SC Supreme Court dumps poor school districts’ case; will no longer press lawmakers for improvement

Something historic just happened.

Three years after ordering the Legislature to start doing right by children who live in poor, rural school districts, in connection with a landmark 24-year-old lawsuit brought by those districts, the SC Supreme Court has just said, “Never mind.”

Kittredge

Justice Kittredge

At least, that’s the way it looks at first blush.

The justices who joined Justice John Kittredge in voting to abandon the monumental, decades-long case were elected to the court since the 2014 ruling.

The court in 2014 ordered the Legislature to come up with ways to bring poor, rural districts up to snuff — without specifying how. We’re still awaiting lawmakers’ action on that front. Now, Kittredge writes that continuing to breathe down lawmakers’ necks on this “would be a gross overreach of judicial power and separation of powers.”

But hey, don’t worry, because he also writes, “Does the dismissal of this case reflect a lack of appreciation for the critical importance of public education in South Carolina? Absolutely not.”

So is that it for the poor districts? Well, Speaker Jay Lucas (from Darlington County) has often expressed his interest in doing right by them, while at the same time asking the court to get off his back.

So we’ll see, I guess…

100 thoughts on “SC Supreme Court dumps poor school districts’ case; will no longer press lawmakers for improvement

  1. Karen Pearson

    The only way they’ll get help is if the whole area gentrifies, by which time the children who need it most will be elsewhere.

    Reply
  2. Bryan Caskey

    I don’t know if I would characterize it as “Never mind”. Maybe more like, “Okay. We see that you’ve done a bit of good faith work here, so we’re going to get off your case and trust that you’ll finish this without us standing over you.”

    Reply
  3. Claus2

    Throwing money at the system hasn’t worked. When you have parents who view public school as free daycare, students who sleep through class, students who are there for the sole purpose of sports and/or to hang out with their friends, teachers who have been broken and give up and are there just to ride out until retirement, and administrators who are there for the perks and not the students, what do you do?

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      1. Richard

        Unpossible. You’re not going to have the same courses offered in rural schools as larger schools. How many rural schools can provide foreign language courses, for example? How many can provide courses in robotics, advanced computer programming, advanced placement/college courses? I went to a school where grades were in the range of 12-25 students per grade. We didn’t have foreign language, technology labs, advanced math courses, advanced placement courses… a school newspaper. When I went to college I was in for a wake up call. But you know what we did have in this small school, and other small schools surrounding us… a nearly 100% graduation rate. In my 12 years of attending that school I knew of two people who dropped out. I hear of high double digit drop out rates in schools around Columbia. Which school is better? Did kids in my school district not have opportunities to get a decent education?

        Reply
          1. Richard

            Depends on where you go to school, a friend’s son is in high school and on a team where they compete in a battlebot competition with surrounding schools every year. I believe there are robotics courses at schools in the Midlands.

            Reply
      2. Norm Ivey

        Absolutely, but you’ll never do that until you fund schools equitably. As long as the way districts are funded is based on the wealth or income of the local community, you’ll never see improvement.

        Reply
        1. Norm Ivey

          I’ve been in education for 28 years, and I’ve yet to meet a parent who isn’t concerned about their child’s education. I’ve met plenty who were unable to provide support or resources, and I’ve met plenty that didn’t know how to provide support, and I’ve met plenty who tried to provide support that was misguided. But they ALL care and want the best for their children.

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        2. Barry

          In other words, you do nothing. Good to know.

          You also clearly don’t know what you are talking about.

          As someone that does volunteer at his child’s school, you’d be surprised how many parents are there volunteering during any given week.

          Reply
  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Rep. Russell Ott tweeted this. He’s right about the way this is likely to be taken:

    Reply
    1. Claus2

      Sounds like Abbeville needs to tell their PTA organization to get on the ball. I grew up in rural America, what is this “choice” he speaks of, you went to the school in the town you lived in. You don’t like your school… move.

      Reply
      1. Richard

        I wonder how the Corridor of Shame has changed since the state flooded it with money? Are graduation rates and test scores up or are they still at the bottom of the state?

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          When did the state flood it with money? There was a bond issue a few years ago and some of the substandard buildings were replaced, I vaguely recall. But when was this flood of operating funds?…

          Reply
            1. Norm Ivey

              A one-time boost to infrastructure funding isn’t going to do it. It’s going to take a long-term sustained effort to start making change happen, and infrastructure is only one small piece of the recipe.

