Inez Tenenbaum for Obama’s Cabinet?

NOW THAT HE’S got his economic and national security teams lined up, President-Elect Obama can turn to the “second-tier” Cabinet positions, such as Secretary of Education.
    Normally, I wouldn’t take all that much interest in the Education job. I don’t see education as a proper function of the federal government; it’s a state responsibility. And when the feds have gotten involved in K-12, they’ve generally mucked it up. I’m not a fan of Ronald Reagan, but he did get some things right, and one of them was proposing to do away with the U.S. Department of Education. You’ll notice, however, that after all that talk, he didn’t actually get rid of it. So the department is there, and somebody is going to run it.
    That being the case, I hope the somebody Barack Obama chooses is our own Inez Tenenbaum. At this point you’re thinking two things: First, “Does she really have a shot at that?” I don’t know. There are a lot of lists, short and long, floating around, and she’s on some and not on others. The Associated Press had her on a short list of five names (which also included Colin Powell) at the end of November, but when they moved the same list on Thursday, she wasn’t on it (nor was Gen. Powell). On the same day, MSNBC posted a long list on its Web site that included her (and Gen. Powell). Other names regularly mentioned include Arne Duncan, who runs Chicago public schools, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.
    Inez (disclosure here — I call her Inez because her husband, Samuel, is a friend) doesn’t make it on David Brooks’ short list in his column on the facing page. But we’ll see.
    Now for the second thing you’re thinking, especially if you’re one of those who buy into the notion that public schools in South Carolina are irredeemable, and anyone who has ever had anything to do with them is tainted. When I mentioned Inez as a contender for the job the other day, someone who should know better said it would be ironic for two Democratic secretaries in a row to be from South Carolina, since our schools struggle so.
    No, it wouldn’t. It would be perfectly fitting, especially given Inez Tenenbaum’s record as state superintendent from 1999-2007.
    There are achievements that can be quantified, such as South Carolina’s students scoring at or above the national average on nationally recognized standardized tests for the first time. Our fourth- and eighth-graders even scored at the very top in math and science on the National Assessment of Education Progress.
    But what of the SAT, the favored test of naysayers? During her tenure, our average rose 32 points, the greatest gain of any state where most graduating seniors take the test. No, we didn’t catch up — we just improved faster than anyone.
    But what impressed me most about her performance was that she took the situation she had and did the most she could with it. The most dramatic example: her implementation of the Education Accountability Act. The EAA was enacted the year she was elected, pushed by business leaders and a conservative Republican governor, and largely opposed by Democrats and professional educators. She might have dragged her feet, but instead she fully embraced the task of implementing accountability, in spite of institutional resistance.
    How did she do on that? The year she left office, Education Week ranked South Carolina No. 1 in the nation for accountability. The research organization Education Trust ranked our state as tied (with Maine) at No. 1 in the rigor of our proficiency standards; The Princeton Review rated our testing system 11th best.
    Our state’s leadership on this front ironically became a liability when No Child Left Behind came along. That’s because each state was judged by how well it met its own standards and expectations, and ours were higher than other states’.
    So as long as there is a U.S. Department of Education, and especially while NCLB remains law, I want the person in charge of administering it to know the reality here in South Carolina.
    But what makes Inez Tenenbaum, and Dick Riley before her, better suited than folks from other parts of the country at addressing the nation’s real K-12 problems? Consider the sheer magnitude of our challenges, based in generations of slavery, Jim Crow and abject poverty. Before the Civil War, our state had more slaves than free people. We integrated our schools 16 years AFTER Brown vs. Board of Education, even though the case started here. The achievement gap for poor and minority students is a national problem, but no one has more experience combating it than Gov. Riley and Inez Tenenbaum.
Inez isn’t talking about her candidacy, or non-candidacy. But she did say some things about Barack Obama and education that I liked hearing.
    She’s had time to think about this because she’s one of the experts who helped him draft his education platform (which you can read online, linked from my blog). Rather than talk about the federal government trying to run our schools, she speaks of the historic opportunity Mr. Obama has to lead by example.
    She remembers how John Kennedy got kids engaged in physical fitness when she was in school, mainly by talking it up. A president Obama can do the same with parental involvement, parlaying the excitement his election has generated into an ongoing movement. She has been deeply impressed by his own commitment to education, from seizing every opportunity offered in his own life to his involvement in his daughters’ schooling — she heard him, on the campaign bus here in South Carolina, talking to his girls on the phone about every detail of their day at school. He was engaged in the way all parents should be.
    Barack Obama, as she describes it, has the potential to lead on education without pushing coercive new laws or creating new bureaucracies.
    Now that’s a federal role in education I can get behind.

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75 thoughts on “Inez Tenenbaum for Obama’s Cabinet?

  1. Bill C.

    Inez Tenenbaum for Secretary of Education would be a disaster. Look what she was able to accomplish with the same position on the state level… she held South Carolina’s position in being ranked last in education her whole tenure. What redeeming value does she have other than she’s married to your ol’ breakfast buddy, Sammy “the free Visa card” Tenenbaum? Brad your sucking up to the Tenenbaum’s only pales is comparison to your hatred of Governor Sanford.

  2. zeke

    Inez nor anyone else needs to be in the Fed’l Dept. of Education! It does need to go away immediately! It, nor welfare, medicaid, medicare, food stamps, adc and others are not the contituional authority given to the fed’l government! THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO BE FORCED BACK TO IT’S VERY LIMITED CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY! DEFENSE AND THE ARBITRATION OF DISPUTES BETWEEN THE STATE ARE BASICALLY IT!

  3. slugger

    We would seem to be better off without a secretary of education if the end result is the dumbing down of America.
    The future of this country is about educating our youth. Nations such as India are leading by example. How important in the scheme of world job markets is it when educated students take telecommunications jobs away from the US? Make a call about a problem you have with your television reception and you will be talking with someone in India.
    The article about appointing Inez Tenenbaum to lead the country through the education catch up with the rest of the world seems a suck-up appointment; otherwise, he would appoint someone from a state or agency that has a proven track record much better than an example set by South Carolina. What about the dropout record in SC?
    When you are playing catch up to the other nations, we need a miracle not a political appointment.

  4. martin

    that’s just it; the vast majority of states are having severe education, including drop-out (read the latimes about the dropout scandal there), problems.
    if you only read SC papers, you think we’re the only ones where johnny can’t read, the budget is in a mess and the legislature is a corrupt mess. It just ain’t so.

