Tag Archives: transparency and accountability

South Carolina High School Graduation Rates

school choice south carolina

How many children drop out of school in South Carolina?”
“What is the graduation rate in South Carolina high schools?”
“How many students in OUR school district will graduate from high school?…”

(HINT: Scroll down and find out!)

It is hard to get a straight answer when it comes to questions about graduates and dropouts in South Carolina’s public schools.

A recent report indicates that in the senior class of 2008-09, only 42,947 (or 66.3% of those enrolled in 9th grade four years earlier) graduated public high school with an earned diploma. In other words, 1-in-3 students (or 122 pupils each day) dropped out, were held back, or failed to complete the full diploma requirements

Already some in the media are raising questions about the validity of so-called “statewide gains” and the wide disparity between numbers cited by Jim Rex, those reported in the Education Week report, and the figures publicly available on the US Department of Education’s website.

The State Newspaper (6/9) reported:

The on-time graduation rate reported by Education Week and the State Department of Education differ, and there’s no clear consensus on why.

The Anderson Independent Mail (6/9) reported:

…But, those [Education Week] figures are misleading, said Jim Foster, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Education. The graduation rates in Education Week are estimates that over the years have resulted in disparities from one report to the next, he said.

The Greenwood Today (6/9) reported:

The graduation figures in the Education Week publication, seen as a national standard for K12 education policy and assessment, vary greatly from higher numbers released by the South Carolina State Department of Education.

Attention is also being drawn to that fact that South Carolina has not released district-specific graduation levels since the 2004-05 school year for the federal government’s uniform rankings. In that 2004-05 school year, the statewide graduation rate was 52.23%.

The graduation rate varied from 87% in York District 4 to 29% in Lee County School District.

Thankfully, these figures can be found in Common Core of Data section of the US DOE website.

Below is a district-by-district list of enrollment and diplomas numbers for the South Carolina public high school class of 2005 drawn from the Federally reported data (again, this is the most recent year for which detailed data -not estimates and averages- is available):

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE TOTALS

64,027 (9th Graders enrolled in 2001-2)

38,657 (12th Graders in 2004-5)

33,439 (Diplomas issued in 2004-5)

52.23% (% of 9th graders who graduated in 4 school years)

ABBEVILLE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

348 (9th Graders enrolled in 2001-2)

Continue reading

Good Mileage More Important to Congress than Children

unionowned

Members of Congress ( 38% of which chose to send their own children to private school) sent a cutting message about governmental priorities to parents this week. Ignoring the large crowd of parents and children begging them to preserve the Washington, D.C. school choice program, politicians brushed them aside to do what they felt was best for their own political careers: say “how high?” when unions said “jump!”

Adding insult to a real injury for low-income families, the US Senate approved a “Cash for Clunkers” bill the same day that would hand out $4,500 vouchers to people who trade in their old cars for a newer, more fuel efficient machines.

The cruel irony of the Senate’s actions will not be lost on the families forced to send their children back to dangerous, failing public schools. Apparently, many of the same elected officials who believe financial incentives are evil and destructive when they are given to low-income students who need an education, are happy to pass out benefits to people who can afford to buy new vehicles.

Actions speak louder than the empty words uttered on the campaign trail, and the actions of U.S. Senators say that they think good mileage is more important than childrens’ education. Continue reading

South Carolina public school unaccountability

Frustrated parents know that low test scores, growing race- and wealth gaps, a 55% graduate rate and a surge in the number of failing public schools are a long term trend in South Carolina public schools.

Despite all the bad news, the taxpayer financed spin masters who profit from public school failure insists that South Carolina public schools are accountable to parents through “high standards.”

The so-called “watchdog” of public school accountability and performance is the oddly named Education Oversight Committee (EOC). From late and vague school report cards to watered down standards and even deliberate dishonesty, the Public School Establishment in South Carolina is fiercely dedicated to spending public money on hiding its performance failures.

Now, as bureaucrats scramble to protect their salaries in the face of state budget cuts, there is talk of further erosion of the the already limited “oversight” Continue reading

Sunshine on Public Schools in South Carolina

south-carolina-public-school-transparency

The Associated Press is reporting details of a new 50-state review of online government transparency and ease of public access to state records.

