of our sales tax. Today that share has fallen to 30%.
The average state taxes 57 kinds of services; South Carolina taxes only 36. The sales tax base needs to be updated to reflect the change in how we spend our money, as the Tax Realignment Commission has recommended.
We also need to address updating our excise taxes and revenue losses from such tax breaks as the sales tax cap on cars, boats, motorcycles and airplanes.
The income tax also has some structural problems. Only about 40% of South Carolinians pay any income tax. Some of us are too poor to pay income tax, but some are too old. South Carolina has the most senior-citizen-friendly income tax in the nation, according to a Georgia State study a few years ago. A family of two adults over age 65 that can take advantage of pension provisions, Social Security and the age-related deduction could have an income of more than $60,000 a year before having to pay any income tax. There are also some 53 credits available to reduce one’s income tax liability.
Unlike spending, tax breaks never come up for a scheduled annual review. They just continue from year to year, eroding the revenue base that needs to be shored up in order to continue to fund essential public services. The covenant that South Carolinians have with each other includes not only the services that we wish to ensure for all citizens but also the commitment to pay for them. Our legislators need to look closely every year at tax provisions that may have made sense 10 or 20 years ago but are never subject to review and reconsideration.
This document prepared in collaboration with Dr. Holley Ulbrich, Senior Scholar, Strom Thurmond Institute; Alumni Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics, Clemson University

Who Should We Listen To For School Reform?

From the Education Stormfront blog:

Who Gets To Be An Education Reformer?

As the public Education Reform battle heated up last year I watched from the sidelines.  I work at a private college and as of yet have no children, so I have no dog in the fight as they say.  Movies such as Waiting for Superman, and business leaders such as Bill Gates all drew attention to education in the US.
What has amazed me as I watch, is the amount of vitriol being directed at people who are not “education reformers”.  I see this on twitter all the time, where an article comes out and people rip the author to shreds.  Not their argument mind you, just the person.  Somehow, unless you work in public education are you disqualified for having any ideas about reforming education?
It’s this arrogance that worries me.  Let’s look at the “official players” in education reform shall we?
1. Teachers – If teachers don’t buy into education reform, it will fail, period.  They have to be involved.
2. Parents – They can make a lot of noise at the schoolboard meetings but in the end they have very little say.
3. Students – They are treated much the same way as cattle at a dairy.  Nobody asks a cow if it wants to get milked right?
4. Government – They control the money so in the end they control the system.  What is weird here is over half the people in the US congress are lawyers. What do they know about education?  Of course they don’t have to if the teachers unions tell them what to do.
5.  Teachers Unions – They are a powerful force in education reform, mostly because of their political donations.  I list them separately from teachers though, mostly because their first priority is clearly not to have students learn better, it’s to have more teachers and get them paid more.  (this is not a bash on unions btw, they are good at this job)
So that’s it right?  Nobody else can have any ideas on how to reform the education system?
If you restrict the amount of players in the game, you will restrict the kind of reform ideas you will get too.  Everyone does what is in their self interest.  That’s a fact.  That makes every single entity on this list biased in some way.   They will propose reforms that help them out but may not be the best idea overall.
Here’s my idea.  How about we listen to everyone?  The Internet allows anyone to make their voice heard so let them speak.  If you don’t like the idea say why and make a counter argument, don’t just dismiss the person who had the idea.
I think that since education affects everyone, everyone should have a voice in how it works, not just a self proclaimed “elite”.
Are you a person who battles in the realm of ideas or do you refuse to engage with certain people?
‘It’s amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.’ – Charles F. Kettering

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Executive Sessions and Complying with The Sunshine Laws

We often get comments about what gets discussed in executive sessions. Below is some information which might shed some light on the subject.

