by Paul Bowers
In working on this week's news feature about ousted Charleston County School District Superintendent Nancy McGinley, we built a spreadsheet out of all the district performance data we could find from the years 2007-2014. We wanted to answer this question: Is CCSD better off or worse off after McGinley's seven years in office?
Of course, it's wrong to attribute all successes or failures to McGinley, but we wanted to paint as vivid a picture of the district as possible and let you be the judge. If you're interested in diving into the numbers yourself, click here to take a look at the Google spreadsheet we built, and be sure to click on the tabs at the bottom to see how we built the graphs. (A note: The spreadsheet is locked for editing, so you'll have to make a copy if you want to generate your own charts or add data.)
Here are a few graphs that we weren't able to include in the print edition:
1. Some discipline problems are down.
One of the statistics that the state Department of Education tracks for school districts every year is the percentage of students who receive out-of-school suspensions or expulsions for violent or criminal offenses. Reducing out-of-school suspensions has been a stated goal of McGinley and the principals at some schools with a history of behavior problems, and McGinley recently promised the Charleston Area Justice Ministry she would have staff conduct audits of the 10 district schools with the highest suspension rates. Here's the change from 2007 to 2014:
2. Teachers gave McGinley mixed reviews.
Teacher surveys conducted by the Charleston Teacher Alliance showed that teacher support for McGinley dropped off in 2013 but returned to 2007 levels in 2014. This chart shows the percentage of surveyed teachers each year who agreed with the statement that McGinley was "an effective leader":
However, teachers gave McGinley less positive reviews in other areas. In 2014, 43 percent of teachers agreed with the statement "The Superintendent seeks teachers' input before making important decisions," and 37 percent agreed with the statement "The superintendent has done a good job eliminating personnel, programs, and other spending that was not essential for classroom success."
3. Enrollment in advanced courses is way up.
We haven't heard anybody trumpeting this statistic yet, but enrollment in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs shot up during the McGinley years:
4. The Vision 2016 goals were pie in the sky.
Back in 2011, McGinley championed the Vision 2016 program, which set some ambitious goals for improvement on the standardized Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS). As you can see in these charts, prospects do not look good for the district to meet its goals by 2016 on the English/Language Arts (ELA) and Math sections:
5. Graduation rates are up, and racial gaps are down.
Graduation rates increased from 2007 to 2014 in all subsets, including students who received subsidized meals (the only indicator of family socioeconomic status on state report cards).
Reports cards for the county did not include subset graduation rate data for 2011. Also, as you can see, the rates dropped off in 2010. This was at least partly because the state switched from reporting a graduation rate to reporting a stricter four-year cohort graduation rate*.
Anyway, here's a chart showing the gaps in graduation rates between white students and their minority peers, and also between the overall graduation rate and the rate for students receiving subsidized meals:
6. Enrollment basically kept up with population growth.
McGinley and the district made a push to boost enrollment in the district (you may recall the "GO PUBLIC!" bumper stickers that showed up on people's cars in recent years), and while the total number of students did increase, it stayed steady if you look at enrollment as a percentage of Charleston County's Census-estimated population over the years:
7. The district opened more magnet schools.
From 2007 to 2014, the district added 15 magnet and partial magnet schools, arriving at a total of 27:
*Contacted via e-mail, district spokesperson Erica Taylor gave the following definitions for the two graduation rate formulas:
"The old formula used the number of students that graduated during a given year as the numerator, and the denominator was the number of students that graduated and the number of students that dropped out. This means that students who do not graduate on-time (e.g., they graduated in five years instead of four) do not count against the school ... The new formula defines the students' cohort when the student first becomes a freshman and the rate is calculated using the number of students that graduate within four years, adjusting for transfer in and out." Many states saw a drop in their graduation rate when they switched to the new formula.