The study was conducted jointly by the Sunshine Week Initiative, the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Freedom of Information Committee, and the Society of Professional Journalists’ FOI Committee. According to the rankings, based on the ease of access to a list of various documents and publications, South Carolina is ranked 25th of the 50 states. But that number hides the real story. Continue reading

South Carolina’s worst public schools (2008-09 list)

Each year the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) releases report cards for the public schools and public school districts in South Carolina. Based on the 2008-09 cards we have already observed:

Sadly this is more of the same news we have been receiving from the other indicators in the last two years – if you are poor or black, you are further behind your wealthy or white peers in South Carolina, and if you are lucky enough to live in one of the “good” districts you are still not regionally or nationally competitive

Now, here is a full list of all the public schools which received failing (or, to put it politically, “at-risk”) ratings. The list format is:

District Name:
SCHOOL NAME  (# of students)   (Elem, Middle or High )    (“Persistent” for schools
with 2 or more years on list)

Abbeville:

CALHOUN FALLS HIGH 238 M Persistent

Aiken:

RIDGE SPRING-MONETTA ELEMENTARY 673 M Persistent

LLOYD-KENNEDY CHARTER SCHOOL 31 M Persistent

MIDLAND VALLEY PREPARATORY SCHOOL 166 M

RIDGE SPRING-MONETTA ELEMENTARY 673 E Persistent

A L CORBETT MIDDLE 248 M Continue reading

Superintendents Should Forgo SCASA Junket

scasa-junket

On several occasions The Voice has publicized the heavy expenses incurred by school district superintendents who attend the annual taxpayer-subsidized South Carolina School Boards Association junket in Myrtle Beach.

Already, SCASA has begun encouraging members to register for the 2009 Summer Leadership Conference.

In theory, “SCASA Summer Conferences” may be a wonderful opportunity for district employees to gather and share best practices, but in reality it is a weekend of wining and dining in luxury accommodations, with the taxpayers back home picking up the bill. Continue reading

School Report Cards: More Bad News

Friday, South Carolina’s State Department of Education finally released the public school and district report cards to parents across the state.

Sadly this is more of the same news we have been receiving from the other indicators in the last two years – if you are poor or black, you are further behind your wealthy or white peers in South Carolina, and if you are lucky enough to live in one of the “good” districts you are still not regionally or nationally competitive” explained Randy Page of South Carolinians for Responsible Government.

In just two years 77 more public schools have dropped to “at-risk” or “below average.” Any credibility the State Superintendent might have claimed as a “reformer” has vanished, right along with the prospects of the children stuck attending those failing public schools. Continue reading

Spartanburg 7 “Golf Gate” Indicative of Larger Problem

Parents, teachers and students across Spartanburg are not willing to look the other way on the District 7 school board’s recent decision to unload over $250,000 of district funds on an exclusive country club’s golf facilities. In addition to Spartanburg residents packing out a recent school board meeting ( video here), letters expressing outrage and disappointment have appeared over and over in the local paper calling for the district to back out of the decision.

Even in the face of widespread opposition by the people whose taxes pay his salary, Superintendent Thomas White has obstinately protested that the district’s actions were warranted and necessary. Families want to know: how can bureaucrats cram such unwise and unpopular measures down the throats of angry taxpayers?

Unfortunately, South Carolina continues to employ an unwieldy, one-size-fits-all public education system that puts ultimate control in the hands of bureaucrats, not parents. Because of this system, state employees like White feel totally comfortable trying to censor what parents think about how their own child should be educated, and can even openly oppose efforts that would grant educational choices free of bureaucratic oversight. Talk about a conflict of interest. Continue reading

SC Schools still a cash cow for consultants

consultant

In December of 2008, the State Department of Education was well aware that budget cuts would be affecting public schools across the state. Teachers and other district employees feared for their jobs, while bean counters worried that money might be too tight to even put fuel in school buses.

Even during this time of uncertainty and restricted funding, consultants were confident that fat government contracts would keep rolling in.
According to the State Comptroller General’s “Spending Transparency” site, the SC Department of Education paid out-

•    $130,500 to Insite, LLC: a “highly accomplished woman-owned assessment company, providing test development, training, and data-collection services.”
•    $211,850 to TAPFIN Process Solutions: “With a focus on human capital management, TAPFIN deploys successful solutions delivered with our commitment to people, process and technology.
•    $17,732 to Educational Resources Group: “ERG is your best resource for consultants who provide professional development services to teachers, administrators, and classroom support personnel.”
•    $37,200 to South Carolina Association of School Administrators: tax funded lobbyists
•    $15,000 to Education Builders
•    $14,695 to The Assignment Agency
•    $11,755.52 to Malachied Inc. Continue reading

“Lost Credibility”: Herald Journal Condemns District 7′s Wasteful Spending

thomas-white

Parents in Spartanburg School District 7- and around the state- have been shocked and outraged by a recent decision by District 7′s leaders to pay out $200,000+ ( plus $5,000 annually) to the exclusive Spartanburg Country Club so the Spartanburg High School golf team can have access to the club’s facilities.

Superintendent Thomas White, whose condescending attitude toward real education options for parents has been covered on The Voice before, has come under heavy fire for his attempts to justify such a massive expense in a time of economic uncertainty.

White is himself a member of the country club, and stated in a Herald Journal article that the large expense was worth it because, ” There isn’t anything else in District 7 that can touch the Country Club of Spartanburg in terms of training facilities and the course.” Continue reading