              You’d have to be more specific about test scores. Which test scores? Which districts? What grade levels? Has the infrastructure that’s been funded actually been put in place? You can find most of those answers here.

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        1. Claus2

          So what’s your solution Barry? You seem to be good at criticizing other people comments, let’s hear some of your ideas.

          Do these same people who don’t have the means own a vehicle? How much does it cost to move from one trailer park to one 10 miles down the road?

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          1. Norm Ivey

            What good does it do a student to move him out of Calhoun and into Clarendon county? The move would have to be from a poor district to a wealthier district, and the parents may be unemployable in the wealthier district. “Move” is a simplistic solution. The problem is complex.

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          2. Barry

            I reparat

            That is non-sense. A lot of folks in those areas don’t have the means to move. Ignorant solutions aren’t helpful.

            Reply
      2. Norm Ivey

        That sounds like we as a society don’t have to provide an opportunity for a solid education. Even if some can afford to move to a better district (which is unlikely), the poorly performing school is still going to be there, and there are still going to be kids trying to learn there. The kids deserve better.

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      1. Bill

        Republicans want right to life,but no right to live.That’s why this was decided as unconstitutional last time;Huge hypocrisy.They care about children until they’re born…

        Reply
  5. Mr. Smith

    The legislature got the court it wanted.
    Now it’s up to the legislature to deliver – and the voters to make them. So say the plaintiffs in the case.
    The legislature would rather cut taxes.
    Many SC voters like the idea of cutting taxes.
    You figure out the rest.

    Reply
  6. Doug Ross

    As someone with a very close connection to programs which have attempted to improve education in some of the worst performing districts in the state over the past four years, I am very sure that nothing can be done to help them. Millions of federal dollars were spent with no impact. I’ve become even more sure of my belief that the only solution is to offer vouchers to those students who have parents that are willing to make an effort to provide better education options to their children. Any other efforts are futile and a waste of resources — unless any district that hopes to improve itself starts by purging their entire school board and district level administration and turn control over to a state run agency. The problem in these districts is not funding, it is incompetence and corruption, Any suggestion to “spend more” is useless.

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    1. Claus2

      Exactly, but some here don’t agree with that plan. Give them an iPad and we’ll have students curing cancer by the end of the school year. Until the parents get serious about their kids education the district is just spinning it’s wheels wasting taxpayer money. If these poor schools put half as much effort into the classroom as they do on the football field and basketball court maybe we’d see some academic progress.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The idea of kids being issued laptops or iPads just really, REALLY sends some people who went to school before those things right ’round the bend.

        No, a child who gets the use of such a device is NOT guaranteed to become a Nobel winner, and I’d appreciate it if you’d point out who it is who does think that. I mean, with whom are you arguing when you say sarcastic things such as that?

        But a child who doesn’t become adept at using such tools — you know, one who doesn’t get an iPad for his birthday and a laptop for Christmas from his parents — will be at a serious disadvantage. That’s a fairly safe prediction. And the public schools exist to equalize opportunity. I know there are parents out there who ARE able to provide such advantages to their kids who deeply resent the idea of tax money being used to provide other children with similar opportunities. But I find that attitude rather, well, deplorable.

        And this isn’t because I’m such a nice and generous guy. I just want to live in a society full of people who are educated and have marketable skills, skills that are beneficial to the rest of us, whether they’re doctors or nurses or cops or air-conditioner repairmen. That’s a more pleasant place to live than one with a permanent underclass. I and everyone else will be better off, materially and otherwise, in such a community…

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          How about if a district gets several thousand free tablets and laptops but don’t deploy them for more the two years? This happened. In South Carolina. Recently.

          Tablets and laptops are a smokescreen. Everyone commenting on this blog became productive members of society by learning from books. The delivery mechanism doesn’t matter — the ability to process and apply the learning is all that matters. There is very, very, very little that a device adds to the learning experience.

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “How about if a district gets several thousand free tablets and laptops but don’t deploy them for more the two years?”

            Yep, that’s bad.

            “Everyone commenting on this blog became productive members of society by learning from books.”

            Yep, we’ve got some old codgers here. But that’s kind of like me saying, “I built myself a fine career by learning everything there was to know about editing newspapers and being better at it than other people.” How’s that working out, do you think?

