(reporter) If you pick up a newspaper, if you watch TV you hear that the American education system is in crisis, it's broken, it's failing.
Is that really true?
(Ms. Mahn) Today we're taking the MAP test, and the information that we get helps us determine where we need to go.
Now how many of y'all are going to work?
How many of y'all are going to make yourselves proud?
And if your best is going up 5 points, then that's fine.
If your best is going up 20 points, I'll take it.
Third grade, you know your goal.
203 is exemplary, that's out the door, on the way to that little store, with money.
(female) We have 80% of the children that theoretically do need food bags, so, with 10,000 students in the school district we're only doing 425.
(Carlita Davis) The schools do have high poverty, and it is a factor that can't be ignored, but it will not be our excuse.
We're here to teach children.
(Superintendent Ingram) It's really a culture of excellence.
And excellence is expected, and when you expect excellence you generally get that.
(Monay) I work two jobs, and if I don't have a babysitter my grandma she'll keep them, because 9 times out of 10 I may have to be at my second job at 5.
I don't get off work till about 11 o' clock some nights, some nights a little later.
By the time I see them, they be sleeping, they be ready to go to bed.
(Mr. Brown) I lost my father at a young age, raised in a house full of women, and the reason why I really wanted to become a teacher, one, I didn't have my first male teacher until 8th grade.
And the other reason, I never had a teacher I could relate to, or wanted to share my experiences with.
(Ms. Woods) In the beginning of the year, he came to my classroom, he was really involved.
But in the last week, he gets up to go to the trashcan, he hit somebody in the back of the head.
What's our next steps for him?
Not just your next steps, but what's our next steps?
Plan A didn't work, it's time to go to plan B.
♪] (male) Scout signs up.
♪] (Monay) Jacquez and Rashon talk about being basketball players, it's what they really want to be.
I'm trying to get them to be doctors.
♪] This is morning edition from NPR news, good morning I'm David Greene.
The United States has spent a decade trying to improve the standing of its school, compared to the rest of the world.
Education researcher Linda Darling Hammond says the result is disappointing.
(Linda) Well, yes, when No Child Left Behind was passed, back in 2002, there was a target set for each year for each school that they would get to a place where 100% of students would be quote unquote proficient on the state tests.
Researchers knew, even then that that would be impossible, and here we are coming into 2014, which was the deadline, and about 80 or 90% of the schools in the country have failed this metric.
♪] I'm Steve Inskeep, the administration has been supportive of what's called the Common Core.
The new set of standards where it's less about multiple choice answers, and more about learning how to think, and analyze information, isn't that happening in some schools across the country?
(female) That's really the question for 2014, and beyond.
(Ms. King) Good morning West Hartsville Elementary.
Students we are so very excited about having you.
We know that it's going to be a great year, have a great day of school today.
♪] [students chatter] (Ms. King) Definitely some a-ha's this year, as a first year principal.
For one thing, our test scores are not the best, probably the most glaring thing that stood out to me was the decline in test scores from the time they left our feeder school until the time they left us and headed to middle school.
So the question was, why?
And how do you fix it?
So, what are you thinking when you look at that problem?
What are you thinking right now, what we need to figure out?
(student) We need to figure out the answer.
(Mr. Rivers) OK, well, what type of problem is this?
(Mr. Rivers) So you know.
(Ms. King) 5th grade we got some work to do.
I'm really worried.
Like really worried.
OK, these are my babies' passing rates.
One class at 50% passing, one class at 28, another class at 28, another class at 50.
Here you go.
(Mr. Rivers) Hmm.
♪] All right, so we need to figure out 8 times what equals 64?
That's your challenge right now.
[student chatter] (Ms. King) OK, I like y'all's strategy.
Looking at the MAP scores I'm still missing the boat, OK.
This class only moved from 40 to 50% passing, now this class moved from 29 to 52, but this class only 10% of the kids moved from August to now.
(female) And we worked on commas, periods, place value, how to read a number, how to read a decimal, and then we talked about this because - (Ms. King) That's level two.
(Ms. King) Now, overall we got a long way to go.
Because 50% passing in one class, and 52% passing in another class, and we're in the middle of the year.
I'm really trying to figure out what is the missing piece.
(Ms. Mahn) Good morning!
Get ready, you are not here to play!
Get some paw power, get in the building, and get ready to, what?
(Ms. Mahn) Who?
(Ms. Mahn) Learn, people, learn!
First year as a principal it was one day at a time, but now I know what I'm doing.
I have a lot of the things developed already, as far as like the handbook, the procedures of the school.
The day to day operations, you know which is very important because you want your school to be structured.
But this year has been a struggle for me, year 5, you know one day I was really tired, and I was thinking, "Lord, how am I going to get up this morning?"
And when I started thinking about the children, it was easy.
When I'm tired, and the children don't make me get up then I'll know it's time.