SECTION 30-4-70. Meetings which may be closed

(a) A public body may hold a meeting closed to the public for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) Discussion of employment, appointment, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline, or release of an employee, a student, or a person regulated by a public body or the appointment of a person to a public body; however, if an adversary hearing involving the employee or client is held, the employee or client has the right to demand that the hearing be conducted publicly. Nothing contained in this item shall prevent the public body, in its discretion, from deleting the names of
the other employees or clients whose records are submitted for use at the hearing.
(2) Discussion of negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements and proposed sale or purchase of property, the receipt of legal advice where the legal advice relates to a pending, threatened, or potential claim or other matters covered by the attorney-client privilege, settlement of legal claims, or the position of the public agency in other adversary situations involving the assertion against the agency of a claim.
(3) Discussion regarding the development of security personnel or devices.
(4) Investigative proceedings regarding allegations of criminal misconduct.
(5) Discussion of matt ers relating to the proposed location, expansion, or the provision of services encouraging location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body.
(6) The Retirement System Investment Commission, if the meeting is in executive session specifically pursuant to Section 9-16-80(A) or 9-16-320(C).

From the Attny General:
There are two keys for public bodies preparing to enter an executive session: “votes” and “specific purposes.” To adjourn into executive session, a vote must be taken in public. The only actions that can be taken in executive sessions are to adjourn or return to public session.  Finally, no informal polling about a course of action may be taken in executive session.

(b) Before going into executive session the public agency shall vote in public on the question and when the vote is favorable, the presiding officer shall announce the specific purpose of the executive session. 

For the full guide, visit this link:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Highly Creative Learners

From the Education Innovation blog:

11 Traits of Highly Creative Learners

Dean Rieck is a highly creative and successful direct marketing copywriter. He posted this piece “Do You Have These 11 Traits of Highly Creative People?” on the wonderful site Copyblogger.
As my title suggests, these 11 traits should be encouraged and developed in our personal and organizational learning. Creativity is an edge personally and organizationally. We need creative learners and we need to do our best develop it.
So with thanks to Dean, here are 11 highly creative traits that learners need to develop.
1. "Have the COURAGE to try new things and risk failure. Every big breakthrough starts as a harebrained idea. This doesn’t mean you should constantly go off the deep end, just that you should balance your routine portfolio of solutions with an investment in the new and untried. Over time, the risk is usually worth the reward."
2. "Use INTUITION as well as logic to make decisions and produce ideas. When Matt Drudge designed his Web site, he listened to his gut instead of the Internet gurus. He kept it simple, small, fast, and some would say ugly and primitive. But it works for him, making The Drudge Report one of the most recognizable and popular sites in the world."
3. "Like to PLAY, since humor and fun are the ultimate creative act. Which is to say you just have to lighten up. We all have goals, and quotas, and deadlines, but it’s not life and death. When you enjoy yourself, your brain relaxes and is able to produce more and better ideas. One of those ideas may be just what you’re looking for."
4. "Are EXPRESSIVE and willing to share what they feel and think, to be themselves. Blogging is the ideal arena for injecting your personality into your work. People are emotional creatures and respond better to people who appear real, honest, and open. Not only is it more interesting, it can also be more persuasive."
5. "Can FIND ORDER in confusion and discover hidden meaning in information. Research and critical thinking are key tools for the creative person. Information is to the brain what food is to the stomach. So-called “writer’s block” or creative burnout almost always results from a lack of fresh information and having nothing meaningful to say."
6. "Are MOTIVATED BY A TASK rather than by external rewards. You must like the challenge of writing, explaining, teaching, and persuading. Sure, you can make money along the way, but if you’re in it just for the money, you’re not going to be a fountain of new ideas."
7. "Have a need to FIND SOLUTIONS to challenging problems. Even the most creative writers won’t have a solution for everything. If they claim to, they’ve stopped thinking. Highly creative people are those whose eyes light up at a question they can’t answer. That’s the opportunity to learn something new and produce remarkably creative content."
8. "Will CHALLENGE ASSUMPTIONS and ask hard questions to discover what is real. Writing, blogging, or business rules aren’t really rules, only rules of thumb. If you want to wield true creative power, you will always take what others advise with a grain of salt. (That includes all of us gurus who love to don our pointy wizard hats and pontificate on the secrets of success.) If you don’t know something from personal knowledge or experience, you don’t know it at all."
9. "Can MAKE CONNECTIONS between old ideas to produce new insights. Combine the little doodles you make on a white board with online video and you get CommonCraft, a new approach to explaining things to people in a way they can easily understand. Sometimes the best solutions are simply two old ideas jammed together."
10. "Will PUSH THE ENVELOPE in order to expand the boundaries of what is possible. There was a time when no one thought you could make money on the Internet. Now it’s a huge, multi-national business platform. Instead of dividing the world into the possible and impossible, it’s better to merely divide it into the tried and the untried. What have you not tried yet?"
11. "Are willing to TEST new ideas and compete with others based on results. Isn’t that what they mean by the “market of ideas”? Isn’t that what business competition is about? If you’re afraid of being wrong or losing, your creativity will suffer."
Core knowledge, literacy, the ability to think and learn should be combined with creative traits to create creative learners and creative organizations.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Find Out About SC House Bill 3241

