Change in Test Causes Spike in School AYP Scores

January 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Press Release

Contact: Neil Mellen
South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG)
803.212.1051

Officials have released details of this year’s public school rankings and parents are in for a surprise.

While Adequate Yearly Progress (or “AYP”) scores for elementary and middle schools across South Carolina have risen slightly, higher levels of student achievement are not the cause.

“Most of the improvement we see is the result of changes to the testing and scoring system,” explained Randy Page, president of an educational watchdog organization in Columbia. “When the schools switched from the PACT test to the new PASS test standards were lowered, giving the false impression that achievement gains were made.”

“Teachers, parents, students, and just about everyone was happy to see the PACT test replaced, but the school administrators and school boards lobbied hard to include a provision that weakens the way the new test would be graded and reported,” observed Page.

Last year, national testing experts at the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) criticized the new PASS test standards “as among the bottom quartile in a recent cross-state comparison of proficient standards within 27 states.”

The NWEA report further noted that just switching from PACT to PASS, would bring about a “dramatic” increase in the number of students meeting the standards “even with no actual improvement on student performance.”

Officials at Data Recognition Corp (DRC), a Minnesota based firm with political connections to Superintendent Jim Rex, seemed to agree. DRC created and helps to administer the PASS test, and was the primary contractor on the PACT test that PASS replaced. Last year a DRC official admitted to the press that under the recommended PASS scoring benchmarks, more students would fall into higher categories, which would lead to higher scores. In other words, scores would automatically rise even if student and school performance were stagnant.

Page and others have made the case that increasing parental choice would strengthen the state’s accountability laws and free up more resources for public schools.

“An educational tax credit program would provide parents with real options and save local school districts over $5,000 in locally raised revenues for each child whose parents exercise a choice about where their child attends school” noted Page, who pointed to similar programs already in effect in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida. “Educational tax credits would spur investment in education and give parents more of a reason to be engaged with their students education – that is something that standardized tests and AYP reports alone will never accomplish.”

Details of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for local schools and districts can be found online at: www.ed.sc.gov/topics/assessment/scores/ayp/

21,873 SC High Schools Failed to Graduate in 2009

June 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Press Release

South Carolina Loses 122 Students Every Day

Contact: Neil Mellen
Communications Director
South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG)
803.212.1051

122 public high school students are lost each day in South Carolina.

That’s according to a new report on high school dropouts by Education Week magazine, entitled “Diplomas Count 2009.”

The nonpartisan report looked at how successfully public high schools in South Carolina and across the nation prepare students for college. The data was based on state reporting to the federal government for students in the freshmen class of 2005-06.

The study indicated than over one-in-three public school students in South Carolina failed to graduate on time. While 64,820 students were enrolled as freshmen in 2005-06, only 42,947 went on to graduate this spring.

“21,873 students in the class of ’09 failed to graduate this year, explained Randy Page, President of South Carolinians for Responsible Government. “That’s tragic and calling it ‘acceptable’ or an ‘improvement’ is an insult to parents.”

In late May, South Carolina State Superintendent Jim Rex held a townhall meeting at Greenville’s J.L. Mann High School to discuss the dropout problem. He told audience members “some areas and some districts are pulling the state averages down” and admitted to calling these trouble public schools “dropout factories.” Rex further explained that students attending these persistent failing schools “don’t have a shot at the American Dream.”

The 2009 Diplomas Count report authors also noted that South Carolina is one of the few states that fail to release detailed graduation information broken out in by gender, race, or school district.

The graduation figures in the Education Week publication, seen as a national standard for K12 education policy and assessment, vary greatly from higher numbers released by the South Carolina State Department of Education.
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James Smith and Jim Rex are Minimally Adequate

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under SC Politics

James Smith and Jim Rex are both rumored to be contestants for the Democratic Gubernatorial Ticket.  And it appears that they both believe the same thing.

The two are both grandstanding on SC Education problems believing that a Constitutional amendment is necessary to fix our public education system.  Here is what James Smith had to say in a recent email:

Fellow South Carolinians:
The election of our new president has proven that we are willing to bring CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN to America. We are asking for your help to make a CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN for South Carolina.

Please sign the petition supporting a constitutional amendment to insert the words “high quality education” in South Carolina’s constitution, replacing our current standard of “a minimally adequate education.”

The petition asks the legislature to allow the people of South Carolina to vote on this amendment in the 2010 election, and we are the principal sponsors of this legislation. Please join us today!