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          2. Norm Ivey

            There is very, very, very little that a device adds to the learning experience.

            I disagree. I learned from books while I was in school, but when my formal education ended, my learning continue primarily from interacting with other experts in my field. I’m still learning–one of the reasons I enjoy this blog so much is that I am constantly learning from reading viewpoints of people I’ve come to trust. Here and elsewhere I have the opportunity to interact with people I never would have had met without technology. I am able to create content of my own to share and get feedback on. But without access to a device I wouldn’t have those experiences, and I’d still think the way I did when I was 20, and that thought scares me. My learning now is dominated by digital technology.

            We’re still trying to figure out how to harness that power in the classroom, but it’s coming, and when it does it’s going to be exciting to be a part of it.

            Reply
          3. Norm Ivey

            How about if a district gets several thousand free tablets and laptops but don’t deploy them for more the two years? This happened. In South Carolina. Recently.

            I’m familiar with what Doug is talking about here. It’s a travesty. Both in terms of the wasted money, but also because of the wasted opportunity.

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          4. JesseS

            I’d take a Kindle, iPad, Android Tablet, or whatever and a couple notebooks over the 40lbs of text books I had to carry around in my backpack any day. Man, imagine having all of that in the space of a Trapper Keeper? How about getting class notifications that you can check off instead of a thousand pieces of paper? Even having your syllabus on a class site would have been nice.

            Man, all of that would have saved me a lot of trouble in high school and college.

            Honestly, I’m only disappointed in how far we haven’t gotten.

            Where are all the open text books that were supposed to lower/get rid of licensing costs and break the text book racket (and let’s not lie, it’s a total racket)? Where is the utilization of Open Courseware that allows kids in disadvantaged areas to get AP credit for fields they normally wouldn’t have access to? Where are the web based labs that automatically discover which learning styles work best for a particular student and lessons adapt to them? If Amazon can figure out what I’ll want to purchase next week, this seems like a trivial task. We should already be in a future where kids are learning more for a lot less.

            Reply
          5. Scout

            Sorry I’m late to the party. I had a house full of family for Thanksgiving and have not been on the internet. but to this comment,

            “Tablets and laptops are a smokescreen. Everyone commenting on this blog became productive members of society by learning from books. The delivery mechanism doesn’t matter — the ability to process and apply the learning is all that matters.”

            Would it have been appropriate to not have had access to books when we were in school? Books and writing on paper were the predominant media of the day when we were in school, so schools appropriately educated us to use those materials. We live in a digital world now. To not educate students to be fluent with digital media would be irresponsible. The point is to prepare students for the world we currently live in.

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        2. Doug Ross

          I’d love to hear what advanced learning you think is available on a laptop in schools that is allowing those in Richland 2 to do so much better than those students in Allendale. Is there some magic Candy Crush game or Twitter feed that is the key to success?

          The test scores in the best districts with all the technology advantages don’t show any measurable improvement in reading and math skills in 20 years. Why is that? SAT scores are the same or worse.

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I’m not even sure I understand the question. But maybe you’re not understanding what I’m saying — that digital skills and familiarity with how to use the web are far more essential today than such life skills as knowing how to, say, write a business letter or make change were a generation ago.

            A school today today that isn’t equipped for students and teachers to interact digitally — both within and without the classroom — isn’t able to prepare kids for life in this century.

            I don’t know how to say it any plainer than that.

            As I said, I know how this subject awakens in some citizens the same kind of horror and/or derision as the “Obama phones” (which should really be called “Reagan phones“) do — the same old story of resenting the very idea of poor people being empowered to interact with the modern world — but I can’t help that. I can only disagree…

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        3. Claus2

          You mean l like the kids who are surfing porn and playing games on their iPad instead of doing their lesson plans or reading their electronic book? Ask any IT person at any school if they have problems with kids viewing things that aren’t appropriate or what it’s intended to be used for.

          The schools have computers, laptops, iPads, tablets, etc… the kids use them during the school day, they don’t necessarily need to have one to take home to know how to use it. My parents wouldn’t buy me an Atari video game because they viewed video games as a waste of time and money… how much did that scar me when all my friends had them?

          Have you seen the work ethic of the students we’re raising? I read just this morning that 37% of millenials between the age of 26 and 34 still live at home. Why work when you can get what you need from mom and dad.