  5. Dino

    Since there is already a lopsided dearth of lawyers in his future cabinet, Obama should select Inez “Ticking Bomb” for Education.
    Look what a fabulous job the lawyer from Georgia did (compared to Georgia’s SATs) for SC. Why not bring the rest of the country down to our level?
    Liberals believe equalization to lowest common denominators helps self esteem. Unfortunately, it negatively impacts job prospects and economic growth both for individuals and regions.

  6. jfx

    Considering that so much of our national economic and physical security vitally depends on quality of information, I’d say “education” is indeed a vital responsiblity of the federal government, in partnership with state and local governments, parents, and students. It’s an “everybody” responsibility.
    The US Dept. of Education should have more prominence, not less. It should be shoulder to shoulder with DoD and the Treasury. We all know Dick Riley served under Clinton. But how many people know, right off hand, who the current Sec. of Education is? Out of sight, out of mind. It’s just sad. The department needs serious, aggressive, spotlight leadership.
    There are certain states that would likely excel without federal educational oversight. Vermont, for instance. But not SC. We need all the help we can get. There are cultural implications, sure. It would be a nightmare to wake up one day and realize our kids were taking classes in Intelligent Design, Abstinence Education, and Secessionist Heritage. Meanwhile, there is a world of career-changers, professionals, and entrepreneurs who have federal student loans and grants at least partly to thank for their better lives. And don’t forget the GI Bill. It’s more important than ever.

  7. faust

    Not too surprising is it? Obamas’ cabinet picks this far have all been clapped out, hopelessly liberal and entirely failed liberal hacks. Inez ought to fit right in with this bar scene from Star Wars.
    And no surprise either that Warthen loves Obamas’ selection of Tenenbaum for Sec of Ed. As a moon-eyed sycophant, Warthen likes ALL of Obamas’ choices. Terrorism, Black Liberation Theology…all of it is fine with Brad.
    I actually like the selection of Tenenbaum as a cabinet member. Her imminent national failure as Sec of Ed may hasten the necessary disillusionment with Obama that will precede real American progress.

  8. Lee Muller

    Robert Gates and General Jones have to be chosen, because their jobs cannot be faked, and the Democrats have no one who can do those real jobs.
    The rest are just cronies who are glib talkers and posers, who have no record of accomplishment in the real world, just like Obama.

  9. ruintuit

    It’s always blamed on economics and the solutions are to throw more money in to help the “poor children”. I have to wonder how so many economically deprived children with concerned involved parents have managed to succeed in school. Parents are the key to fixing our education problems..not a government system. Can the education system ever fix a problem that begins at home? Not unless it has the ability to force parents to assume that role.
    Perhaps if public assistance were doled out according to the child’s school performance, disciplinary behavior, and attendance we could see a difference in many parents’ attitudes towards education. We’ve dumbed down our education system so some could look smarter and “feel good” about themselves. Unfortunately, the achievers just shoot at a lower mark and the low-achievers have just gone lower. But wait..for a politician to say this would be the ultimate in politically incorrect. It’s never the parents’ or children’s fault…right?

  10. p.m.

    Hey, Brad, it’s been almost 13 hours since Gov. Sanford made an appearance on Geraldo Rivera’s Fox News show.
    Why haven’t you jumped all over the governor yet? There were still a few splotches on him that weren’t covered with your hoofprints and sputum.
    I think you’re missing a good chance to promote your all-government, all-the-time agenda. It’s time to come clean about using your Unparty malarkey to make your being a closet Democrat.
    Heck, Fox News might be willing to do a special on you as a media Democrat who voted for McCain. Think of the chance you’d have to spread manure all over Sanford and promote your good buddy’s wife for Secretary of Education.
    Might even help you into an even higher income percentile so you could actually afford your health insurance and have time to learn something about farming in the state you call home.

  11. p.m.

    Pardon me: That should be, “It’s time to come clean about using your Unparty malarkey to MASK your being a closet Democrat.”

  12. Brad Warthen

    Thanks for clearing that up, penultimo. Now would you please go lock yourself in a room with those who are convinced the UnParty is a cover for my Republican sensibilities, and y’all come out when you’ve decided who’s right?

    By the way, if y’all liked my column about Inez, you’ll love Howard Fineman’s in Newsweek. It begins:

        Inez Moore Tenenbaum is a little slip of a lady, with porcelain skin and a smile as sweet as ice tea on a sunny Southern porch.
        But looks are deceiving. She has a blowtorch will to win and more organizational drive than almost anyone else in her home state of South Carolina, where she served as a very successful—and very popular—elected superintendent of education from 1999 to 2007.
        It was a lucky day for Barack Obama when, two years ago, Tenenbaum became the first major Democrat in South Carolina to endorse him for president. She was taking a big risk at the time.
        She, as much as anyone else, insured that he won the South Carolina primary against the formidable Sen. Hillary Clinton—a victory that, as much as anything else, got him the party nomination.
        When he climbed down off the stage on primary night in Columbia, the first person he embraced (after his wife, Michelle) was Tenenbaum.
        If Obama owes anybody, he owes Inez. And she is worth owing, since her record as state superintendent of education is exemplary….

    You’ll notice I didn’t get into why Obama owes Inez, because to me that shouldn’t enter into it. But Fineman, as senior Washington correspondent for the newsmagazine, is apparently accustomed to thinking in those terms.

  13. p.m.

    Why would I lock myself in a room when I don’t even lock my house?
    If the Democrats here think a closet Republican would back a $2/gallon tax on gasoline and Inez Tenenbaum for Secretary of Education, that goes a long way toward explaining why they’re Democrats.
    Limited logic skills do rank pretty high in the Democrat arsenal, right after feeding at the public trough.

  14. slugger

    Why would I want to read an article in Newsweek? Newsweek is a liberal rag that contaminates the minds of those stupid enough to buy the magazine. Example: Obama.
    What can Inez Tenenbaum teach the children except to say that “It takes a villege to raise a child” and then not even support Hillary? The reason that it probably would take a villege is because the people in the villege cannot find the parents.
    With the out of wedlock birth rate, the dropouts and those put into jails for crimes committed to buy drugs, somebody has to educate the children born to these non-performers. Otherwise, the apple will not fall far from the tree.