Go to www.GoodbyeMinimallyAdequate.com and sign the petition today.
Let’s bring CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN to South Carolina!
Thank you.
State Senator John Matthews (Senate District 39)
Representative James Smith (House District 72)

With all due respect, how much more money can we throw at the public school system and expect changes?  I am reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

And you cannot blame it all on the teachers or the educators.  When are the parents going to step up to the plate and take responsibility for the individuals they placed in this world?

When are you going to allow teachers to fail students again with out being punished?  When you are moving kids along when they are not ready to move to a higher grade?  You are punishing the rest of the kids in the classroom.  It is bad when a teacher says the following to you:

We cannot move on to the next phase of math though because the rest of the students are not ready.

Forget “minimally adequate”.  The parents of these children need to take the responsibility to work with their kids.  Some of these parents need to learn English.  That would be the first step in solving some of our problems.  Next communicate with your teachers, find out what YOU can do to make your child better and you, the parent, work with your children.

Speaking of which, it is time to do homework now!

I hope the people of South Carolina get a better choice for Governor than these two individuals.

The 2010 Rumor Mills

August 24, 2008 by  
Filed under SC Politics

Now that the 2008 primaries are past us and the General Election is looming, The Conservativist has been keeping it’s ears open for the races in 2010.  Since the rumor mill is running at full speed, why not share what we have heard and read.

Governor
The race for Governor appears to be at full steam ahead.  So much so that the fundraising mailers have already begin to hit the post boxes.

  1. Gresham Barrett – Heavily rumored to be in the running.  He has been on several talk radio shows, sent out a nice fundraising letter last summer (I live outside of his district and received the mailer, good indication?), and the blogosphere has been discussing it.  Just search “gresham barrett for governor”.
  2. Andre Bauer (Lt. Governor) – It has been expected for the past few years that Bauer would move up the ladder from his current post.  Bauer has been working hard to help the elderly (a large portion of the electorate) over the past year and has had cool fundraising events in Charlotte driving stock cars.
  3. Oscar Lovelace – After making a valiant effort in 2006 to beat Sanford in the primary, Lovelace appears to be making a run for it as an independent.  This will be an interesting spectacle as he will face two of these 6 individuals in November 2010.  Then again, we may end up with a Democratic Governor if he has the support he had in 2006.
  4. Henry McMaster (Attorney General) – He is in the process of launching a new campaign site.  McMaster’s name has been working thru the mill since 2007.  He has been working hard to make a name for himself and getting well needed publicity for a statewide race.  His efforts to crack down on child porn and touring the state with Presumptive Nominee John McCain should not hender his efforts.
  5. Jim Rex (State Superintendent of Education) – Rex began sending fundraising mailers out this week for his potential run for Governor.  He is trying to portray his strength as a reformer of the education system. Then again, this could just be fundraising to retain his seat for another four years as Education Chief.  The folks over at The Palmetto Scoop and at FITSNews have also had there criticisms and beliefs that Rex is on the move.
  6. Jim Ritchie – This has been pretty quiet over the past few months, but don’t be surprised if he throws his hat in the ring.  Remember, Shane Martin and Max Hyde went after his Senate seat because of this rumor.
  7. Inez Tenenbaum –  Although some have criticized her for taking a job as a lobbyist, she also had a candidates page set up on facebook.  The Conservativist is unable to locate it at this time.

State Attorney General

  1. Jim Ritchie – This was rumored in 2007, but we have not heard anymore whispers concerning this.  Ritchie has a lot of empty time on his hands since loosing on June 24th, so it will be interesting to see where his political future will move next.
  2. Trey Gowdy – This too was rumored in 2007.  Just a few weeks ago, Gowdy met at Wades with Doug Smith and John White.  They had a nice conversation as it was reported, but no details were provided.

4th Congressional District

  1. Bob Inglis (incumbent) – The incumbent, enough said.
  2. Gary Coats – Some political circles around Spartanburg have mentioned that I may be interested in running for the seat.  Those individuals who have spoke to me have mentioned that my constant criticism of the Congressman led them to believe that I was interested.
  3. Jim Ritchie – Ritchie has run for this seat in the past and was handed a strong defeat.  Again he is considered to be running for Governor or Attorney General; part of the reason he lost his Senate seat to Shane Martin.
  4. Scott Talley – Talley lost his bid for a State Senate seat in a close election against Lee Bright.  He had relinquished his state house seat for that race.  It was rumored in 2007 as a future interest for him and has been mentioned to me by a few individuals that he may be planning.
Do you have information to add to the Rumor Mill?  Leave us a comment!