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          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “Ask any IT person at any school if they have problems with kids viewing things that aren’t appropriate or what it’s intended to be used for.”

            I’ll bet they do — just like back in the day, kids passed notes, shot spitballs (this one I know from personal experience — I was a big believer in gutted Bic pens as launch vehicles) and read comic books behind their textbooks. Kids are kids, and it’s teachers’ job to keep them in line…

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            1. Doug Ross

              Comic books and pens were a buck. A tablet is 300 bucks. There is no such thing as digital skills being taught in school that can’t be learned by anyone with a smartphone. An illiterate with a tablet is still an illiterate

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              1. Bill

                Of course , that’s what he said but didn’t. I’d just read my checkbook and not worry about turning it into anything…
                No reason to become evil and greedy…
                ‘Evil’ shouldn’t be used lightly but that’s what he is

                Reply
          2. Norm Ivey

            I’m the Technology Coach at a middle school in Richland 2. Porn is not a problem. Occasionally something slips through the filter, but it’s hardly a topic of discussion. I don’t think I’ve been asked about an inappropriate image at all this year. Games are a little more of an issue, but our district filter blocks most games except those deemed educational.

            Are kids sometimes off-task with the devices? Yes, they are. If what they can find online is more interesting that the teacher’s activities, they’re probably going to with the more compelling content. Just like adults.

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            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “Porn is not a problem.” That’s what I keep saying, but no one believes me!

              Sorry. Couldn’t resist that.

              Norm is on fire today!

              I particularly appreciate his comments back here. All the talk about technology and such is way down the priorities list, it seems to me, compared to hiring and RETAINING good teachers in these poor communities. Those communities have so little to offer the best teachers, so it’s really tough.

              As to Doug’s point here:

              I’ve become even more sure of my belief that the only solution is to offer vouchers to those students who have parents that are willing to make an effort to provide better education options to their children. Any other efforts are futile and a waste of resources…

              Yeah, that’s a great plan if what you want to do is help the kids who least need help — those with active, motivated parents.

              If you aim is to educate the population of South Carolina — and that’s my goal — it makes ZERO sense. Yeah, that’s what the kids in bad schools need — to have the least disadvantaged among them removed from their presence.

              But I agree with Doug here:

              unless any district that hopes to improve itself starts by purging their entire school board and district level administration and turn control over to a state run agency….

              Those poorest communities are so lacking in human capital — for board members, PTA members, teachers and administrators — that the state really needs to step in aggressively. Local control sounds good, except when you don’t have anyone locally who has a clue how to run a good school system.

              But then, Doug returns to saying nonsensical things:

              The problem in these districts is not funding, it is incompetence [that’s the one word in the sentence I agree with] and corruption, Any suggestion to “spend more” is useless.

              Yes, we know you would prefer to live in a world where the solution doesn’t involve any of your tax dollars. But it defies all reason to think there can be improvement without some money being involved somewhere.

              You can’t even send officials to each of the plaintiff districts and ask them to list their problems without spending money. And that’s just getting ready to do something.

              Anything you do, aside from changing a policy here or there, will cost money. You need to take if from some other priority, or you have to get it from new taxes. And after all those years of Sanford and Haley and lawmakers afraid to buck them (because of what they’d face in a GOP primary), and this past year of Henry “I’ll Veto the Gas Tax” McMaster, there aren’t a bunch of agencies with surplus money sitting around…

              No, Doug and Claus — “throwing money” doesn’t solve the problem. But the problem will not be solved without money being involved…

              Reply
              1. Claus2

                “No, Doug and Claus — “throwing money” doesn’t solve the problem. But the problem will not be solved without money being involved…”

                This reminds me of a school that was built on an Indian reservation near my hometown. The original school was equal to what we saw in The Corridor of Shame. The government stepped in, built a new school and took into consideration the atmosphere and culture of the people on the reservation. What they built was a 3 story, poured concrete structure with slit windows, asphalted most of the grounds around the building and put up 10 foot chain link fences with 3-4 strands of barbed wire around the top of the fence. Do you know what the locals said it looked like? But one thing it did was decrease the vandalism and burglary on the school grounds.

