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Roberson tells school board that reforming failing schools won't be easy or quick

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To reform failing schools in Richmond County and pull test scores up from single-digit passing rates, Superintendent Frank Roberson said, an overhaul will take two to three years.

At their retreat Friday, members of the Richmond County Board of Education discussed bringing test scores up.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
At their retreat Friday, members of the Richmond County Board of Education discussed bringing test scores up.

“If I had it in my ability to change this within a month, that’s what I would come to you with,” Roberson told the Richmond County Board of Education at its fall retreat Friday. “I’m being realistic. We’ve got to systematically change behavior and teaching practices.”

On Friday, the board discussed “pitiful” 2012 test scores and permanent improvements. Roberson said it will take a process to change the long pattern of poor performance in Augusta, but board members said they were not willing to wait.

“It’s pitiful,” board member Frank Dolan said. “Something’s wrong somewhere. Whatever we’ve been doing is wrong. I don’t know what your plan is to dramatically shake the bag. If we need to fire all the teachers, I don’t know.”

Board members saw a color-coded chart of 2012 test scores for all schools. Every Richmond County middle school was shaded yellow in the social studies column, indicating less than 50 percent of students passed that subject.

Yellow filled the columns in math for every high school except for the two magnet schools.

The majority of elementary schools had less than 70 percent of students pass math, science and social studies, with many below 50 percent passing.

“This is something that’s really been going on the whole time I’ve been on this board,” said 12-year veteran Helen Minchew. “It’s just been a constant struggle. People are just wondering what is going on with us. We can’t just wait another two years or so. We have to get our act together. We have run out of time. We need an aggressive plan.”

Roberson said the problem with Richmond County student achievement is a combination of factors. He said the focus this year will be training teachers to give more attention to skills students are lacking. He also said communities and families must take a stronger role in education at home.

Last year, the district started administering 15-day assessments so teachers could see where each student is struggling and making progress every other week. Board member Patsy Scott said, however, that many principals she has talked to are not forcing their teachers to do them consistently. +

The district has used millions in grant money for professional learning for instructors, but teachers often have to be pulled out of class in the middle of the day to participate in the training. Classes are filled with substitute teachers, which board member Jimmy Atkins said is hurting students.

Missoura Ashe, the executive director for elementary schools, also said she sees several challenges affect teachers and student learning when she conducts classroom visits.

“Teachers are dealing with discipline problems, so the teaching goes lacking.” Ashe said, adding that teachers who administer the 15-day assessments sometimes don’t have the training to use the results effectively.

Schools also lack the money to hire full-time instructional coaches, and some are dealing with “ineffective teachers,” Ashe said.

Flaws in the employee evaluation process are now causing problems for administrators in dealing with these ineffective teachers, according to school board attorney Pete Fletcher.

Some principals are not giving teachers honest enough ratings so as to keep peace in the schools, and when teachers are later identified as ineffective, Fletcher can’t terminate them because they have been receiving positive evaluations.

Ashe couldn’t estimate the number of ineffective teachers, but she said she can recognize the faults while on classroom visits. Some principals put teachers on professional development plans to improve, but that doesn’t always work, she said.

Virginia Bradshaw, the executive director for middle schools, also said struggling students need more intensive help if the district wants to see tangible changes in test scores.

“If we could have year-round schools, I’d have year-round schools tomorrow,” Bradshaw said.

In the high schools, where more than half the students at each school failed math, there is a lot of teacher turnover, said Lynn Warr, the executive director for high schools.

This summer there were 20 teaching vacancies in high school math departments, and the school year started with about five positions left to fill, Warr said. High turnover has been a constant problem over the years, she said.

Roberson said reform is possible, but it won’t be quick. Educators are dealing with human beings, not machines, so change can not come instantly, he said. The plan is to implement more teacher training and reach out to communities to have more involvement in student achievement.

Roberson said he understands the desire for immediate change, but it’s not easy.

“I want to see the change happen now, but when you’re dealing with so many dynamics you can’t necessarily control, you have to learn how to manage it,” he said. “We are going to get this done. I just want to be realistic.”

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dichotomy
36202
Points
dichotomy 08/17/12 - 07:08 pm
7
1
Oh, it could be turned around

Oh, it could be turned around quicker than you think but there would be some gnashing of teeth and hair pulling in the teacher community and the parent community. Some firings, some paddlings, and some permanent expulsions with NO opportunity to attend Tubman Criminal School. Tubman would go away as an alternative school because there would NO ALTERNATIVE to behaving in class except going home for the rest of the year. The parents can figure out what to do with them until they start the same grade again next year.