  15. Doug Ross

    Slugger and pm,
    It will probably cause you to burst a blood vessel in your brain, but please read the semi-love letter to educrats in today’s The State paper.
    The State on Education Reform
    It’s chock full of educrat spin (selective choice of statistics, positive spin on the worst news, considering minor achievement in a decade to be fantastic).
    And then there’s the stuff in there that just makes me shake my head. Under Inez’s supposed accountability initiative, one single school district (Allendale) was taken over in an entire decade and that takeover showed no success. And where do I get a list of principals and/or teachers who were held accountable by the EAA? Brad makes it the centerpiece of his support to give his friend’s wife a job in a department he doesn’t think is worth having anyway… and yet I can find no evidence anywhere of the application of the term “accountability” anywhere in the public school system.
    1. Liable to being called to account; answerable.
    That means SOMEONE is supposed to be responsible when things go wrong. So, Brad, what accountable actions did Inez take responsibility for?
    And the whole issue of PACT being abandoned is glossed over completely. It’s right there in black-and-white:
    “But student improvement on PACT has slowed in recent years. Lawmakers decided this year to develop a new standardized test, PASS, which students will take next year. School report cards”
    So when the test results couldn’t be blasted out in a P.R. release any more, what happens? Why they just blame the test and throw it away. And come up with a NEW test that will give them a few more years to produce essentially the same results for all the extra money wasted.
    Then we get to the crux of the way educrats deal with issues. This is from the article (you can’t make this stuff up):
    “Accountability has successfully used data to identify the students, schools and districts that are challenged in the state.
    The next chapter will be redefining schools and using innovation to help these students who have not achieved in traditional classrooms. In Spartanburg 6, for example, district leaders are redefining the school year, the school day and the role of a school. About 800 elementary students attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Their school year is also longer, 220 days compared with the traditional 180 days. Part of the time is academics; the rest is tutoring and activities like field trips to parks and zoos, swimming and golf lessons and trips to art shows. Transportation, meals and snacks are all provided at no charge to parents. It’s increasing test scores.
    “Long term, if we stick with this, these kids are going to make it through our system and earn a diploma,” said Darryl Owings, Spartanburg 6 superintendent. “Our state needs to take this kind of approach. We’re a microcosm of this state and we’re seeing results.”
    So after a decade of PACT testing, the educrats determined that the best way to improve test scores is to make kids go to school for 40 more longer days. Brilliant!! How did we miss that option?
    But when that doesn’t move enough kids from Below Basic to Basic skills, what’s next? Making them wards of the state? Hey, maybe instead of going home after school, maybe these educrats could bring all these kids to a big farm and let them pick vegetables or something in their spare time? I’m sure that would be better than expecting their parents to take responsibility for their kids education.
    I’ll be waiting patiently for the South Carolina Government Diapering Service to be implemented any day now. Motto: “We own your butt from cradle to grave”

  16. Lee Muller

    Academic failure is always the TAXPAYERS’ fault.
    Never mind all those astronauts and scientists who were educated in one-room schoolhouses, right up into the 1960s, and brought us jet aircraft, telecommunications, and medical breakthroughs.
    Success couldn’t possibly be the result of superior teachers, orderly classrooms, self-discipline, and hard work.

  17. Claudia

    What Inez Tenenbaum did as SC Superintendent of Education to bring accountability (via EAA) to the South Carolina education system was nothing to sneeze at. Opposed by some in her own party and others that many tiredly refer to as “educrats”, she managed to raise South Carolina to a national leadership position in education accountability and to hold our schools to proficiency standards that, along with Maine and Massachusetts, were ranked by the Hoover Institution’s “Education Next” journal as tops in the nation. For these accomplishments, our state has been nationally, and repeatedly, recognized.
    To quote a Sept., 2006 article from The State, “Critics say improvement doesn’t matter as long as our absolute scores don’t lead the nation — which is sort of like telling your boss you don’t want that 50 percent raise if you’ll still make less than he does.” Too many of our citizens look at public education in South Carolina and see only inadequacy, failing to realize that fixing a complex system that has never been sound requires a holistic, visionary approach. And that it takes a very long time to see the final results. South Carolina has for decades faced huge challenges in overcoming a persistent epidemic of poverty and its crippling effects on public education. Inez Tenenbaum, and Dick Riley before her, led South Carolina’s department of education with an understanding not only of our state’s social ills, but with a determination to pursue the long cure and an eye to our state’s future.
    There are many people who see only failure in our public education system and will, for reasons of their own, refuse to acknowledge its successes. But, those opinions aside, Inez Tenenbaum did much to move our state forward; she would make a fine US Secretary of Education.

  18. Doug Ross

    Don’t you get it?
    Every successful adult owes it all to the government.
    Every unsuccessful adult just didn’t get enough help from the government. But we’ll get there one day.
    To paraphrase MLK, “I have a dream that my three little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their intelligence, work ethic, and perseverance but by the content of their government assistance check.”

  19. Doug Ross

    The reverse of your statement is also true:
    “There are many people who see only failure in our public education system and will, for reasons of their own, refuse to acknowledge its successes.”
    Our educational system in South Carolina would improve at a much faster rate if there was true accountability and honesty. If you can, please point me to one case where the Inez said, “We were wrong.” or “That program failed” or “We spent money that we could have better spent elsewhere”. Just one…

  20. Doug Ross

    Will Folks has a great post over on FITSnews today about the Superintendent of the D.C. school system… I agree with him – this is what many of would like to here a person in authority in the school system say:
    Not An Educrat
    ““The thing that kills me about education is that it’s so touchy-feely,” she tells me one afternoon in her office. Then she raises her chin and does what I come to recognize as her standard imitation of people she doesn’t respect. Sometimes she uses this voice to imitate teachers; other times, politicians or parents. Never students. “People say, ‘Well, you know, test scores don’t take into account creativity and the love of learning,’” she says with a drippy, grating voice, lowering her eyelids halfway. Then she snaps back to herself. “I’m like, ‘You know what? I don’t give a crap.’ Don’t get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don’t know how to read, I don’t care how creative you are. You’re not doing your job.”
    And it’s interesting to compare the response of her detractors to the way our own educrats and bureaucrats feel abou Mark Sanford… people hate it when you don’t play the game:
    ” Some parents, teachers and school activists said the combative, sometimes disdainful tone she has struck in the press has alienated constituencies she needs to mobilize if she hopes to turn the system around: teachers, parents and school principals. Cathy Reilly, head of the Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators, called the use of a broom on the Time cover “disrespectful and denigrating.”
    “I don’t know what she was thinking,” Reilly said. “I don’t think sweeping things out is the way to go, and that way of relating to people metaphorically sends a message right down to the children.”

  21. Lee Muller

    A can of kerosene and a book of matches is more like it than a broom.
    Liberals think that if they have good intentions, and chant a few magic words, like “bring accountability”, then that’s it – all done, success.
    If Inez Tennenbaum had actually “brought accountability” to public schools, she would not have been hiring failed principals as consultants, or as high-level state bureaucrats.

