If Charleston schools want to get within sight of their Vision 2016, somebody's going to have to quit turning a blind eye to the real problem.
As Diette Courrégé Casey reported last week, the school board has set what it calls “lofty” and “ambitious” goals for student progress between now and 2016. Basically, they want a graduation rate of 81 percent (it's now 75.5 percent); they want better math scores; and they want 93 percent of third-graders proficient in reading and 85 percent of eighth-graders to have good English/language arts skills.
They're about 15 points away.
But here's what they don't say: middle-class students, and white kids, are already exceeding those goals. The poor kids, and the black students, are 30 points away.
If they are going to fix this, the district needs to quit being politically correct and tackle what some board members call “the elephant in the room.”
As education activist Jon Butzon says, the district won't confront the brutal facts. That's probably because there's no easy fix, not without making a lot of people — voters — very mad.
Fact is, high-poverty schools have it rough, and many of those are majority minority schools.
As a result of socio-economic factors — not race — many of these kids live in homes where there's little premium on education. Parents don't read to their children, or stay on them to do their homework. The school may give some kids the only hot meal they get.
You throw a less-than-stellar teacher into that mix, and those kids' chances rest between slim and none.
Fixing societal problems isn't within the school board's jurisdiction, but they could do something about the teachers. It's time for the district to put more of its best teachers in the schools where they are needed most — and get rid of those not cutting it.
But they won't do that.
It's the schooling …
It's tough to evaluate teachers fairly.
Certainly it can't be based entirely on the grades coming out of their classes. There are some good teachers stuck in low-performing schools. They do their best, and the schools would be worse without them, but they can't do it all.
But even when a principal tries to get rid of a teacher who just isn't cutting it, the school board usually overrules it.
Yeah, the system is broken.
The district can put its teachers into whatever schools it wants, so they ought to put some of our rock star educators into the schools that need the most help.
But that gets parents mad, and gets them calling.
Look, the school district isn't here to provide jobs for teachers or make people happy — it exists solely to educate kids. And when it isn't educating them all, something's wrong.
Board member Chris Fraser says the district's Vision 2016 isn't far-fetched.
“Yes, we can get there,” Fraser says. “But we've got to have some backbone.”
Unfortunately, that's not an area where the school board rates proficient.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.
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