OK. ♪ instrumental music♪] (Ms. Mahn) Our children do not have the opportunities that children have even in Columbia, you know having a museum there, having a diverse population, because here our children are not exposed to a lot of different things that you can find in a big city.
(Ms. Mahn) A little kick would look good.
The arts here, really opens up other opportunities.
(Ms. Mahn) Garrison, I want to see you do some kicks.
His daddy is going to love that.
(female) We're going to try again with arms up.
♪ instrumental music♪] (Ms. Mahn) Children who are really interested in the arts they can fill out an application, and they go through the process, and then they can become a part of the magnet program.
♪ children singing♪] They do a little bit of theater, they do some visual arts, they do strings, it just introduces them to different types of arts.
♪ showtune music♪] ♪ children singing along to music♪] (Ms. Mahn) So, we make sure we fill our days full of opportunities for education, but we just let loose around here too.
♪ student singing along to music♪] A little help here.
[laughter] Because our kids get to experience some things that they might not get to experience any other time.
♪ children singing along to music♪] [whispers] Good job.
♪] [applause] (Gov.
Haley) Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen of the General Assembly, constitutional officers, and my fellow South Carolinians.
I'm pleased to report that the state of our state is strong.
We have seen the revival of our manufacturing industry.
We have seen the lowest unemployment rate in 5 years.
[applause] But we can't take our success for granted.
Studies show that children who cannot read proficiently by the end of the third grade are 4 times more likely not to graduate high school on time.
South Carolina ranks 42nd in the country when it comes to our 4th graders ability to read at a basic level.
Those two statistics together, paint a dangerous picture for South Carolina's future.
We can't afford to ignore that any longer.
Under our proposed changes, school districts will receive 20% more in state dollars for each child that falls into the poverty index.
This simple change means that next year almost $100 million more will flow to South Carolina's neediest children.
At the core, this is just a simple question, are we willing to stand two children side by side and tell one, that through no fault of his own, he is going to attend a school with less, while at the same time telling the other, she will have every ounce of support she needs to thrive?
♪ church organ♪] (female) To God, we thank you for this day, we thank you for the beauty of this day.
And we just ask that you will open up the word to us, o God, that you would give us new insight into revelation, and help us to be truly about our Father's business.
For us in the name of Jesus Christ we do pray, amen.
(Monay) I had to learn from all of my mistakes.
When I was like, 18, 19 I was in housing, and I had got put out, but God made it a way for me to get another place to stay for me and my kids, [unintelligible].
(female) This morning we're still in the Book of Ecclesiastes.
And how many of you know some of the stories of Solomon?
When he was made king he asked God for one thing, and that one thing was for wisdom.
If you could ask God for anything you wanted, what would that one thing be?
(Monay) That's why I try to go to bible study, or go to Sunday school in the morning so we can learn a lot about God, because he's gotten me a long way.
♪ church organ & clapping♪] Got me with a second job, taking care of my kids.
When I was going through my struggles, yeah I felt like I couldn't make it, but I just got on my knees and prayed about it, and things got better.
♪ This little light of mine.♪ ♪ I'm going to let it shine.♪ ♪ This little light of mine.♪ ♪ I'm going to let it shine.♪ (Monay) I just want to be in something of my own for me and my kids so they can be able to do what they want to do, because in apartments you really can't do a bunch, especially not out there where I stay at.
♪ This Little Light of Mine♪] Well I heard about Habitat through my cousin, because she own a Habitat house, and I went to fill out the application.
♪ This Little Light of Mine♪] (female) Well Monay, I want to go over your paperwork that we still need to do.
You know, we don't give the homes away, they are purchased, and Habitat finances the homes for you, with zero interest.
You've been selected to participate... (Monay) And they asked did I rent or own?
Or what's wrong with the apartment, or where you stay at?
(Bene) This letter is to help you understand what is involved in Habitat's partnership ministry.
(Monay) You've got to make a certain amount of money, get your background checked, credit check.
And I will stop, and have you initial some of places, and then I will also initial it.
Your home will be about 1,100 square feet, it will have three bedrooms, and two bathrooms, it will have a laundry room.
We also can't guarantee how long it will take.
It's taken us as short a period of time as 9 months to build a home, it's taken as long as two years.
It all depends on volunteer labor.
So these 300 sweat equity hours are what you're required, and your children twice a year at the semester, you can show us their report cards, and if they've made A's we give them two sweat equity hours for an A, and one sweat equity hour for every B. I know you're a hard working mom, and so besides family time you have, your hours are restricted by holding down two jobs.
But we would like you to try and work about 25 hours a month, and I know with your schedule that might be a little bit difficult.
But the sooner you get done with your sweat equity hours, the sooner we get started building your home.
I'm really just tickled for you Monay.
(Monay) Thank you.
I'm so happy.
(Monay) All right.
(Bene) I'm real happy for you Monay.
(Monay) Me too.
(Monay) You too.
I can't wait to get in my own home.