  22. slugger

    We should not let the teachers union go without giving them their full responsibility for our school problems.
    Do we think that the teachers union is all about educating our children? Is there a union in this country that is not all about what is best for the union?
    The school system should be turned back over to the states and taken out from under the federal government. Each state has it’s own problems just as each city and county in each state has a different problem. You cannot put all the children in this country into one pot and except the same results.
    Do away with teachers unions and restore the education of our children to the states instead of the federal government. We, the people, need to be in control of the minds of our children. Only when the parents get back in control will be able to return this country to some sort of sane future for our country. You cannot let the liberal teachers that were brainwashed while in college by liberal agendas stay in charge of our children and how they think.
    My children listened to me when they were growing up and I gave them an history lesson. The children this day and time seem to think that the teacher knows more about how this country should be run than the parents and grand-parents. The teachers are not hired to get into the minds of the students and change their thinking along Marxist lines. The teachers should be doing their jobs of teaching reading, writing and asthmatic as well as history.
    I have two grandchildren that are teachers. I admire and respect what they are doing in their profession. We can only hope that somehow and with some person that we could lead our country back to local schools and turns around and save our country.
    Do not give away the minds of our children to those that would destroy our way of life.

  23. Brad Warthen

    You guys are so predictable.
    No, accountability has not been achieved if the definition of “accountability” is that Lee and Doug are satisfied and no longer have any complaints about public schools.
    If, however, a reasonable standard is applied, Inez has accomplished quite a bit. Basically, she implemented a very demanding accountability law that landed in her lap the day she arrived in office. She did it in spite of the education “establishment” opposing everything about the new law. And she did it as well as or better than any other state did it.
    Any reasonable person would say that’s pretty impressive. But you guys won’t, because it’s too important to you to trash her efforts no matter what she accomplishes.

  24. slugger

    Not true Brad. The proof is in the pudding.
    I think that you should defend your friend since you are the one that placed this subject on the blog. The rest of us do not have to defend her simply because she is from the our state. She will probably only be another Riley and nothing will happen to open the education process to reform.

  25. Doug Ross

    What did she DO? All I’m asking is for any example of someone who was held accountable by the system Inez supposedly implemented?
    Was PACT a success or not? If it was a success, why was it terminated?
    Was Allendale a successful example of the accountability system or a failure?
    Is the state dropout rate a successful example of the accountability system or not?
    How many teachers were fired due to bad performance during her tenure? How many principals?
    I asked my district office several years ago for the PACT scores by teacher for my kids’ elementary school. That request was denied. Is that part of the accountability system? Or is it secret information only for educrats? Why don’t you ask Mrs. Tenenbaum whether you can see the scores for all teachers in the elementary school where your home is located. Surely a taxpayer should be able to see whether the teachers in the school are doing their job or not, right? That’s accountability.
    Accountability isn’t the system, it’s the results of the system and its the response when the results are inadequate.
    Show us the results of the system of accountability. Surely if you are going to use that as a key reason for nominating her to a high paid figurehead role in the Obama administration, then you have researched the specific results of the EAA and not just the press releases from the Department of Ed or your buddy Samuel’s coffee chat.

  26. slugger

    The people are union workers. You cannot just fire a teacher for not performing. You can not give the teacher a pay raise but short of molesting children (not their minds but their body’s) you cannot fire them.
    If I can wrong about this, please let me know but that is the teachers union protecting their own.

  27. Lee Muller

    Doug, shame on you for demanding quantifiable measures of performance!
    Why, you are expecting administrators, schools, and teachers to be graded, just like students are.
    The main problem with PACT was that it measured percentage improvement, so a low-performing school with a lot of room for improvement, but making just a little, would get a higher score than a high-performing school making the same improvement.
    They could have kept the PACT tests, and just changed the evaluation of the scores, to make it more insightful and useful. Instead, they went to a new test, which means it will be another 5 years before there is enough data to be of value, and then a new brain trust will scrap that test.

  28. Harry harris

    Isn’t it amazing how people who have no recent, relevant experience doing a job think their vast lack of experience should take precedence over the limited, and sometimes painfully-earned experience of those who are actually involved in doing the work.

  29. Lee Muller

    Are you talking about Inez Tennenbaum, going from housewife to Secretary or Education, or her critics here, who happen to run businesses, and find the lack of business practices in education to be a problem?

  30. p.m.

    Brad, here’s what Inez (to use your familiar term) accomplished:
    The state took over Allendale County’s schools, and now, almost a decade later, more money is spent per student in Allendale County than in any other county in South Carolina, more than $17,000 per student per year.
    But student performance in Allendale County still ranks in the bottom five of South Carolina’s 85 school districts.
    So, she implemented a demanding accountability law. WHAT GOOD DID IT DO?
    Ask Allendale. Ask Dillon. Ask Lee. Ask McCormick. Ask Jasper. Ask Hampton.
    And then shut up.

  31. jfx
    “What does a student’s PACT report tell me?
    The PACT results are useful in describing student performance in large curricular areas, but additional assessment at the classroom level is necessary for a more complete understanding of student performance on more specific curricular components. Users of the PACT results should remember that test data constitute a single source of information that should be used in conjunction with other relevant information to evaluate student achievement and progress. Since the PACT tests were developed as standards-based accountability measures, there are limitations to the depth of information that can be provided for individual student or classroom purposes. District and school data can be used to identify overall subject area deficiencies or program improvement.”
    Doug, I’d bet one reason your PACT info request at the district office was denied (aside from the possibility that it might actually be illegal to disseminate confidential reams of school-wide data to any parent who strolls in) was precisely to avoid the sort of accountability vigilantism that targets educators and administrators by blowing this or that arbitrary testing apparatus out of context. Whether a teacher is doing his or her job is a much deeper question than PACT, or any off-the-shelf standards-based accountability measure, can tell you. And simply paying taxes doesn’t…and shouldn’t…give any of us an all-access pass to any information we want, any time we want, just because we want it.
    Teaching is difficult enough. It would be virtually impossible if the teachers had no buffer, and were constantly harangued by legions of angry parents waving sheets of nebulous testing data. I’m sure you understand that most *good* teachers aren’t fans of any of these arbitrary, ever-changing accountability assessments, and would surely switch professions if their passion for teaching were muted, and their livelihoods potentially threatened, by being held hostage to them.
    Ironically, it’s the lousy teachers who love things like PACT. It makes the job easy. Just teach to the test. No imagination required.