Fixing the schools is nothing but common sense but somehow we have seem to want to make it more complicated than it really is. I figure firing about half of the teachers and expelling about half of the students the first year would send a message that we will not put up with lazy, unqualified teachers and we will not put up with I smidgen of disruption in the classroom from any student. And any principal, assistant principal, or superintendent who could not enforce the standards could go look for another place to work too.

So Mr. and Mrs. School Board....quit looking for miracle working superintendents and magic new "programs" with catchy names and acronyms and try some god given common sense and old school values that worked for 200 years.

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 08/17/12 - 07:14 pm
0
0
Discipline, efficiency, committment...
Unpublished

do require WORK. Great accomplishments do not come by "talking them to death". Anything worth doing is worth doing right. We learned that in RC public schools. But that was six decades ago and we had Roy Rollins and Bernie Ward, Sr.

dichotomy
36202
Points
dichotomy 08/17/12 - 07:32 pm
7
0
Or.....you could just do what

Or.....you could just do what you usually do.......raise our taxes, build another shiny new school or two........look for another magic black superintendent.....and pat yourselves on the back while telling each other that you've done great things for our kids' education.

Meanwhile, back at the funny farm, the test scores show the fallacy of your leadership, your policies, and the dismal performance of the people who YOU hire and who WE pay.

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 08/17/12 - 08:04 pm
7
0
Close Tubman

I'm with Dichotomy. Get the truant students out of the schools and onto the streets. No "alternative" school. Follow the rules, obey the teacher, don't touch other students; or you are permanently expelled.

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 08/17/12 - 08:44 pm
5
0
Upper Echelon

Tracey McManus reported:

“This is something that’s really been going on the whole time I’ve been on this board,” said 12-year veteran Helen Minchew.

Well, Helen, for those twelve years on the board you have tolerated the milquetoast explanations and excuses of Virginia Bradshaw and Missoura Ashe. Why don't you start by firing them and replacing them with people outside the system?

it does take a village
23
Points
it does take a village 08/17/12 - 09:21 pm
5
3
Dr. Roberson is correct! The

Dr. Roberson is correct! The changes that are necessary for Richmond County to be successful cannot be implemented over night. There is no quick fix for the years of absolute failure that has been accepted and subsequently propagated by the people who run the schools.

Stop all the talk of firing everyone, of firing anyone for that matter.

START talking about how the PARENTS of Richmond County students can get INVOLVED in their CHILD'S education and become a proponent of education, as opposed to someone who allows the attitude of complacency to rule their life. EDUCATION starts in the HOME. What the children learn at home comes with them to school. If a child has no respect for authority then the child will not learn anything from a teacher. He or she will constantly disrupt and in turn prevent his or her classmates from learning the knowledge necessary to be successful in future classes.

Yes, the Board has been complacent and happy to "go with the flow". Now that the problems are REAL, everyone wants to place blame. Stop blaming and start getting involved. Why doesn't every parent who is upset with their child's educational setting begin with going to school for a day. VOLUNTEER TO HELP OUT. Purposefully take the time out of your busy work schedule to put the needs of your child and his or her school FIRST. Teach your children manners, courtesy, common sense and respect.

I registered my child at a middle school in Richmond County this year. I went to school with my child on the first day. The way the kids talk to each other, using words I don't believe my own child knows yet, is appalling. As far as I can tell, the teachers are fighting to save these kids during the hours they are in school. Their fight is for naught if these kids go home every night to an environment that is completely devoid of the things they work to instill all day.

As for my child, I will be moving to Columbia County and transferring schools.

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 08/17/12 - 09:28 pm
4
0
Smart Move

Your last sentence shows intelligence and a good analytical mind. Best wishes in the better-performing school system. Still, be on guard in Columbia County schools. There is much underground mischief going on.

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 08/17/12 - 09:29 pm
7
0
1. Allow students to quit

1. Allow students to quit school if they want.

2. Expell students who don't behave and study.

3. Channel students to the technical school who are not cut out for academics.

4. Emphasize mentoring programs.

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 08/17/12 - 09:44 pm
4
0
Good start, RM

But allowing students to quit school if they want applies only to students 16 years old and older.