                I give you that example because what I’m thinking Brad is saying is we need to go into these poor districts, build a RIvers Bluff style school because once that’s done students will no longer drop out of school, test scores will go through the roof, parents will be engaged in their children’s educatdion, things like teen pregnancy will go down because students will have better things to do with their time and all will be hunky-dunky. In my example above, just the opposite happened… nothing changed… drop out rates remained high, test scores stayed at the bottom of the state, teen pregnancy rates stayed the same, parents still didn’t bother to be involved in the school once the open house was over, etc…

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                1. Barry

                  Everything costs money.

                  It’s funny and ironic to me that some of the biggest “more money won’t help” folks I personally know are 100% for their favorite college team spending millions on locker rooms, equipment, uniforms, busses, etc because “you have to spend the money to attract the best”

                2. Richard

                  College teams aren’t spending tax dollars to buy equipment, build locker rooms, buses, etc… those funds come from revenue generated from ticket sales, media contracts, shoe and equipment contracts… in fact most of the shoes, uniforms and equipment used by college sports are donated by the manufacturing company.

        4. Norm Ivey

          But a child who doesn’t become adept at using such tools…will be at a serious disadvantage.

          There’s research that supports exactly what Brad is saying. Districts which have gone to a 1:1 model have found that providing students with devices helps to level the playing field as far as technology skills are concerned (meaning things like the ability to use devices productively).

          The research is a lot more sketchy when it comes to what having the device does actually means in terms of learning and skill development. The big difference seems to be HOW the devices are used by the students in the classroom. If it becomes a substitute pencil and paper, then there is little impact. However, when students use devices to collaborate, create and reach beyond the walls of their schools to connect with experts, the gains are more significant.

          Reply
    2. Norm Ivey

      You’re not going to attract higher quality administration and teachers unless you make the job a desirable one. Increase the pay of the teachers, and you’ll begin to build a district that can move some kids out of the poverty cycle. Make sure your infrastructure is the type of place staff want to go to work and students want to go to learn. Money won’t fix everything, but we as a state haven’t really tried solving the problem with money and qualified staff.

      Reply
      1. Barry

        My wife is a teacher.

        So many of the hers at her school leave after a few years for two reasons:

        1). Discipline issues- School administration is nervous of how the district will respond to certain disciplinary measures. Kids in middle school and high school know this and use it to their advantage.

        2). Starting pay is pathetic for a teacher, especially considering the time involved that they put in during the day. . A teacher with a few years experience is making such a low amount, going to work in a large number of industries provides for better pay opportunities.

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      2. Doug Ross

        Norm,

        How much of a pay raise would be required for you to consider doing your same job in Fairfield County? 25%? 50%?

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        1. Norm Ivey

          At this point in my career, I’d jump at the chance for 25% more in pretty much any county. I’ve topped out in my current district, and I’m close enough to retirement that upping my pay for a few years makes a big difference in my pension. Kinda mercenary of me, I guess. 10% would be enough to make me think about it.

          It would be necessary to increase the pay scale top-to-bottom to get quality teachers into some of those districts, and, as you say, you’d need a strong school board to support the teachers.

          There are teachers out there who would take those jobs if the jobs were attractive.

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        2. Barry

          Not answering for him but it doesn’t matter.

          norm is an experienced teacher in a good job at a strong district. Whether he would leave for a pay raise is not the right question.

          Would a science teacher with a masters in science ( like my wife) right out of college take a higher starting salary in RIchland 2 at $41,065 or take a lower salary in Lee County of $35,400? That is the difference. Also consider that young teacher is also likely choosing to live in Columbia and spending their paltry salary there, not in Lee County.

          Or let’s say Dillon County (with their facilities) at $34,480 for a starting science teacher with a Masters or in Horry County nearby where the same teacher would make $41,454 to start with many more resources at her/his disposal?

          The choice becomes clear and is one, of many, reasons some districts have huge problems attracting qualified teachers.

          In the private sector, a situation like this would demand higher starting salaries and other incentives to attract the right candidates. In fact, qualified candidates would demand higher pay and incentives including signing bonuses and no one would blink an eye . In fact, the general public would expect the companies to pay more for the right applicants. But in education, some very loud and angry people scream “money isn’t the answer” and pass the buck hoping those same starting teachers will do the work out of the kindness of their heart. .

          Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            So you raise the starting salaries and leave the other teacher’s salaries the same? That should be great for morale. Or do you raise all the salaries, including those of teachers who currently are not delivering any results?

