With bumper lanes everyone is a winner!
The South Carolina public school machine operates through a bewildering assortment of committees, task forces, subcommittees, advisory panels, working groups and inter-agency partnerships.
Interestingly, most of these divergent groups march to the beat of a common drum: the unending chorus of “more money.”
Take the recent meeting of the Education Oversight Committee (EOC)’s so-called “Academic Standards and Assessments Subcommittee” or “ASAS.”
One of the responsibilities of the EOC’s ASAS is determining eligibility for public school awards. In late November the subcommittee submitted recommendations to re-write guidelines for the Palmetto Gold and Silver Awards.
Under the proposal:
- Schools that meet an EOC determined standard will receive a “gold” award
- Schools that fail to meet the standard but make some student-wide improvement will receive a “silver” award
- Schools that fail to meet the standards but have some students make some improvement will receive a new “closing the gap” award.
Question about their merits aside, these awards are a big deal. That’s because they are tied to additional funding for the “awardee” schools. The awards -merited or not- also a lend an appearance of credibility and accomplishment to the schools in the eyes of parents, lawmakers and community members.
The awards further draw attention away from the 8-in-10 federal AYP failure rate, the 51 percent high school dropout rate, the widening racial gaps and the inability of the “best” public schools to compete with public schools in the Southeast.
Under the new criteria EOC ASAS members predict an immediate jump of 50 percent in awards issued. Based on the rule changes some 356 schools will now be eligible, compared to 239 last year.
Reworking the faux-awards is part of the larger ongoing effort to strip South Carolina’s accountability laws, water down the state’s standardized testing, and mis-report data to parents and the press.
It is worth noting what the subcommittee did not address. Namely, how South Carolina’s bizarre public school funding system actually rewards low student achievement through ever-higher state spending at schools with long term performance failures while also giving out cash awards for improvement,
Also absent from the debate was the growing concern that financial rewards for test score gains might lead to unintended consequences (e.g. Mishawna Moore and the Clyde-Sanders PACT cheating scandal).