The problem lies with the younger children who cannot quit school on their own. The school system must make truant children quit by expelling them. These "alternative" schools must be shut down. They might as well not even have rules or policies if they will not expel students who are truant and delinquent.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/17/12 - 09:57 pm
1
3
Expelling without an
Unpublished

Expelling without an alternative and allowing them to quit are both the wrong answers...according to studies. And too many who are "sentenced" to alternative school don't need to be there. Mechansims to hold them in the fold and toe the line comprise the strategy..even if it means slamming some of them up
againist a concrete block wall. Of course, if there are ineffective or incompetent teachers that needs to be handled at the same time.

KSL
139897
Points
KSL 08/17/12 - 09:56 pm
6
0
It starts with discipline,

It starts with discipline, which should start at home before the kids get to school. Too often it doesn't start at home. In that case, there should be no tolerance of any type of misbehaving at school or on school grounds at any time.

KSL
139897
Points
KSL 08/17/12 - 09:59 pm
6
0
Next, go after irresponsible

Next, go after irresponsible parents.

willie7
1047
Points
willie7 08/17/12 - 10:09 pm
2
4
What is needed is more
Unpublished

What is needed is more creative teachers to work with the type of students presently enrolled.Many of the students aren't self-motivated and come from homes where little value is placed on education. Therefore,they need skillful , creative, motivating, and verbalizing, teachers.
The problem is: can we find those special special teachers with the present conditions existing?

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 08/17/12 - 10:18 pm
3
1
No, KSL

Frank Roberson does not have the legal authority to "go after" irresponsible parents. He does have the authority to expel students who disobey teachers instructions, touch other students against their wishes, disrupt the learning process with verbal exchanges, etc.

Get the truants out of the system. Put them on the streets.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/17/12 - 10:24 pm
2
4
Then, LL, you'll be
Unpublished

Then, LL, you'll be complaining that they are on the streets! Maybe you could get out for behind your computer and meet the real world or maybe volunteer to assist in the effort.
Willie7 pretty much nailed it.

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 08/17/12 - 10:55 pm
5
1
We don't need more creative

We don't need more creative teachers or new schools. Put these bad thug wanna be kids to the streets. There nothing but a distraction. You can't teach those that refuse to learn.

YeCats
11579
Points
YeCats 08/17/12 - 11:42 pm
4
1
Dr. Roberson is a great

Dr. Roberson is a great leader, yet his hands are tied. I don't think he would go this route, but....

For this school system to get back on track, it must go back to the basics. Order MUST be restored in the classroom. Corporal punishment, with the parent(s) permission, is just the beginning. If the little darling's parent(s) will not sign off, and punishment is required, then the student is expelled. Repeat offenders can't stay. Education is the reason, and the conduct grade is upmost!

Teachers must demand order in the classroom. Move the clowns out of your classrooms. Your grade averages will have to improve then, or you are on the way out.

School Boards, PTA, teachers, and students should join together in one common goal. Order is the key to unshackling the bonds that stupidity has created, and flourishes in. Consider the children, who come to school, who want to learn! They must be placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and last!

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 08/18/12 - 04:02 am
6
0
School is a Privilege

The law that keeps kids in school no matter what until they are 16 is not thought out well. School is a place to learn, a privilege, not a place to keep disinterested kids as a punishment. Making disinterested kids stay in school is detrimental to the kids trying to learn.

I grew up attending SC schools and you would find yourself out if you weren't trying and behaving. Like I said channel those who will behave and not cut out for academics to technical schools, mentor those who are trying, but let the others not cut out for school quit. They will be happier and possbily do better finding their niche in life "the other way" using their early years to learn a trade by working. The whole system will be better off.

CobaltGeorge
170231
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/18/12 - 05:15 am
1
1
Many Good Comment Solutions to the Problem

but,
dichotomy 08:08 pm is the closest to the real way of handling it.