  32. Doug Ross

    >Doug, I’d bet one reason your PACT info
    >request at the district office was denied
    You’d lose that bet. I was told I couldn’t see the data because someone might be able to extrapolate the test scores of an individual student from the teacher’s scores. Total B.S. Nevermind that it would be like trying to figure out a baseball player’s batting average from the team’s batting average.
    And what could be “confidential” about the data? You do realize that schools are funded by tax dollars, right? That as a taxpayer I should have access to whatever data the district officers?
    I actually went down to the district office to meet with the person in charge of test data to discuss my request. She brought in two other people to, I suppose, try and bully me into going away. One of them was a big guy who just sat there and didn’t say a word.
    What we as parents and taxpayers should have is access to information to help us understand whether our kids are getting a quality education or not. If a teacher consistently shows a degradation in performance of her students over the previous year’s scores, then something should be done.
    Lousy teachers shouldn’t love PACT. Lousy teachers shouldn’t be working in our schools. Should they? If you know a teacher is lousy, get rid of him. That’s the way the real world works. Some parents know who the bad teachers are. The ones in the know make sure to change their kids schedules early on.

  33. david

    Editors for The State newspaper have always been shamelessly in the tank for the status quo education establishment in South Carolina, to the point that they have used the paper to ridicule, defame, denigrate and humiliate anyone who supports school choice.
    Given that this is absolutely and undeniably true, why should there be any surprise that Warthen likes Obamas’ choice of Tenenbaum? The fix is (and always has been) in on Shop Road, so we oughtn’t expect anything different now.
    These people are hopeless. They’ve been wrong about public ed since day one. Let ’em continue to fail. The cumulative effects of long term policy failures will eventually do them in.

  34. jfx

    Can’t you tell whether your kids are getting a quality education or not by….talking to your kids? Taking an active interest in their studies, the content of their classes, the relationships with their various teachers? Helping them with their homework?
    I imagine your own kids can tell you more about the quality of their various teachers than anyone at the district office. How will looking at a pile of raw test data tell you whether YOUR particular kids are getting a quality education? Every kid learns differently, and responds differently to different teachers. This is why differentiated instruction initiaves are so important….something that blunt instruments like PACT are blind to.
    No, in the real world, there are always some lousy teachers in schools, just like there are always some lousy employees in every organization. Having a few bum teachers is inevitable, especially when the incentive to teach is so low. Have you tried teaching in a public school? It’s like a martyrdom operation. If there were a surplus of quality teachers to go ’round, we could easily ditch the poor performers. But we don’t have that luxury. Even Richland 2, with its comparatively luxuriant tax base and recruitment incentives, can’t find enough “good” teachers to fill out the ranks.
    I’d suggest that rather than keel-hauling administrators and educators over a constantly shifting bar of generic accountability measurements, we work as a community to change the culture of education in a way that makes teaching a deeply competitive, fairly compensated, attractive profession. Right now, just about any schmuck with a degree can walk into a stressed district and “teach”. But we seem to want serious, dedicated, inspiring teachers, without properly reckoning the monetary and psychological cost to build great educators.

  35. Harry Harris

    Those of you who keep referring to the teachers’ organizations in South Carolina as “unions” either have no experience with unions, or little knowledge of the organizations you attempt to criticise. There may be merit to some criticisms many of the posters here would level, but it gets lost in the venomous, repetitive rhetoric and the half-truths and outrageous generalizations you employ. Many of you are uninformed critics, with a rigid agenda based on wrong, but strongly-held assumptions.

  36. Rich

    As I read the comments posted above, it becomes ever more plain to me that the citizens of S.C. just do not understand public education. Students are not widgets. They are not predictable and they make choices with regard to behavior and performance over which we, the teachers and administrators, have no control. The parents send them to us just as they are, and we love them–just as they are.
    If I can move a kid from point A to point B–not necessarily where the state standards say they should be, but at least forward–then I consider my work successful. Dealing with human beings is an art, not a science.
    Spend some time in our schools, o ye critics!!–and see for yourself if we are wasting the taxpayers’ money!!

  37. p.m.

    PACT and other scores by district, school and otherwise are available at this link:
    You can find PACT scores from 2004 through 2008 by district and school linked on that very page if you’ll nose around “No Title” and “PACT 2008”.
    I realize you probably already knew about the availability of this data, but I just wanted to make sure you realized that what might have been a big secret when you once asked in person is now released annually as public information.

  38. KP

    I think Doug’s point is that you can get the information by district and school but you can’t get it by teacher, or class. That’s true. I happen to agree with Doug (and I hope that never occurs again) that schools are not forthcoming enough about teacher performance as measured by student scores. In an effort to ascertain how many students were failing my daughter’s school’s Algebra II honors course (always taught by the same teacher), I asked the district for the grade level distribution over the past five years. I was given the same bs excuse that it couldn’t be shared because I might be able to determine which individual students made which grades. The real reason is that they didn’t want me to know.
    But you can’t lay that at Inez’s door. Just as she didn’t hire and fire superintendents and principals, she didn’t establish district policy for releasing test scores.
    In fact, the Department of Education’s policy is that if there are ten grades or more in a class, they will release the scores on grounds that it isn’t reasonably possible to determine which students made which grades.
    Public education critics will never admit that Inez did a really fine job as superintendent, but her record is very, very clear. It is nationally recognized as exemplary.
    I am always amused at the posters on this site who think schools should be able to address in 12 years problems that were generations in the making. How many of you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps like you think poor kids should be able to do? I’ll start. Both my parents were college educated, were involved in my public school education, and could afford to send me to a very fine university without scholarships or help from the state. I don’t think for one minute that my life would not have been very different if I’d been born to a teenaged mother, a high school dropout, a drug addict, a single parent, or a family with income under $20,000 a year. Because that would be completely ignorant.
    Maybe you should volunteer at your local school to read to a child who’s behind in first grade. You may just find that you don’t know much at all about the needs of public education.

