Last week, News 2 did a story on a $1,200-a-day consultant the district was using to improve high school instruction and student performance. The story apparently omitted explanations by the district regarding exactly what consultant Sandy Brossard does. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the district feels that information was intentionally left out (though, being a newsguy, I usually side with error over conspiracy when we get things wrong).

For instance, district spokesman Elliot Smalley attached the information below in a response to my questions last week and I didn’t see it until I came in this morning.

There are a WIDE RANGE OF SERVICES provided by the company, per the Statement of Work, including the following (much of which falls outside the day spent on-site):

•    Professional development on effective instruction strategies and developing effective assessments based on instructional reviews.

•    Assisting the school with planning, using data for improvement, implementation of the Charleston Achieving Excellence plan, correlating the efforts of HSTW and MMGW, School Improvement Planning and accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

•    Working with principals, assistant principals, and others to build the capacity to sustain school improvement efforts.  Helping the school plan and coordinate focused, quality professional development in which effective teaching strategies are modeled.

•    Providing professional development training to teachers as requested by the principals.  Helping faculty with follow-up activities to maximize professional development through classroom observation and feedback through additional training as arranged by the school principals.  Helping schools identify curriculum materials and products that will further their instructional effort and that support the District’s Coherent Curriculum.

CLEAR RESULTS

•    With the help of Sandy’s company and through implementation of the broader HSTW framework, CCSD high schools posted an ELEVEN point gain in graduation rate this year, the FIRST increase in five years and the highest rate in four years.

•    ACT scores were the highest on record, outpacing the state for the first time.

•    AP Exams were the highest on record, even with a record number of students taking the exam.

•    The majority of the schools that posted the highest gains in graduation rate this year—for example, West Ashley, a 15-point jump, Burke High, a 22 point jump!—are those that work directly with Sandy’s company.

I think what is difficult for most people, and obviously for News 2, is the price tag. That is just a lot of money when we’re talking about losing some services because of spending cuts. On the other hand, it seems like so much attention is paid to early education and starting kids on the right track that we sometimes forget that there are students in the system now who desperately need a liferaft. If this lady is it, more power to her and she’s worth every penny. We’re just not sold yet.