A Report on the Progress of iRock

When the Administration presented their plan for iRock on December 14, 2012, members of the Rock Hill 3 School Board had a number of questions.  In November 2012 the Board had explicitly set as our highest priority a focus on improving student performance in academics and on related indicators such as high school graduation.  Several members felt the original iRock plan gave insufficient attention to these academic priorities, giving scant focus to measuring the impact of the iPad program on academic achievement. There also seemed little attention to the professional development and support for teachers that such an implied change in instructional methods would need for success. Continue reading

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Summary of Evaluation Critique Team Results

At the request of members of the Rock Hill 3 School Board, the administration established a special committee to discuss criteria for determining the impact of the iRock program on student achievement. About 25 people, including parents of students and several teachers, participated in the discussion held on February 7. 2013. The agenda and discussion was led by Professor Marshall Jones of the Winthrop School of Education. Dr. Jones has extensive experience in evaluating the impact of technology on education. Continue reading

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Teachers = Engagement = Achievement? IPads?

When Randy Bridges came to RH3 as Superintendent in 2002 he brought with him his strong belief in the power of engagement as espoused by Philip Schlechty.  According to Schlechty we need to change public schools from “places focused on compliance to those focused on engagement. “  From my, thankfully infrequent, experiences of sitting in classes that consisted of boring lectures and filling in worksheets I knew that he had a point but felt his suggestions provided a framework but no bricks.   That is, his recommendation to “work on the work” was not enough for me to identify specific actions.  When several years before I retired I discovered another approach called Professional Learning Communities I knew I had discovered my bricks.  Continue reading

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Ideas on IPads

Summary of some of the ideas and beliefs made by the Administration at the December 10, 2012 Board Meeting.

Students learn best under the guidance of  highly trained teachers who must be supported with tools and resources.  Today those tools include technology such as personal, electronic devices.  Putting those tools in the hands of students can act as an equalizer providing access to information and empowering them as learners.  Such tools can also increase student engagement in learning and and interest in school. We must inspire and motivate students to be continuous learners.  As a result we will ensure our students are problem solvers, critical thinkers, collaborators, and communicators.  We want every student in Rock Hill Schools to have a mobile learning device for use at school and home.  

Below are my own beliefs and ideas. (As always this is not necessarily the Board position): Continue reading

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Common Core For the Uninitiated

Among the best books I read in the last year was Why Nations Fail. (1)  One of its concepts is that throughout history there have been inventions so important that they changed everything thereafter.  Thus, they are disruptive innovations.  The printing press was one such as was the internal combustion engine.  For our age computers and the internet are disruptive innovations.

One tremendous change coming to public schools that would have, arguably, not been possible BEFORE the speed and world-wide connectivity of the internet is Common Core.  Common Core is a uniform curriculum in math and English language from kindergarten through grade 12.  Forty six of fifty states have signed on to use it.  They have agreed that a first grader in the state of Washington will learn the same items in math and language arts as a first grader in Mississippi.  An eighth grader in New Jersey will have the same expectations in reading and math as an eighth grader in South Carolina.   Continue reading

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How Children Learn – Or NOT

Each year I was a principal I spent considerable time during the first month of school sitting with young students either in my office or in their classrooms.  These were typically kindergarten boys – who were having great difficulty learning to sit quietly in “rug time”, learning to share instead of throwing a block at anyone who touched one of “theirs”, learning how to listen to a story from start to finish, waiting quietly in line to go to recess rather than kicking the heels of the kid temptingly just ahead,  etc.

In a school visit recently I observed the principal there engaged in those same parts of her job.  In this case she was convincing a kindergarten child to get up off the hallway floor and return from lunch to his class.  Her comment to me was, “Lack of structure at home.” And I do not disagree with her.  However, I have recently read a new book which gave me additional and more complex answers and hope for these students and their future as nothing has before.

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Do Right Manners Trump the Rights of Children?

I had a very interesting experience at the “Grassroots” meeting held by the York Chamber of Commerce several weeks ago.  It was described as a means of allowing constituents to “share” concerns with Legislators prior to the Legislative session.  I had tried once before to make a statement in favor of public schools and against tax credits at a York Chamber meeting in Columbia last winter but somehow was left off the agenda.  Last week’s organizers assured me that I could speak – and I did. Continue reading

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Selecting Sodexo and What They Promise

On Monday night, May 29, the Rock Hill School Board voted to hire Sodexo to manage food services for Rock Hill Schools.  The contract is renewable for five years but will be reconsidered at the end of each year.  I did not vote for it.  This is not about my “no” vote but my thoughts about how we can be sure we will benefit most from this agreement now that it is made.  As always these are only my thoughts and views, and not those of the Board as a whole.

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Do Tax Credits Have Credibility?

Tax credits/vouchers offering public money for attending private schools have been introduced in numerous legislatures and enacted in eight states as of May 2011.  Possibly the oldest is in Arizona, enacted in 1997. (1) Most of them have the same structure as S.C. H.4894 with tax credits given to parents who sent their child to private/religious school.  Frequently added are tax write-offs up to (in some states) 100% of that owed for businesses/corporations who donate to scholarships for children from poverty backgrounds.  (Remember ALEC and the look-alike bills?)

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An Embarrassment of Rich(es)

On March 28 the SC House voted 65 to 49 for H.4894 to use public money to fund private and home schools.  Rock Hill School Board Member Walter Brown spent most of that day listening to the debate on H. 4894 from the floor of the House.  He described it as follows:

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