  39. Doug Ross

    Here’s my boring history. My older brother and I are the the first generation in our family tree to graduate from college. When I was born, my parents lived in a two room “house” basically in the woods of central Massachusetts. My grandmother on my mother’s side had a fifth grade education. My father worked as many as three jobs at at time in order to purchase a half-finished Cape house in what was basically an old mill town. I went to a vocational high school to study computer programming and ended my high school’s valedictorian. Through my school, I was able to start working a full time job in computers every other week my senior year. I paid my own way through college through work and loans (took ten years to pay them off) and have worked my way up over 25 years to become a senior consultant with one of the largest technology companies in the world.
    As for your “suggestions” that I volunteer at schools, well, been there, done that, and doing that. At one time or another I’ve been a high school basketball coach, PTO President, gone in to read on a weekly basis with two third graders who were behind in that area, accompanied special needs classes on field trips to the zoo (they were not even my kids but I had a great time), been a chaperone on many overnight field trips over the course of the past 15 years, taught a free computer programming class for one week during the summer… Maybe you see why I get so worked up about education. I care about students and teachers. If the job paid better, I would have no problem trying to enter the field.
    What I don’t give one iota of concern for is educrats who think that collecting data and writing press releases and giving phony awards to schools makes a bit of difference in the process. For people who refuse to admit when there are problems. I like do-ers not talkers.
    As for PACT tests, I had been opposed to them from day one when they were implemented and said so repeatedly when I ran for school board. They were a waste of time just as the PASS test will be. I’ve had three kids go through the full decade of PACT testing so I know of what I speak. Many teachers teach to the test. Several teachers refused to slow down when the entire class did not understand a concept because they were required to meet certain test related schedules. Kids who are at the top end of the curve don’t need to waste time being tested… over six years, those kids lose the equivalent of almost a semester spent in testing days. Ridiculous.
    But my point was and always has been that if you are going to collect data, then do two things with it:
    1. Use it to improve the quality of education for individual students. If a student scores Below Basic in English or Math and he is promoted to the next grade, then what purpose did the testing serve? And then when that functionally illiterate child reaches 9th grade, what do you think the chances are that he will drop out? This seems so obvious. The minimal outcome goal of our public education system should be a high school diploma. Our state does a crappy job of reaching that goal. No matter what any test taking in the 4th grade says…
    2. If the data is available and collected as a result of taxpayer funds, then it should be available at the teacher level to anyone who wants to see it. There is nothing confidential about the test results if no individual student information is made available.
    Bottom line, we don’t need PACT testing. We don’t need PASS testing. We need to spend the money on hiring, rewarding, and retaining the best teachers. Let professional teachers do their jobs.

  40. Lee Muller

    After 5 generations of failure by government schools to save most of the children from their bad parents or no parents, maybe its time to stop throwing money away on this effort and try something else.
    Since many notable people have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps from even worse poverty, maybe we need to pay attention to how they did it, instead of the failed theories of academics in their comfortable offices.
    Since most of the failures are children born to unwed dropouts, and most of them are non-white, who failed to first absorb the Western European culture which made America the achievement envy of the world, maybe we should stop subsidizing the bastard factories and ethic of lying around complaining about The Man not handing out enough freebies.
    Let’s look at reforming the government programs which encourage laziness, sexual promiscuity, and anti-social attitudes. That means cutting back Food Stamps, WIC, Medicare, government housing, etc.
    Charlotte schools just did a secret, randm checkup on over 400 students receiving free breakfast and lunch, and fount 91% of them did not qualify. 9 of 10 “parents” were scamming the system, stealing from the taxpayers.
    Every school needs a 100% background check of every student who is eating off the taxpayers, and that is just the beginning of real reform. You can’t teach character education where you knowingly permit and encourage larceny.

  41. slugger

    I read that concerned teachers in the Rock Hill School System made a study and found out that a child’s brain function was not at capacity because they were undernourished.
    So the teachers and concerned parents decided that the children that were eating free at the school would go home and all weekend they would not have any food to eat. What did they do? They organized a group of people to send backpacks home with the children so that they could have something to eat on the weekend.
    We need to open up the funny farms once again. We could supply them with people from Rock Hill. The teachers come first.

  42. Harry Harris

    I think the latest back-and forth posting by Doug and KP are constructive and informative – perhaps matching Brad’s intentions for this blog. Policy discussion which at least avoids gross generalization and leaves out insulting language moves forward much better than the rants often found here. It’s nice to see thinking trump feeling, and specifics replace the straw men and stereotyping.

  43. penultimo mcfarland

    Doug, without PASS, PACT, end of course testing or at least something, how can we identify which schools aren’t doing their jobs?
    And what makes you think there are actually more qualified teachers available to be hired, rewarded and retained?
    Am I to believe that dozens of qualified, certified teachers are unemployed in South Carolina while we have to put up with the rag-tag bunch that came to a school board meeting to protest the hiring of two principals?

  44. Doug Ross

    Which schools aren’t doing their jobs now? Did PACT tell us that? If so, what was done to fix them?
    PACT was like taking a diabetics blood sugar number and not doing anything when it spiked.
    Accountability = measuring + responsibility + action
    We only saw the measuring part.
    And anyway, the marketplace figures out where the best schools are. Ask a realtor. He’ll tell you where you want your kids to go to school. For free.
    When I moved to the area in 1990, I was told to look for a house in Lexington 1 or Richland 2. I didn’t need to see reams of data to understand that.

  45. Lee Muller

    To again use Charlotte as an example, there were several schools identified as “troubled” and “underperforming”, so they were given special attention, and over $12,000,000 spent on them.
    The result? No improvement.
    This is very commonplace. It is obvious the approaches were incorrect and the work was not properly performed for any approaches that may have been usefu. It is a strong indicator that those in charge and assigned to make the improvements have not a clue about how to do their jobs.

  46. KP

    Surely we aren’t having a serious discussion about whether or not state testing for accountability purposes is a good thing.
    For all its faults, PACT definitely DOES tell whether or not schools are doing their jobs — and, more important, whether they’re getting better or worse over time. The marketplace is not a reliable indicator. My schools, for example, are widely perceived as very strong (and they probably used to be), only they aren’t now, and no one would know it if PACT didn’t show that so many students score below basic, and we’re getting worse every year.
    Knowing that they aren’t doing well does not guarantee improvement. There are lots of reasons why my schools are unlikely to get better anytime soon:
    For one, since this is the Pee Dee, our school board members are uniformly ill informed and as a whole not especially concerned about the children who are being failed — you know, the poor black children who everybody knows are never going to amount to anything anyway. Our community kind of sees things the same way and won’t elect members to the school board who want to change things.
    Two, our school leaders sometimes aren’t very good, but maybe their husband is on the school board so they aren’t about to lose their jobs.
    That leads to three: bad teachers are protected, not required to improve, and not helped to improve. And in any event, there’s not exactly a long line of excellent teachers waiting to take their place.
    I expect that happens a lot around the state, which is why PACT by itself doesn’t improve things.
    But at least it gives reformers information to push change. So knowing is a lot better than not knowing.

  47. Bart

    This has been one on the better post and comment sessions I have read on this blog in a very long time. It shows that no matter what side you are on, the care and concern for our children, grandchildren, and all South Carolina students is genuine.
    My only comment is that until the parents become involved with their children and instill into them the need for a good education, no matter how much money is spent, no matter how many new programs are initiated, no matter how many governmental directives are issued, this same conversation will be held 10,20,30, or even 100 years from now. It all starts at home and even the good teachers can do just so much.

  48. p.m.

    Doug, with respect to PACT, the doctor diagnoses, but if the patient refuses treatment, that doesn’t invalidate the diagnosis.
    The fix with respect to PACT scores is better teachers to make up for bad parents.
    But if better teachers aren’t available, and, to quote a former Clemson defensive coordinator, “we got who we got” until the cows come home, things won’t get better.
    Still, I would argue that if you get rid of the tool that diagnoses the problem, complacency will just mean things get WORSE.
    We need diagnosis plus treatment equals cure.