            How about we go to some type of merit based system like the private sector where you can be let go if you don’t produce results regardless if how long you have been in a job? Would you accept that “real world” option in exchange fit higher salaries? How about pay for performance instead of pay for years of tenure and degrees? That’s how the private sector works. The best teachers could be paid the most regardless of experience. Won’t happen though because teachers want more pay without more competition for their jobs

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            1. Barry

              The answer is: Maybe we do raise the salaries of other teachers too.

              But first and foremost, we must try to stem the unbelievably high attrition rate of younger teachers that are leaving in droves right now. That does require immediate assistance in the form of higher salaries for less experienced teachers AS PART OF AN overall approach to slowing down the tremendous attrition rate.

              And yes, maybe we do incorporate some element of merit based pay into the equation.

              The reality is you will never see a A system that allows for letting “bad” teachers go when you currently have a situation where principals are beyond desperate to hold onto every single teacher they have got because the turnover rate is crazy high.

              Reply
              1. Doug Ross

                Your solution is similar to the “solution” of raising the minimum wage. If you raise it to $12 for people at the bottom, those who are already making $12 for doing work that requires more training and responsibility will say “What about me?”?

                You don’t think there will be a backlash from current teachers who have a few years of experience when new teachers come in at higher salaries? Some will leave to go to districts that pay more. Then you’re left with an even bigger problem. There are always unintended consequences to any attempt to fix things economically.

                Teachers leaving in “droves” are likely not motivated solely by pay — classroom discipline, freedom to teach without following strict guidelines, excessive regulation — I would expect there are plenty of teachers who would take a lower starting pay if you could guarantee a classroom without all those headaches. Remember when we were kids and had classes with 30 students who would actually sit at desks and either listen or at least not cause disruptions? Remember when you could bring whatever food you wanted to bring to school for lunch without nutrition nazis inspecting your lunch bag? remember when you messed up in school and you didn’t have your parents go in and yell at the teacher? remember when you read books and wrote papers by hand? Remember when we had standardized tests about every third year and nobody knew they were coming or cared too much what the results showed since we already had report cards from trained teachers? How did we all survive those days?

                No, just throw money at the problems in society. That will fix it.

                Reply
                1. Barry

                  Nah, I dismiss your “backlash” theory because I think it’s not true.

                  Plus, as I stated above and you obviously ignored, maybe we do raise the salaries of other teachers too.

                  And I’ve already said discipline is an issue.

                  You simply want to argue for arguments sake. How boring and unproductive…..

                2. Claus2

                  “maybe we do raise the salaries of other teachers too. ”

                  paid for by increased property taxes on those living in the district… oh wait, they’re poor and can’t afford to pay the increase. So what happens next, cut staffing because of the new high priced teachers. First grade classes with 40 students in each class shouldn’t be a problem for one teacher…

              2. Claus2

                This all falls back on fast food workers demanding $15/hr. So if no-skill, minimum wage is $15/hr. Does that mean that everyone else gets an $8/hr. raise? How do we pay for these increased salaries… raise prices. Since everyone is getting a raise, everything goes up and we’re right back where we started. $10 Big Macs, $8/gallon gas, $89,000 Toyota Camrys, $4 loaf of bread, etc… it’s called inflation.

                Reply
        3. Norm Ivey

          I posted a response Thanksgiving night, but it’s been held for moderation for some reason…

          Barry’s response is similar to mine, though mine is from my personal perspective as a close-to-retirement employee. I make the same point about the starting salaries, but not as eloquently as he.

          Reply
  7. Bob Amundson

    Return on Investment only works when enough capital is available at the beginning, both socially and economically. Thanks for your comments Norm.

    Unfortunately, our schools are becoming more segregated. The research is quite clear that social mobility is declining, especially in areas were education is underfunded. Economic growth is very important, but it should be equitable/inclusive.

    Reply
  8. Harry Harris

    Let me take a stab. I have a lot of experience and exposure in almost all of the struggling districts in SC.
    – Focusing on test scores as the key measure is actually counterproductive. (Supported by lots of research)
    – Motivating students with incentives for learning (mastery) shows much promise.
    – Most incentives and negative sanctions are aimed at teachers. It mainly lowers morale.
    – Technology only makes a notable difference when used as a tool integrated into a sound curriculum.
    – A curriculum is more than a set of standards and a pacing guide – it’s a sound pervasive set of actions.
    – Even the best leadership, curriculum, and re-training need time and support to bring real change.
    – Educator morale is a huge, overlooked factor in either helping or stunting progress.
    – A small set of disruptive students can poison the atmosphere in a school.
    – Good, alternative programs are a much needed option both within a school and on separate campuses.
    – Intake teachers should be mentored and effectively supported . Present programs are inadequate.
    – A huge amount of staff development has taught best practices with little follow-up or monitoring to bring them into pervasive every-day practice.
    – The change needed often lacks one key ingredient – commitment by all stakeholders.
    – There are no easy answers.