Rock Hill School,s Grassroots coordinator, Walter Brown, reports on how one bill will affect the Rock Hill Schools:

Bill 3241, Charter Schools, having received a favorable report from the majority in committee, is now on the House Calendar for debate. Debate on the bill has been adjourned until Wednesday, February 23rd. There has not been a vote on second reading of this bill. Members of the York County Delegation that have their names on the bill as sponsor or co-sponsor are; Deborah Long, Dennis Moss, Gary Simrill, and Ralph Norman.

The economic impact on Rock Hill School District is projected to be $1.6m or 26 teaching positions. I have spoken with Greg Delleney and he said that there will probably be amendments introduced to correct at least some of the funding issues.

It is not too late to contact the four mentioned above if you are concerned about the impact this bill will have on the schools of not only District 3 but the entire state.

Walter Brown

Balance The Budget?

It's that time of year again. You know, when school districts and states  try to balance expenses with expected revenue. Everybody has ideas, but most have no idea what those impacts have on the budget. Well, North Carolina has a web site where you can practice "balancing" their budget. You should click on the link below and practice. It will give you an appreciation for what impacts a state budget. I wish we could do something similar for our school budget.

Balance The Budget

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sullivan Middle School Improvement Council A State Finalist

COLUMBIA – The School Improvement Councils (SICs) of five South Carolina public schools
have been named statewide award finalists for their work to engage parents, community members
and educators in strengthening their schools.

The S.C. School Improvement Council’s annual Dick and Tunky Riley School Improvement
Award was created in 2002 to recognize the significant contributions made to public education by
the nearly 15,000 local School Improvement Council (SIC) members who volunteer in the state’s
1,100-plus K-12 public schools.

In alphabetical order, this year’s Riley Award finalist SICs are:

Brennen Elementary School, Columbia (Richland School District 1)
Burgess Elementary School, Myrtle Beach (Horry County Schools)
Jesse Boyd Elementary School, Moore (Spartanburg School District 7)
North Augusta Elementary School, North Augusta (Aiken County School District)
Sullivan Middle School, Rock Hill (Rock Hill School District 3) 

“We commend these School Improvement Councils for the significant work they are doing to
bring broad-based support and resources to their local schools,” said SC-SIC Board of Trustees
Chairman Carlos Primus. “Such active and collaborative efforts of our SICs have a lasting and
positive impact on the lives of our schools and our children.”

Among the SIC initiatives undertaken in 2009-10 by this year’s finalists were: developing
numerous multi-media strategies to better share information with parents and community
members; implementing improved ways for the local community to donate time, materials and
funds for local school needs; creating programs to encourage healthier eating and exercise habits
for students; working with local and state officials on projects to improve student safety for drop-
off, dismissal and walking to school; and partnering with community-based resources to increase
parental involvement and support from families speaking limited or no English.

