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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Decreased Social Studies & Science In Pickens County Schools?

Did you know that instructional time in Social Studies and Science has been DECREASED at Getty’s Middle School in the School District of Pickens County?

A concerned parent who wishes to remain anonymous contacted me and shared :

“Hi Johnnelle,
I am very concerned on the class size increase and reduction of instructional time at Getty’s Middle School. Gettys has Science classes with as many as 34 students in them. Another concern is that enough time is not being held for Science and Social Studies classes. Students are on an A day and B day schedule and meet for 88 minutes every other day. In the 88 minute classes there is a required 10 minute break for bathroom in each class thus meaning they are only getting 78 minutes of instruction during Science and Social Studies.  

The explanation on the scheduling was given that it was since Math and English are state mandated tests and Social Studies and Science are no longer tested they need to raise Math and English scores. Last year Science and social Studies classes were every day for 70 minutes. Students see Math and English teachers EVERY day and there is a much smaller class size. They have doubled the amount of English and Math teachers this year at GMS for 8th grade alone and reduced the Social Studies and Science for 8th grade by 2 positions each.”
So I emailed John Eby the Communication Coordinator for Pickens County’s School District to verify this information. 

His reply was:
Some of the information in your email is accurate, some is not, and all of it requires context.

With regard to the question you typed in all caps: our middle and high school class schedules are set by the principals and not dictated by the district office, so some are similar to GMS and some are not.

With regard to the size of classes: the state limit for middle school class size is 35. For many years, GMS has created classes of honors-level or higher-performing students, who tend to be more engaged and less disruptive, with more than 30 students in order to lower class sizes for lower-performing or at-risk students who need more individualized attention. This has been the practice across all subjects, not just science and social studies.

With regard to the time allotment for science and social studies vs. math and English: The change in class times you described was put in place this year for 8th grade, and was already in place for this cohort of students last year in 7th grade.

With regard to staffing: the staffing allotments for those subjects was reduced from 4 to 2.5 (reduction of 1.5, not 2).

Context: the reduction in time is only for the required basic science and social studies courses, and does not take into account the aggressive expansion of science-related elective courses, such as the Project Lead the Way STEM program, in which a full 50 percent of GMS’ student body is enrolled, which is led by Dr. Nicole Yemothy, SDPC’s new Teacher of the Year, and which has earned the school the recognition of being a Project Lead the Way School of Distinction.
John Eby
School District of Pickens County
Coordinator of Communication

I then emailed Eby back and asked:
“So what about the other 50% who are not enrolled in Project Lead The Way? Is there a SC mandated minimum instructional time in Science and Social Studies for middle grade students? “
Eby replied,

“GMS meets the SC minimum for instructional time in those subjects.” ( please note, Eby did not tell me what that minimum time required actually is.) 

So then I emailed Ryan Brown, Chief Communications Officer at the S.C. Dept of Education and asked about mandated minimum instructional time in Science and So iCal Studies for middle grade students.

Brown replied,
“Ms. Raines,
The State Board of Education nor the State Superintendent of Education regulate the number of minutes required for each subject area. This decision can be a district wide policy for every school or it may be different for individual schools within the district. The block vs. traditional schedule plays a role in this as well.
We have not seen or been alerted to any cuts in time allocated for Science, Social Studies, Music, Arts, and other subjects that do not have a state mandated test associated with them.
State Board of Education Regulation 43-232 sets the minimum hours of instruction for various subject areas.

Please find the regulation here - ( it states a minimum of 1800 minutes total or 30hours per week for the school year and includes the subjects English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Health/PE... etc.)

Therefore it seems as if it is entirely up to the School District how much time is spent on any individual subject as long as the total when added up equals 1800 minutes or 30 hours per week with SCDE approval. 

But... here’s the point... SDPC has NOT “alerted” SCDE about their cut in instructional time.
As a parent are you concerned that GMS has increased class load in Social Studies and Science as well as decreasing instructional time in those subjects?

Are Social Studies and Science being considered less important ? 
I did a little research and it seems there is a trend in reducing instructional time in those subjects in order to score better on mandated English and Math tests. As well as a trend in not following mandated instructional minimum times...See here:

Is this happening in your child’s middle school? Are parents even told there has been a decrease in instructional time in other subjects in order to focus on scoring better on English and Math mandated test results? 

Isn’t the focus of quality education supposed to be on a well rounded education of being College/Career Ready? Do students not need to be proficient at anything except English and Math? Is the focus of a quality education solely on scoring well on standardized tests?

If you are a concerned parent at GMS about this issue please contact: 
John Eby 
School District of Pickens County
Coordinator of Communication
(864) 397-1045, Office
(864) 380-3900, Cell
Principal Mike Cory 
Getty’s Middle School
(864) 397-3900

If you think this may be happening at your S.C. child’s school contact your own child’s Principal or School District and ask. 
Johnnelle Raines
United States Parents Involved In Education Board Member

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