Category Archives: SCHOOL WATCH

Public School Achievement Gap in South Carolina

Jim Rex Bridge Achievement Gap

The “Achievement Gap” is a name used to describe the persistent and unjust disparity between test scores among different  racial and economic groups enrolled in South Carolina’s government schools.

New data have been released, and some are hoping it constitutes a reversal of this troubling long term trend.

The political publicists at the State Department of Education spun it this way:

South Carolina’s “achievement gap” between white and African-American students mirrors the rest of the nation’s, according to a federal government report released today.  Although mathematics and reading test scores have improved for both ethnic groups, the gap between the two has decreased only in math.

But looking past the soundbites, the data do not seem to mesh with other, independently gauged, indicators. Continue reading

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Probe into PACT Cheating Scandal Comes Up Empty?

SandersClyde

A SLED investigation into MiShawna Moore, erstwhile darling of the South Carolina education establishment and suspected test “tailor,” has come up with nothing.

As principal of Sanders-Clyde Elementary, a chronically failing public school in Charleston County, Moore came under heavy suspicion when PACT scores at her school suddenly shot up above district and state levels. When tests were carefully monitored, scores dropped significantly in every subject; drops that were characterized as “unusual” and “much greater” than other schools. Equally troubling was the higher-than-usual number of erased and corrected answers.

Moore-and other school employees- insisted that the scores were legitimate, and that drops could be blamed on harsh test monitors denying students snacks.

The Associated Press reports that the SLED investigation into the situation has ended, with nothing to show for it.

It is everyone’s hope that there was no altering of test grades, and that somehow the numerous and incredibly sketchy indications of illicit conduct are pure happenstance, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Hopefully, the schools overseers in Charleston County and in the SC Department of Education will continue to look into this situation, and prevent more children from being similarly short-changed.

Department of Education gives Consultants $391,469 Stimulus Package

Molly Spearman SCASA

It’s that time again. The time when South Carolina taxpayers can see just how much money the “strapped” SC State Department of Education has paid out to education contractors and consultants during a recession.

This month, almost $400,000 was doled out to a variety of consultants, contractors and political advisers. Unfortunately, those aren’t the only people who got paid big bucks. Teachers may be on furlough, or without work, but SCASA managed to somehow squeeze $29,000 from taxpayers. Were some of these other payments made to folks who had booths set up at the recent SCASA oceanside retreat? Rex’s frequent excuse that contractors are brought in to “save the department money” certainly doesn’t hold water in this instance.

Here is a recap of consultant spending in 2009.

  • January-$296,526
  • February-$358,398
  • March-$366,996
  • April-$397,876
  • May-$333,791
  • June-$391,469
  • Year to Date$2,145,056

Here is a complete list of contractors and consultants who received checks from the Department of Education in June 2009. See it for yourself here.

Continue reading

Frustration with Lexington-Richland 5

Lexington Richland District Five

“Not to worry, it’s not real money, it’s public money!”

A letter to the editor of the State Newspaper.

“District 5 has problem with openness”

“I read with interest school board chairman Robert Gantt’s op-ed (“Community supports District 5 building plan,” June 24) in which he said Lexington-Richland 5 made enrollment information available to voters before the referendum.

“For more than a year, the district told us enrollment was growing fast. At one point, the administration told us growth would be between 300-800 students annually. That’s growth you can look around and see, and because many residents looked around and didn’t see it, we questioned their figures.

“When this past year’s student enrollment count came out, a group of residents wrote the superintendent requesting the information. On Oct. 17, several residents filed a Freedom of Information Act request, which asked the district for the enrollment. Not a hard question, right? Continue reading

Traditional Public Schools Not Ideal for Every Child

Square Peg in a Round Hole_0565

One-size-fits-all government schools: YOUR tax dollars forcing a square peg into a round hole.

With the help of a $191,000 federal grant, an after-school program will be able starting up at an Aiken County elementary school.
Aiken Families in Transition,” the grant recipient, will take in up to 125 students who need after-school help in a wide variety of academic and critical-thinking subjects.

According to a State Department of Education press release, Superintendent Rex expressed encouragement for the program, stating, “ Students who are struggling in class can get a real academic boost in a well-run after-school setting.”

Through a variety of grants and private contributions, some of the needy students in Aiken County are going to get the instruction they need to compete and excel. For these students, who undoubtedly have a wide variety of learning needs and aptitudes, this help is going to come from outside a traditional, public school classroom.
Continue reading

Anderson District 1 Smoke And Mirrors Budget

Superintendent Wayne Fowler Anderson District One

This coming 2009-10 school year, public schools in Anderson County District One are slated to receive funding of $8,194 per child.

Of that sum, $4,053 comes from state government, $656 from the federal government, and $3,485 is locally raised.

Based on those figures (published by the SC Legislature), and with a student population of 9,168, the district’s total budget should be $75 million.

But members of the Board of Trustees recently told the Powdersville Post, Anderson Independent Mail, and Greenville News the figure is only $54.2 million (or $5,911 per student).

The same Board Trustees also raised personal property taxes on secondary homes, rental properties, vehicles and businesses from a millage of 112 to 118.9. Only one trustee, Wendy Tucker, fought against the hike.

So why the $54.2 million figure? Where is the other $21 million?

Continue reading

South Carolina public school funding 2009-2010

South Carolina Public School Funding

Many parents (and even many lawmakers) are confused about the size and scope of public spending on government schools in South Carolina.

Money for public schools comes from three sources (local, state, and federal taxes) and filters down to the classroom through a convoluted array of “programs” and “categories” leaving a mere 43 cents per dollar for classroom instruction.

Regular Voice readers will  recall that in South Carolina there is no discernible correlation between per-student funding levels and student achievement, and that real School Choice is the only proven reform that will both save money and improve student achievement.

All that said, many parents and taxpayers are still surprised to hear that public schools across South Carolina will be funded at an average of $11,242 per child this year. Compare that to just $8,500 last year in North Carolina.

From the South Carolina Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2009-2010:

The base student cost for the current fiscal year for Part IA has been determined to be $2,034 and the base student cost for Part III has been determined to be $300 for a total base student cost of $2,334. In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the total pupil count is projected to be 691,816. The average per pupil funding is projected to be $4,153 state, $1,296 federal, and $5,792 local. This is an average total funding level of $11,242 excluding revenues of local bond issues.

Here is the district-by-district listing of local, state, and federal allocations for each of the 85 public school districts:

In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the Abbeville School District total pupil count is projected to be 2,911. The per pupil funding is projected to be $6,059 state, $1,616 federal, and $3,604 local. This is a total projected funding level of $11,279 excluding revenues of local bond issues.

In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the Aiken School District total pupil count is projected to be 23,640. The per pupil funding is projected to be $4,084 state, $1,225 federal, and $3,673 local. This is a total projected funding level of $8,982 excluding revenues of local bond issues. Continue reading