In the past year, local SIC members across South Carolina turned in over 230,000 volunteer hours
in their local schools at an estimated value of nearly $3.8 million – a substantial return on the
state’s current SC-SIC budget allocation of about $224 per school per year.
The winner of the 2011 Riley Award will be selected from this year’s finalists and announced at
the SC-SIC Annual Conference, Saturday, March 19th
, 2011, in Columbia.

The SC-SIC Riley Award is named in honor of former South Carolina Governor and U.S.
Education Secretary Richard Riley and his late wife, Tunky, and recognizes the couple’s
longstanding commitment to quality public education.

Located in the University of South Carolina’s College of Education, the S.C. School
Improvement Council was established in state law more than three decades ago to provide the
member training, technical assistance, statutory accountability, and other operational resources
necessary for the continued success of the community-based SICs in each of the state’s K-12
public schools.

Data Driven Tests

Brain Function and Multitasking

Monday, February 14, 2011

History Teachers On Youtube

Two history teachers making the French Revolution interesting.

Why You Should Love Public Education

This is a long reposting of several articles on public education. Something for you to think about:
From the TeachMore blog

Love Never Fails: Why We Shouldn’t Give Up on Public Schools

My pastor husband and I often find ourselves counseling couples struggling to overcome problems in their relationships. We remind them that love is a decision, not an accident, that requires disciplined commitment, especially when things aren't going smoothly. I apply that same thinking to America's relationship with our public schools.
The debate over whether the education of children in America should be a public or private enterprise is as old as the nation itself. Some are calling for our society to divorce itself from our moral obligation to provide quality, public education to all our children. While I highly respect those parents who choose to educate their children at home or pay for private education, I believe public education is essential for our nation. I humbly add myself to the long list of Americans who share that view.
The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves. ---John Adams, U.S. President, 1785
It was in making education not only common to all, but in some sense compulsory on all, that the destiny of the free republic of America was practically settled. --James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat, 1870
[T]he fact remains that the whole country is directly interested in the education of every child that lives within its borders. The ignorance of any part of the American people so deeply concerns all the rest that there can be no doubt of the right to pass laws compelling the attendance of every child at school...Frederick Douglass, African American writer and abolitionist, 1883.
A republican government should be based on free and equal education among the people.---Susan B. Anthony, 1900.
Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.--Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President, 1787.
Fewer pillories and whipping posts and smaller gaols [jails], with their usual expenses and taxes, will be necessary when our youth are properly educated, than at present. I believe it could be proved that the expenses of confining, trying, and executing criminals amount every year, in most of the counties, to more money than would be sufficient to maintain the schools.---Benjamin Rush, physician and statesman,1786
What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.--John Dewey, 1907.
"[We must] make known our educational needs and rights, and contend for every educational privilege, vouchsafed to our children as the coming citizens of a free democracy."--renown African American educator, Mary McLeod Bethune, 1924.
Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. --Edward Everett (1794-1865, American statesman and scholar.
I would argue further that the push for application of free market principles in the reform of schools is insidiously counterproductive and may actually threaten American democracy in profound ways. Developing a rating system for schools based on flawed, limited testing instruments, then publishing those ratings in a push to get parents to shop around for educational options sounds like democracy in action. In reality, it exacerbates existing inequalities in educational and social resources. The goal should not be to see how many schools we can close down or force out of business, but rather how many schools we as a nation can reclaim, restore, and reconnect to the communities from which they should organically grow--Renee Moore, Christian, teacher, parent, taxpayer, patriot.