  49. Davesteen

    ***Photo of China Doll Educrat***
    The State, Nation & World section [!], P A4
    President-elect Obama has business savvy that will protect us ALL from this non-sense.

  50. Bill C.

    I don’t know what’s more annoying, reading Brad’s Sanford bashing articles or Brad’s constant sucking up to the Tenenbaums articles. One is like listening to fingernails on a blackboard and the other is like the little kid behind you trying to get every micro-ounce of Coke out of the glass with his straw.
    Does the Secretary of Education have a press secretary? Just trying to figure out why Brad is working so hard to convince everyone that she needs to be put up on a pedestal.

  51. Norm Ivey

    My two cents worth in respoinse to various postings on this entry. For the record, I am a teacher in the public schools.
    There are no teacher unions in SC. We take the contract the district offers us without bargaining.
    PACT was worthless as an evaluation tool for individual students. It told us that Johnny scored Below Basic in Science and nothing else. Nothing. We had no way of knowing if he couldn’t use process skills, if he doesn’t understand the properties of matter, if he fails to recognize transformations of energy, or if he can’t tell his igneous rocks from his sedimentary deposits. There was absolutely no data provided to the teachers about individual students.
    Test scores measure student performance on a given day. Test scores don’t show health concerns, home life, attitudes toward school/authority/life, learning disabilities, classroom dynamics or a host of other uncontrolled variables. Test scores by teacher wouldn’t tell you much about the teacher, even if you could get them.
    Teachers do not teach to the test. We don’t know what’s on the test. Sit through one of our annual PACT training sessions. We can lose our certificate if we look at the test, discuss questions on the test before/during/after, fail to report inconsistencies (Johnny asked for a pencil without raising his hand), or fail to report other teachers who do these things.
    What we have is our state standards, and we teach to the standards. We must trust that an expert in psychometrics is writing the test based on the same standards that we are using.
    I’m not surprised that a low-performing school still performs poorly even after throwing money and experts at it. The attitudes of the individuals and families must change before performance in such schools will improve. It’s not the teachers’ fault. Put yourself in the shoes of a teacher. You work your a$$ off designing lessons, activites and assessments that are challenging. During the activities you frequently have to pause and redirect those who are off-task (robbing those who need and want your assistance of valuable time). You get back a small percentage of students who meet your expectations. The others offer excuses, feign ignorance, or outright lie to you about their work. Parents challenge your disciplinary measures and grading standards. (I was once told by a parent that asking her child to be quiet during a test didn’t mean she couldn’t talk because I didn’t use the words “don’t talk”.) At the end of the year, if you see the opportunity to work in a district in which more of the students perform better (work harder, get support from their parents, etc.), then you jump on it. If you can’t leave your position, the year takes its toll on you, and the next year you yell a little more and care a little less. In a good school, the same issues exist, just not to the same extent.
    Every teacher I’ve ever known has entered the profession for a love of children, a love of a content, or a sense of duty. All want to succeed. As in all professions, there are some who just are not cut out to be teachers. If they are lucky (and we are lucky), they realize it and leave the profession early. A few hang in there and try to wait out the years. Most of the teachers are qualified, caring, intelligent people who are doing the best they can. Unfortunately, there are many of these great teachers who also leave the profession after only a few years. The leave not because of money–I’ve never heard a teacher tell me they left their position to take a job with better pay. They leave their profession because they are tired of it. They leave because of what they must endure in the classroom. There is a point at which the intangible rewards of teaching no longer outweigh the intangible costs to your physical and mental well-being. Idealism is the first death for many teachers.
    I teach children 70 minutes a day, 180 days a year. Most years, my classes average about 25 students per class (ignore that state average class size–it’s bogus). That’s 2.4 minutes per student per day, or a little over 8 hours per student per year. Factor in the time I spend correcting off-task and disruptive behavior and it’s less. There are days when I don’t even get a chance to talk to some students. I have to trust that they are getting it from the lessons I’ve delivered.
    Here’s the bottom line. Some students succeed because of me, some succeed regardless of me, some succeed in spite of me, some fail in spite of me, and yes, some may even fail because of me–I cannot be everything to every student.
    School is the one place where individuals from every socieconomic status, ability level, cultural background, and morality are thrown together. Every future executive, politician, factory worker, athlete, professional, bum, criminal and killer shares the classroom. Consider what your workplace would be like if it looked the same, and how successful your profession/industry would appear.
    School choice? I’m not entirely opposed to it, but my reasons are selfish. To my way of thinking, it opens up a whole new market for employment for the best teachers. I consider myself a very good teacher (that doesn’t all my students succeed–it means I succeed with many of my students).
    Merit pay? The biggest issue is how do you measure merit. Do you measure it by test scores? Every class is different–if my students who care nothing for school score lower than your students who have been identified as Gifted, that means you get paid more? Do you measure it by performance review? There are other dynamics involved in that approach. I’ve never heard of a merit program that seems equitable. I’d be interested in solutions–I would benefit from a true merit pay program.
    Hmmm. That’s more than two cents worth, but what did you expect from a teacher? A short answer?

  52. p.m.

    Hey, Norm, your monologue passed my test. If my district had a hundred of you, we’d be just fine.
    Unfortunately, what we have doesn’t much resemble you. As the outgoing school board member I replaced told me, “if we could just fire two teachers per school per year, we’d be all right.”
    “Are there qualified applicants to replace them?” I asked.
    “Anything would be better than the ones who would get fired,” he said.

  53. Lee Muller

    There are plenty of retired engineers who could fill all the science and math teaching jobs in the state, especially if they were paid close to the $65,000 of the inferior teachers they would be replacing.

  54. Lee Muller

    No one needs a PhD or Masters to teach public school. Those are bogus degrees, anyway, just paper required to move into administration.
    A lot of retired engineers, or others with technical degrees but put out of work by illegal green card workers, would be happy to replace less qualified public school teachers for $55,000 for 9 months work, with fewer hours a week than the average engineer (56 hours per week in the office).
    Instead of the educrats telling us no one would be interested, why not open up teaching to some competition and find out?

  55. Doug Ross

    I know of many teachers who put in at least 56 hours a week despite the low pay, especially those teachers who are involved in extracurricular activities.
    I also know many more engineers who may sit in the office for 56 hours but produce nothing of value.
    The State does offer a link to the website which lists all salaries over $50K. I’ve looked at that list and see some public school teachers and administrative staff who are underpaid in my opinion. There are cases where an assistant librarian makes $10K more than a high school athletic director – a guy who is probably on campus 60-70 hours a week. Figure that one out.