    Reply
    1. Scout

      This is my 21st year working in a high poverty school. I agree with much that Harry, Barry, Norm, and Brad have said.

      Mostly I would re-iterate that there are no easy answers but demonizing either parents or teachers is not helpful. Parents do care about their kids – they are often caught in repeating patterns of unfortunate circumstances themselves and are doing the best the can with what they know based on what they have experienced, but it does not mean they do not care no matter how it may appear or be represented by someone outside their culture and circumstances.

      Teachers also care and are typically hard working but often are bombarded with barrages of changing philosophies and approaches. Schools/districts buy new programs looking for quick fixes and don’t give any of them time to come to fruition. Sometimes teachers are told to use two programs at the same time that have competing or contradictory philosophies. Different factions within district administration may push for competing programs. Often teachers themselves know better from their own training but aren’t allowed to devise their own programs. Sometimes principals are less knowledgeable than and not supportive of teachers who try to advocate for approaches that work with their students – but instead just push back with a particular buzz word or policy of the moment.

      There are a lot of messes. I don’t know the answer. Mostly there are alot of different factions in districts and schools and nobody is on the same page or listening much to actual teachers. Some people argue for consolidating districts to whole counties. Being in a large district that does have one administration for the whole county, I personally think bigger district administration just compounds these problems I’ve described.

      So I don’t know the answer, but I believe there is one. And it doesn’t involve people on the outside demonizing parents or teachers. But like Brad said, it probably does involve some money.

      Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          How much money do you want and for how long? And if it doesn’t produce meaningful results can we THEN try vouchers for the worst schools?

          The excuse of “repeating patterns” is because poor women continue to have kids they can’t care for properly when they have little to no opportunity to change their own circumstances. That’s the source of the repeating patterns. Until we address that issue, the rest is a futile liberal fantasy. We don’t need incentives for teachers..we need incentives for young women to delay having children until they are capable of taking care of themselves. You all want to treat the symptoms, not the root cause. Because that would be mean to ask people to be responsible I suppose.

          Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            And the word “demonizing” is so wrong. It’s not demonizing to expect all parents to be THE primary person who is responsible for their children’s education. That’s how it is supposed to work. I lived through three kids going K-12 in public schools, served as a volunteer and PTO president. My wife has worked in schools fit nearly 20 years..in good schools… And there are plenty of parents in those good schools who do lite to nothing for their kids. They don’t volunteer, don’t show up for conferences, blame the teachers for their kids discipline issues, expect special treatment like the school is private school…they SHOULD be “demonized”.

            Reply
            1. Barry

              demonization doesn’t solve any problems. It creates new ones most of the time.

              Many of these parents care, but they don’t know how to constructively respond to problems they encounter. Is it their fault? I guess. But it’s really not a matter of fault in my opinion.

              Teachers aren’t there to solve societal problems in that manner.

              Reply
              1. Doug Ross

                If you have a kid when you are poor, it is your fault… If you have two kids when you are poor, you are negligent. If you have three or more kids when you are poor, you are ignorant and deserve to be ridiculed.

                It’s not demonizing to call out poor choices and irresponsible behavior. We demonize drunk drivers – bringing a child into a world of poverty is worse.

                Reply
                1. Barry

                  Sure it’s demonizing. You are quite adept at that.

                  That is your philosophy. We all understand that.

                  I disagree with your philosophy. I think it’s nonsense.

                2. Doug Ross

                  I’ll just have to live with the stigma of an anonymous person calling my personal beliefs nonsense. It’s a struggle but I’ll try to cope. But then I think posting on blogs anonymously is nonsense.

                3. Barry

                  Doug

                  I don’t care if you ignore it or wallow in it.

                  I called it nonsense because that is what I think it is.