Why I Love Public Education

FEBRUARY 14, 2011
by David B. Cohen
The critics of public education have had their say, more than their say, in recent months.  Isn’t it a predictable side-effect in difficult economic times that scapegoats must be found?  I’m not saying everything is great in public education or that the criticisms are baseless, but the gross generalizations, distortions, and lies are proving rather resilient.
Let me tell you why I still love public education, and why I’m fighting to improve it.
Every day when I go to work in my classroom, I work with fantastic young people who are on the brink of adulthood and are thirsty for knowledge and opportunity.  You wouldn’t know it from the debates you hear in education policy and politics, but my students have interests and needs that go far beyond the basics, much deeper than the buzzwords like “critical thinking” and “21st century skills.”  Certainly, those are important, but when students walk into class each day, they bring with them a whole range of experiences and questions, hopes and worries that may not seem very academic but have everything to do with conditions for learning.  Who am I?  What am I doing here?  Is there a place for me here?  How will I manage tomorrow, next year, or beyond high school?  Where is life taking me?
Now, certainly those questions are universal for teenagers – whether they attend a private school or a public school.  However, the great promise of public education is the assertion that allchildren, regardless of family wealth or background, deserve the same access to a high quality education in a safe and supportive atmosphere.  Every child deserves a school full of caring adults who act in loco parentis, treating our students like our own children, meeting their academic needs and personal needs.  (And anyone who thinks the personal, social, or emotional lives of children should not be part of the conversation has either an incredibly narrow view of education, or a fundamental misunderstanding of learning).
Public education has a particular value to our society because it has the unique potential to become the center of a diverse community.  When I observe my students in class each day, I see hope for the future.  They not only learn skills and curriculum, but they learn how much they have in common with peers of different social, ethnic, or religious backgrounds.  They learn to participate in a civil discussion where opinions diverge and controversies arise.  When we have events for parents and community members, we bring together dozens of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, recent immigrants with long-settled families, entry-level workers, CEOs and former professional athletes.
Some people will argue we could do better by privatizing education, or switching to a voucher system.  I think the existing models demonstrate that such an approach is likely to divide us more than unite us.  Top-tier private schools would still be the province of the wealthy, only more so, as any wealthy families currently using public schools would migrate to the private schools; voucher amounts would not be sufficient to open doors of opportunity for most needy families.
We have a long way to go to live up to the ideal of public education.  There are terrible inequities in our public schools when it comes to resources and challenges.  I confront those inequities constantly in my interactions with colleagues such as my fellow members Accomplished California Teachers and Teacher Leaders Network, and whenever I attend workshops or conferences and meet teachers from other parts of the state or country.
I believe that the solutions to those inequities will require a significant shift in our sense of responsibility to our fellow Californians and fellow Americans.  It won’t happen in education alone.  I think it will happen when we recognize that there’s more value in education than incarceration, more value in universal health care than in the war on terror.  Our nation stood together to respond to an attack that killed thousands of our fellow citizens, but we have yet to stand together to respond to the health care crisis that contributes to so many more illnesses and deaths every year.  Our national tax rates are at the lowest levels in generations, and our national poverty rate should be a matter of collective shame – especially when that means we have homeless and undernourished children.  We will spend whatever it takes to keep a criminal incarcerated, but cut corners in education and job training, mental health services, treatment for addictions  - all of the cheaper alternatives that might help avoid the criminality.  We love the flag more than the liberty and justice for all.
Public education offers me hope that we’ll keep improving and growing as a people, because I see in my students the commitment to learning and working together, and I have to hold on to the belief that they will help their elders see the light.
Of course, we can help speed that process along by joining together to Save Our Schools.  That’s why I’ll be in Washington D.C. during the last weekend in July.
Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 02/14/2011

Why teacher bashing is dangerous

By Valerie Strauss
This is an edited version of a commentary by Stan Karp, a teacher of English and journalism in Paterson, N.J., for 30 years. He is now the director of the Secondary Reform Project for New Jersey’s Education Law Center and an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine. The full version of the commentary, which Karp delivered last December before about 250 people at a Portland high school, can be found here, at the website called and the audio can be heard here.

