Letter-to-the Editor: A Response to Hard Shilling for the School System’s Digital Initiative

Posted: May 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

by Rowan Free Press

Will McCubbins, Granite Quarry

♦ This latest hard sell campaign by the school system comes as no small surprise for readers who witnessed the Salisbury Post’s various over-the-top shilling for the school system and the City. You know the failed 329 S. Main Taj Mahal campaign and the Fibrant Fiasco that left the Salisbury toasted. In Monday’s Post Mr. Todd Stiller’s “My Turn” about new school system’s digital initiative did nothing to advance the cause. He presented a case based on “name dropping”, “bandwagon effect”, and a lack of any factual information.

The first of his many errors was to compare a fairly wealthy bedroom community (Mooresville) possessing upscale demographics with Salisbury and its immense 28% poverty and large numbers of illiterate kids from broken single parent homes. The demographics are completely different between Mooresville and destitute Salisbury, already hailed across the United States as the 5th ranked city with soaring 28% poverty. The census said loud and clear that 28% here struggle with poverty. The county, surrounding Salisbury, while nowhere as poor and as academically backward as its county seat, is not the equal to prosperous Mooresville, N.C. That’s where many better-off Salisbury residents are now living.

Stiller starts his attack on Karen C. Lilly-Bowyer, by writing “The letter from Karen C. Lilly-Bowyer in the Post on May 18 started with a paragraph that is factually false. Logically, the suppositions that follow it are too.” Then goes on to claim: “The 1:1 Technology Plan is without a doubt, a proven strategy for improving student learning, comprehension and test scores. Here are the facts…Every school within the Mooresville Graded School System has been recognized by the state as a School of Distinction. Every single one.”

Ok–Stiller claims the 1:1 Technology Plan is without a doubt, a proven strategy for improving student learning, comprehension, and test scores. Yet he offers ZERO proof it would work with Rowan-Salisbury’s “school lunch kids”–those really poor kids from broken homes–the kids really needing help with literacy. There’s lots of kids in the school system that bring composite scores way down especially in Salisbury. Mooresville doesn’t have much in the way of deficient students who are troubled by the inability to read and write. Rowan-Salisbury schools, especially in Salisbury, has human waves of school lunchers.

Stiller boasts: “They (Mooresville) are one of only six out of a total of 115 school districts in the entire state of North Carolina to achieve 54 out of 54 District AYP Goals…Their composite score on all North Carolina EOC and EOG tests has them tied for fourth highest in the state. All indications are that they will soon be number one. They must be doing something right.”

Stiller’s claim that “All indications are that they will soon be number one” is nothing more than conjecture. And then he tries to impress us by using the “bandwagon effect” on the reader: “Not only are visitors coming from all over North Carolina to see how the program is done, they are coming from all over the United States. These visitors include school district personnel from the North Carolina counties of Alexander, Burke, Moore, Randolph, Wake and Watauga; and from the states of Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin; and even from as far away as Canada. This is an abbreviated list. Mooresville Graded School District is so busy now with visitor requests to see their successful program that they have to manage it with a waiting list.”

By chance are Apple sales reps steering all these “visitors” to Mooresville to sell them on buying into this extremely expensive program? Just asking.

Now immediately after wowing us with “bandwagon effect” Stiller employs “name dropping” to shill the digital initiative. He writes: “The district’s success has been written about by Apple, Cisco, PBS, Educational Leadership Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Rowan is exceptionally fortunate to have this resource right in our own backyard.”

Good Grief it sounds like they are selling Fibrant to the “unenlightened” again. Moody’s informed us where that went.

Then Stiller maintains: “As far as per pupil spending goes, the Mooresville Graded School District is 101 out of 115 in the state. They spent less than 100 other school districts in the entire state. It is exceedingly obvious that the Mooresville Graded School District is getting top ranked student performance for less money than 87 percent of all school districts in the state.”

So what? The huge deficiencies in Rowan Salisbury Schools have nothing to do with money flowing into the schools (especially into the top heavy administration). It’s got everything to do with our abundance of “school lunch children”. Those are the children in need of being helped to overcome illiteracy. Mooresville, being a wealthy bedroom community, doesn’t have the kinds of academic problems Rowan-Salisbury Schools are being drowned by.

Stiller writes: “Dr. Lynn Moody’s presentation states clearly that no new money is required. The money is already in the budget.”

I hate to be dismissive, but it’s still taxpayer money that will likely be frivolously wasted on a yet unproven to work with disadvantaged children struggling with literacy. A wealthy bed room community like Mooresville isn’t like poverty ridden Salisbury or the rest of the county.

Stiller goes way off the deep end with this conjecture as to why Mrs. Lilly-Bowyer opposes the school system’s digital initiative: “Mrs. Lilly-Bowyer cites “numerous articles from educational journals” with just one that “suggests that teachers should be trained in digital instruction for at least one year before the program begins.” It sounds suspiciously like she has been listening to complaints from some not yet retired teacher peers who have a fear of learning anything new.”

WHAT?

Then Stiller ramps up his shilling for the program just like we heard repeatedly for the Taj Mahal at 329 S. Main and the Fibrant Fiasco: “This is in direct opposition to the world our children are growing up in. Like it or not, the computer age is here to stay. Even today’s ditch diggers use digital devices to determine where, what length and what depth to dig the ditch…The fact that Rowan’s test scores are significantly below the state average is the very reason that we need this program now. RIGHT NOW. Coddling personnel that are unwilling to embrace positive change is an especially weak argument for putting off one more moment implementing this program that is crucial for the benefit of all of Rowan County’s children and the community we all live in…Instead of sitting on the sidelines criticizing and making dubious comparisons, lend your talents as an educator to make this important initiative happen for all of Rowan County.”

For the Kids? Or to line somebody’s pockets Salisbury style? Hey how about all those iPads that got former Superintendent Grissom her BIG Apple award in Houston at great taxpayer expense? Are all those iPads still sitting around in Rowan-Salisbury School Warehouses? Just asking.

The bigger question is can such a computer initiative help the kids who really need help–the school lunch kids with literacy obstacles. That question hasn’t been answered.

Here’s a little reminder from a university study:

“Home computer use was related to superior achievement for students enrolled in advanced courses but was not a significant factor for students who were not.”

A study entitled: “Technology and Quality of Education: Does Technology Help Low-income and Minority Students in Their Academic Achievements:

http://illinoisjltp.com/journal/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/anderson-du.pdf

Rowan Free Press | May 27, 2014 at 3:07 am | Categories: Articles | URL: http://wp.me/p2ddCS-3E2

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