  56. slugger

    The whole realm of the subject on whether or not our children are getting a quality education seems to have been pretty well covered in the opinion of the bloggers.
    I would like to put one question out there and maybe someone will have a way of solving the problem.
    We seem to have a large portion of students in certain districts in the state that are from one parent homes. The mother either does not work or works on a job that probably only gets the minimum wage so she and the children have to depend of the government to help them out. We are told that there are multiple children by the same mother but the father cannot live in the home with the mother and children or they would not be eligible for assistance. Is this true? How can you correct the educational standards of these children when there is nobody home to help them with the homework? This cycle seems to repeat itself with family after family. Consequently, we have generations of children that never have an education to get a job except for manual labor (which the Mexicans seem to enjoy more than the Afro-Americans).
    We have people that worked in cotton mills all their life and have generations that never got an education to do any meaningful jobs. The owners of these mills did not want the employees to have a education because if they even graduated from high school they would have more sense than to go to work in the cotton mill to begin with.
    So my question to all of you is this: What are you going to do about educating the next generation of these same families?

  57. Davesteen

    Sorry Lee. As soon as I hit post, I knew you would bring that up. I just think it is innate. As in a guiding sense of things.
    I voted for the constitution dude in a protest of what the GOP has allowed itself to become in nominating that cookie-cutting of Big Government Republicans, John McCain.
    But I have confidence in Barack Obama. Give him a chance — & God bless you for it.

  58. Lee Muller

    Engineers who sit around the office and don’t produce can easily be replaced, unlike school teachers who don’t produce.
    The pay and reward system is disconnected from actually production. It is all about getting taking courses, getting degrees, earning National Certification, etc. But I can find no studies correlating all these tripwires for higher pay into better teaching.
    The same thing goes on in universities. I know of 3 professors, 1 at USC and 2 at Clemson, who were selected by the students as the outstanding teachers in the entire university, then dismissed for refusing to earn a PhD or to publish a book.

  59. Lee Muller

    “I teach children 70 minutes a day, 180 days a year. Most years, my classes average about 25 students per class (ignore that state average class size–it’s bogus). That’s 2.4 minutes per student per day, or a little over 8 hours per student per year.” – Norm Ivey
    Hopefully, you are teaching all your 25 students simultaneously, rather than tutoring them one-at-a-time. If so, they are each receiving 70×180 = 12,600 minutes of instruction, or 210 hours.
    That still seems rather skimpy.
    When I was in school, I received at least 4 hours of solid instruction a day, or 240 minutes, times 180 days = 720 hours of instruction. Given other class time, it was more like 6 hours x 180 days = 1,080 hours of instruction.
    Maybe that’s why I and my classmates are better-educated than most students today.

  60. Brad Warthen

    Here’s something I failed to notice until today. You know how I mentioned that Inez was on the short list of five moved by AP late in November, but then she was NOT on the updated version they moved on Dec. 4?

    Well, on Dec. 8, the day AFTER my column (when I was no longer checking) they sent it out with Inez on a short list of four, as follows:

    Arne Duncan, chief executive officer of Chicago public schools.
    Linda Darling-Hammond, education professor at Stanford University.
    Jon Schnur, founder and CEO of New Leaders for New Schools.
    Inez Tenenbaum, former South Carolina schools superintendent.

    But then, that’s about the time they moved that idiotic story that said she’d be one of the favorites of the teacher unions, so what does AP know?

    Bottom line: It’s still probably between Inez and Arne Duncan, with Duncan having the edge.

  61. Norm Ivey

    Of course I use whole-class instruction some of the time. I was trying to share some of the limitations of what we do. The 70 minutes are just science–they have 70 minutes in each of their core classes, plus 100 minutes divided between two co-curricular classes. The numbers are from my school. Districts and schools arrange their own schedule. Our school delivers 6.5 hours of instruction per day.
    The fact is (and I mentioned this) some students do quite well without any additional help from me (or in spite of me, I say with humility). Others require significant personal attention, and given class sizes and other constraints, I am unable to always give them everything they need to be successful. That doesn’t make me or any other educator a poor teacher. It is simply a manifestation of our system’s and our own limitations. Students are not the same as when you and I went to school, and we cannot change them so that they will ever be that way again. (I am assuming you attended public schools–did you grow up in SC?) They are not even the same as they were when I began teaching 19 years ago.
    There are many, many students who graduate from SC public schools who are every bit as well-educated as you and me, and even better. My main point is that the greatest obstacles are not the teachers or schools. It’s more an issue of our state’s social history, and the attitudes of families and individuals towards education. Of course there are some poor teachers in some of our schools, but they are far fewer than many believe.

  62. Lee Muller

    The students you cannot educate with any amount of teaching effort most likely do not have families.
    I actually know that there are lots more good teachers today than in the 1970s, when schools were integrated and it was politically impossible to fire the inferior black teachers, who are all retired now.
    I have made the point before that Hand Middle School and Dreher High School are among the top schools in the nation. Hand was named THE best public school just a few years ago. Hand feeds Dreher, and Dreher turns out lots of National Merit Finalists, and SAT scores above 1400.
    Yet, in those excellent schools, a huge number of students, mostly black, refuse to take advantage of the educational opportunities, loaf along to a bare minimum diploma, drop out, or get expelled. Coddling them with more taxpayer dollars will do nothing but enrich some worthless administrators and consultants.
    If the so-called “black leaders” are not going to clean up their social mess, their white liberal enablers certainly won’t. It’s time to consider getting rid of this dead wood and just tell them to prepare to be manual laborers. The welfare party is over.

  63. Norm Ivey

    I agree with you that some students (but not large numbers) don’t take advantage of their opportunities. I disagree with you about your characterization of African-American students.
    I think we are agreeing on another point–that in most cases teachers are not the problem. Replacing teachers won’t improve SC’s standings in national rankings of educational performance.

  64. Lee Muller

    WHY do you disagree with my “characterization of black students”, as not taking advantage of wonderful educational opportunities provided them, mostly without cost to them, by the parents of their white classmates?
    Have you ever set foot in an urban school like Hand or Dreher?
    What is your theory to excuse the sorry lack of achievement by black students in the same schools which send dozens of white and non-white graduates to the most elite private colleges in America, and to public universities on full scholarships?
    If teachers are not the problem, and replacing them is not the solution, you are really discounting them as a factor in education.

  65. Rhett

    Actually, Inez Tenenbaum changed South Carolina’s public education system and as a high school student who is active in politics and debating policy – we students thank her for the achievements she made to this state.


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