By Stan Karp
Far too many people are bashing teachers and public schools. The attacks are coming from different places for different reasons, and we need to pay attention to the differences.
The parent who’s angry at the public school system because it’s not successfully educating his/her children is not the same as the billionaire with no education experience, who couldn’t survive in a classroom for two days, but who has made privatizing education policy a hobby, and who has the resources to do so because the country’s financial and tax systems serve the rich.
The educators who start a community-based charter school to create a collaborative school culture are not the same as the hedge fund managers who invest in charter schools to turn a profit, or who want to privatize our most important civic institution.

The well-meaning college grad who joins a Teach For America program is not the same as the corporate managers who want to use market reforms to create a less expensive, less secure and less experienced teaching force.
And the hard-pressed taxpayer who directs frustration at teachers struggling to hang on to their health insurance or pensions—which far too few people have at all—is not coming from the same place as those responsible for the obscene economic inequality that is squeezing both.
I’ve spent a large part of my adult life criticizing the flawed policies of public education as a teacher, an education activist and a policy advocate. But now I find myself spending a lot of time defending the very idea of public education against those who say, it should be blown up.
The increasingly polarized education policy debate is not just about whether teachers feel the sting of public criticism or whether school budgets suffer another round of cuts. It’s not even about the hot-button issues getting all the attention like merit pay or charter schools.
What’s at stake is more basic: Whether the right to a free public education for all children will survive as a fundamental democratic promise in our society, and whether the schools and districts needed to provide it are going to survive as public institutions.
Will they be collectively owned and democratically managed, however imperfectly, by all of us as citizens, or will they be privatized and commercialized by corporate interests that increasingly dominate our society?
The larger goal, to borrow a phrase from the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a political lobby financed by hedge fund millionaires that is a chief architect of the current campaign, is to “burst the dam” that has historically protected public education and its $600 billion annual expenditures from unchecked commercial exploitation and privatization.
What is new and alarming are the large strides those promoting business models and market reforms have made in attaching their agenda to the urgent need of poor communities who have, in too many cases, been badly served by the current system.
The narrative of public education as a systematic failure has been fed in recent years by shifting federal policy. It’s moved away from its historic role as a promoter of access and equity through support for things such as school integration, extra funding for high-poverty schools and services for students with special needs, and embraced a much less equitable set of mandates around testing, closing schools, firing school staff and distributing federal funds through “competitive grants” to “winners” at the expense of “losers.”
First with No Child Left Behind, and then with Race to the Top,Democrats have been playing tag team with Republicans building on the test and punish approach. Just how much this bipartisan consensus has solidified came home when I picked up my local paper one morning and saw Gov. Chris Christie, the most anti-public education governor New Jersey has ever had, quoted as saying “This is an incredibly special moment in American history, where you have Republicans in New Jersey agreeing with a Democratic president on how to get reform.”
Unless we change direction, the combined impact of these proposals will do for public schooling what market reform has done for housing, health care and the economy: produce fabulous profits for a few and unequal access and outcomes for the many.
The corporate/foundation crowd has successfully captured the media label as “education reformers.” If you support charters, merit pay, and control of school policy by corporate managers you’re a reformer. If you support increased school funding, collective bargaining and control of school policy by educators, you’re a defender of the status quo.
This is particularly true when it comes to the way the issue of poverty is being framed.
Of course poverty is no excuse for bad teaching, poor curriculum, massive dropout rates or year after year of lousy school outcomes. We need accountability systems that put pressure on schools to respond effectively to the communities they serve. And in my experience, parents are the key to creating that pressure and teachers are the key to implementing the changes needed to address it. Finding ways to promote a collaborative tension and partnership between these groups is a key to school improvement.
But the reformers’ notion that schools alone can make up for the inequality and poverty that exists all around them has become part of the “No Excuses” drumbeat used to impose reforms that have no record of success as school improvement strategies.
Instead they’re political strategies designed to bring market reform to public education.