"it does take a village" comes in second - but Sorry, that will never happen in today's parental times with the mentality of letting someone else take care of my problems and then yell and complaining when they do.

agustinian
721
Points
agustinian 08/18/12 - 05:50 am
2
0
Teachers / Environment / Home life

Richmond County should run a test, to see if they can put a finger on the problem.
1. Ask a high performing school in Columbia county to enter into a teacher exchange program for an academic year (with one to five teachers) and see if it makes a measurable difference in test performance.
2. Ask a high performing school in Columbia county to enter into a student exchange program with low performing students (five to ten) and see if the students scores improve over the academic year vs. their peers in Richmond County.
3. If scores don't improve in both #1 and #2 you are left with one inescapable conclusion, the children's home life in Richmond county is NOT conducive to education. The program then should be a commitment to have parents come to school, come to teacher conferences, etc. If they won't participate with their child, then Richmond county can throw all the programs and money they want at the problem and it won't change a thing -- it is like pushing a wet string through a straw -- you need someone pulling on the string from the other end to make it happen.

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 08/18/12 - 05:58 am
0
0
Pitiful is correct. Worthy of pity.
Unpublished

All students must be in an institution of learning 180 days a year to support the bureaucracy that is 21 century public education. The buildings, teachers, administrators, boards, advisers, the helpers, the staff, the BOE, the security force, etc.

And because it is about MONEY, the last and always last on the budget is providing the children with a "basic life functional education".

Just look at the local "so called leadership" produced by local education. "I've been here twelve years and nothing productive has been done". Sounds like a match for time spent in an ARC school.

seenitB4
93491
Points
seenitB4 08/18/12 - 06:20 am
3
0
Gotta stop fooling around

Serious subject

The majority of elementary schools had less than 70 percent of students pass math, science and social studies, with many below 50 percent passing.

This is sad for Richmond county.....the teachers face discipline problems with students all day & the teaching goes lacking.....is what the article says....you can't blame this all on the teachers...now can you.....what are the parents doing with the rest of the day....

CobaltGeorge
170231
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/18/12 - 06:21 am
1
1
willie7, Have question,

Don't Genes get passed down, from generation to generation?

"Many of the students aren't self-motivated and come from homes where little value is placed on education. Therefore,they need skillful , creative, motivating, and verbalizing, teachers".

Don't some of those same type students become TEACHERS?

seenitB4
93491
Points
seenitB4 08/18/12 - 06:24 am
3
0
Just think now

What worked with us .....spanking & swatting the behind .....if I misbehaved in school I knew what was waiting for me at home....say what you will......they did it right......we turned out ok...

CobaltGeorge
170231
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/18/12 - 06:58 am
3
2
Grand Girl

will start 1st grade in a private school Monday. She has spent many hours in the past 2 years being taught Math, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies by using the "I Know It Books. She has mastered the 1 and 2 grade level books and is moving into the 3rd grade ones.

It has been instilled in her from the beginning to have the following goals, be the top of the class, have respect for her teacher and follow classmates and act like a lady. She knows that her next 16+ years of her life is to be the "Best You Can". I only wish I had 16 more years to insure that it would come true.

Educating our young children today in the school system that we have and the way it is, is the final bullet that will destroy future America.

Please bring back Common Sense, put a blind fold on Political Correctness and place it in front of a firing squad.

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 08/18/12 - 07:12 am
2
0
Augustinian, that study has

Augustinian, that study has been done. The district with the wealthiest families will have the best performing students and usually pay less per pupil. Figuring out how to get around that fact is the problem.

CobaltGeorge
170231
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/18/12 - 07:26 am
3
1
I see

nobody agrees with my assessment on education. OK

RM1, I partically disagree. Wealth does not have anything to do with time and effort spent on the upbringing of our children. I know what you are trying to say but support of a student does not need dollars. A one room school house, a dedicated teacher and some non-PC common sense can produce some real intelligence students.

CobaltGeorge
170231
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/18/12 - 07:29 am
0
0
Where am I wrong.

Can someone tell me?

seenitB4
93491
Points
seenitB4 08/18/12 - 07:36 am
2
0
I see what you are saying Cgee

You are proof that spending time with the child outside of school hours makes a big difference....teaching respect from an early age.....ALL of that matters....I also agree that a child can learn in a 1 room school room.....but the stats will show....money helps a child in EXTRA benefits.....such as clothing-more reading materials--learning tools at home---company the adults keep (such as very intelligent friends).....kids learn daily juat watching adults ......they pick up speech patterns--ideas--interests & etc.... books in the home.

seenitB4
93491
Points
seenitB4 08/18/12 - 07:48 am
1
0
Also

A hungry belly & a shivering child won't learn at the same rate as a well nourished & warm child...
Sad...but we do have hungry kids in school...some make it in spite of that.....amazing.

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