          2. Scout

            Actually the repeating pattern I personally was thinking of has more to do with differences in the way parents talk to young children and the resulting language exposure, language development, and vocabulary gaps between middle class and kids in poverty when they enter school. This gap is real and documented and has a significant effect on academic readiness. I think more can be done with parent training to enhance language development in young children in poverty. This goes right along with your other favorite topic – more early childhood education which also helps address this issue.

            Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Aw, you’re just sore ’cause you didn’t make it into the band.

            But I like your thinking on giving me top billing. Maybe I should let you audition again. Do you have your ax with you? What are your influences?

            Reply
  9. Harry Harris

    “If you have a kid when you are poor, it is your fault… If you have two kids when you are poor, you are negligent. If you have three or more kids when you are poor, you are ignorant and deserve to be ridiculed.”

    Wow! Worst classist statement since “Let them eat cake.” Must be an Ayn Rand fan.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      Classist. I like it. Someone who has class. Thanks!

      What is the term you use for someone who encourages poor women to have children? Democrat?

      I’m reading “Hillbilly Elegy” now. It’s a NY Times bestselling memoir of a guy who was raised in the Rust Belt and the Appalachia sections of Kentucky but managed to escape via the Marines, Ohio State, and Yale Law School. Just got started but I appreciate his perspective on the self inflicted challenges of poor white Americans in those areas of the country. This review captures what I have sensed so far:

      “He writes very directly and honestly about the problems with white, working class America and why it is in decline. While part of the problem is societal, he believes there is an internal problem that government cannot do anything about. He suggests that tribalism, mistrust of outsiders and “elites,” violence and irresponsibility among family members, parents without ethics and a sense of responsibility, terrible work ethics, and an us-against-them mentality is dooming the people who live that way to becoming poorer, more addicted, and more marginalized. ”

      He writes early on of a relative with 8 kids living in squalor but who refuses to get a job. Or a cousin who took a job when his girlfriend got pregnant — a job paying $13 an hour that he ended up losing due to missing work 2-3 days a week and taking multiple 30 minute restroom breaks a day. And then the guy had the nerve to blame his manager for firing him.

      These are the people that even a non-Ayn Rand fan SHOULD find repulsive. But, no, we have to throw more money at them so they don’t feel “demonized”.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Give us a full book report when you’re done with Hillbilly Elegy. I’ve heard interesting things about it.

        Meanwhile, I’m making my way through Rubicon by Tom Holland. I’m going at a pretty good clip, by my own lax standards.

        It intrigued me from the preface. I had never thought particularly about Caesar crossing the Rubicon as either bad or good. It’s just something that happened, and what happened after it is just the way it went. But Holland, in that preface, made it sound like a catastrophe — which it was for the Republic, of course. And we wouldn’t see another attempt at a Republic in the West for 1,000 years.

        But as I make my way through it, I have to wonder whether that was such an awful thing. The Republic was a MESS, with people flouting the law (as did Caesar) to suit their personal interests here, there and everywhere. I’ve always known things were crazy under the emperors, but they weren’t noticeably better under the Republic. Or at least, during the late Republic.

        We’ve got a horrible situation today with our first president who has NO grasp of the founding principles of our republic. But there were people like Trump all over the place in that last century before Caesar made his fateful crossing — Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Clodius, Cicero … They were all about the main chance and how they could squeeze wealth and power out of it. Cicero, of course, was better than the others at explaining why his interest and that of the Republic coincided.

        Excuse me, Doug, but those guys back then really WERE the way you think most politicians are today (and the way you thought they were at our founding, if I remember your thoughts about Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton correctly) — which is why you don’t see why Trump is such a menacing departure from the norm.

        The danger we face now is that we have someone with the cupidity of a Crassus and the talent for rabble-rousing of Clodius at the head of our Republic. Can we pull back from the brink?

        On the whole, yes — because there are so few like him. But what about if he becomes the norm, and a Trumpian decides to turn to violence in the streets the way Clodius did? While Caesar was in Gaul, they were having bloody brawls in the Senate chamber itself. What if we got to where the violence in Charlottesville became routine rather than an anomaly — as we saw happen in Germany in the ’20s?

        We think it can’t happen here. But the Romans had a republic for almost 500 years — well over twice as long as ours has lasted — until, suddenly, they didn’t…

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          By the end, I’m not entirely sure I’d have raised a hand — much less one with a dagger in it — to prevent the Republic from collapsing. And yet… Brutus said Caesar was ambitious, and we all know, Brutus was an honorable man…

          Reply

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