Today we hear absurd claims about how super-teachers can eliminate achievement gaps with scripted curricula handed down from above, and how the real problem is not the country’s shameful 23% child poverty rate or underfunded schools. Instead it’s bad teachers.
Now it’s true that effective teachers and good schools can make an enormous difference in the life chances of children. And it’s also true that struggling teachers who don’t improve after they’ve been given support need to find other work.
But when it comes to student achievement—and especially the narrow, culturally-slanted, pseudo-achievement captured by standardized test scores—there is no evidence that the test score gaps you hear about constantly can be traced to bad teaching. And there is overwhelming evidence that they closely reflect the inequalities of race, class, and opportunity that follow students to school.
Teachers count a lot. But reality counts too. Reformers who discount the impact of poverty are actually the ones making excuses for their failure to make poverty reduction, and adequate and equitable school funding, a central part of school improvement efforts.
The federal government has put more effort into tying individual teacher compensation to test scores and pressing states to eliminate caps on charter schools than encouraging them to distribute more fairly the $600 billion they spend annually on K-12 education.
At the same time they want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create more tests based on the new common core standards and use those tests to implement merit pay plans.
Spending more money on standardized tests is like passing out thermometers in a malaria epidemic. People need better health care, more hospitals, and better-trained doctors, they don’t need more thermometers.
These test-based evaluation systems have the potential to seriously damage the teaching profession. Their basic assumptions are at odds with the way real schools actually work, and bending school practices to accommodate them could negatively affect everything from the way students are assigned to classes, to the willingness of teachers to serve high needs populations to the collaborative professional culture that good schools depend on for success. They’ll also require another massive increase in standardized testing.
The last issue I want to mention is charters. Today there are about 5,000 charter schools that enroll about 4% of all students. Few justify the hype they receive in "Waiting for Superman,” and those that do, like the schools featured in the film, are highly selective, privately subsidized schools that have very limited relevance for the public system. It’s like looking for models of public housing by studying luxury condo developments.
In the past 10 years, the character of the charter school movement has gone from community-based, educator-initiated local efforts to spur alternative approaches for a small number of students, to nationally funded efforts by foundations, investors and educational management companies to create a parallel, more privatized system.
This does not deny the reform impulse that is a real part of the charter movement. Many times during my 30 years of teaching at a large dysfunctional high school, I wanted to start my own school. And many of the issues that public school advocates like myself criticize in charters, like creaming, and unequal resources exist within the public system too.
But public schools have federal, state and district obligations that can be brought to bear. There are school boards, public budgets, public policies and public officials that can be held accountable in ways that privatized charters don’t allow. In post-Katrina New Orleans, where more than 60% of all students now attend unequal tiers of charter schools, there are students and parents who cannot find any schools to take them.
No one questions the desire of parents to find the best options they can for their children. But any strategy that promotes charter expansion at the expense of system-wide improvement and equity for the all schools is a plan for privatization not reform.
It took well over a hundred years to create a public school system that, for all its flaws, provides a free education for all children as a legal right. And public schools are one of the last places where an increasingly diverse and divided population still comes together for a common civic purpose in this country.
In some respects public education is our most successful democratic institution, doing more to reduce inequality, offer hope, and provide opportunity than the country’s financial, economic, political, and media institutions.
Those who believe that business models and market reforms hold the key to solving educational problems have a [reform] agenda, but:
It does not include all children and all families.
It does not include adequate, equitable and sustainable funding.
It does not include transparent public accountability.
It does not include the supports and reforms that educators need to do their jobs well.
It doesn’t address the legacy or the current realities of race and class inequality that surround our schools every day.
Where we go from here, as advocates and activists for social justice, depends in part on our ability to re-invent and articulate this missing equity agenda and to build a reform movement that can provide effective, credible alternatives to the strategies that are currently being imposed from above.
We need to reclaim not just our schools, but our political process and our public policy-making machinery, and control over our economic and social future. We don’t only need to fix our schools, we need to fix our democracy.


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