All right, thank you, see you later.
♪] (male) This is a scatter plot, we've got poverty on the horizontal axis, performance on the vertical axis.
Given the poverty in our district, what would we expect as the average level of performance for our district?
First of all, because the line slopes downward and to the right that tells you that on average the higher the poverty, the lower the performance.
Second takeaway is that we've got some high poverty districts that are doing fine, and some high poverty districts that are failing.
And the difference between these two groups of districts is neither the demographics of the students, the education level of the parents, or the funding of the school district, it's the competence of the adults in the system.
Where you have a competent school board, they will ensure that they have a competent superintendent who will ensure that their leadership in the schools is able, and that every teacher in the classroom is effective, and poor kids will learn.
And if you flip it over, you can see the districts rank ordered from the highest performing district, with its associated level of poverty, down to the lowest performing districts, and you can see where Darlington is.
Amongst your peers, ain't nobody beating you.
So, I mean that's something to really be proud of.
Next slide shows, how much above or below expectations based on your poverty level.
You can see that Darlington is number three in the state in beating expectations.
(Mick Zais) Kids from all socioeconomic spectrums will learn with an effective teacher.
And that's got to be our focus.
The student, the teacher, and the classroom.
(Ms. Mahn) Please join me in a big round of applause as we welcome our 2013-2014 Beta Club inductees.
[applause] (Mick Zais) No child should be forced to attend a failing school, where zip code is destiny.
(Ms. Mahn) Academically elite students... (Ms. Mahn) Our children are smart.
Our children want to be here.
You've got to light a fire, because the fire will dim, sometimes in the middle school and the high school.
I know you're saying, they're only 5th graders, however, this prestigious club is the beginning to an academic resume, the beginning to a college education.
It is the beginning to money for that college education.
Currently it costs around $27,000 a year for a public college university like Clemson, Carolina, Citadel, South Carolina State.
We all want more for our children than we have.
Speaking as a child whose mom went to the 11th grade, and every day she told me, "Get your education.
No one can take it from you."
Now, I tell our children, "Get your education.
No one can take it from you."
[chatter] (Ms. King) They're looking at when we did it the first time, this is first 9 weeks.
And we looked at each student, and how many times that they came, and the grade levels, and then totaled it up.
So, looking back, first 9 weeks we had 13 students and 24 referrals.
Most of those students came from 5th grade.
5th grade, yes ma'am.
So, let's see what we got, we have this time.
Now for the second 9 weeks, we have 11.
(Ms. King) So, you have 11 referrals, so there is a decrease.
(Ms. King) From first 9 weeks to second 9 weeks.
(photographer) One, two, and smile.
[camera clicks] All right don't move, don't move.
Good job, all right, one more time, OK. (Ms. King) We talked about the fact that we had some high flyers.
(Eric Brown) The next one is Rashon Johnson.
I have 4 from him during that time period.
The first infraction was playing in class, not following directions, and hitting another student.
(Ms. King) Who was that who sent him?
(Eric Brown) That was done by Ms. Woods.
(female) We actually have everybody here today.
(Eric Brown) The next infraction was done by Ms. Taylor, along with Ms. Adams.
(photographer) One, two, three.
[camera clicks] All right, let me take a look, let's see if everybody smiled.
(Eric Brown) The next one was disrupting class, and the last infraction was disrespectful towards the teacher, that was Ms. Adams.
[students chatter] So, just looking at this, I still say we need some more professional development.
(Eric Brown) We do.
Yes, we do.
Which is a good thing, that's how we look at the data.
We still need some professional development.
We need to go back again and talk about conflict resolution.
(Eric Brown) Conflict resolutions.
(Ms. King) And you brought a good point to me that I didn't even think about, but conflict with authority.
(Eric Brown) With authority.
(reporter) It is called Common Core, and the idea behind it is reasonable, states working together to create national standards for education.
Standards that are designed to be robust and relevant in the real world.
Well, it sounds good, so why is there growing opposition around the country to Common Core?
(2nd reporter) While there's no required curriculum, Common Core does two basic things, it raises academic standards nationwide, and for the first time an A will mean the same thing for students everywhere.
(Arne Duncan) Common Core is a state-led initiative, governors, state chief school officers across the country, Republican and Democrat saying we need to raise standards.
They've been working on this for years.
Tonight I issue a challenge to the nation, every state should adopt high national standards, and by 1999, every state should test every 4th grader in reading, and every 8th grader in math to make sure these standards are met.
America's schools will be on a new path of reform, and a new path of results.
(reporter) 45 states and Washington D.C. initially adopted the Common Core, which outlines what students must know at every grade level.
The Core was backed by the federal government, offering grant money to states signing on.
(President Obama) With a Race to the Top fund, we will reward states that come together, and adopt a common set of standards and assessments.
Common Core is now at the core of a heated national controversy.
(female) Common Core has become a political agenda.
There are factions that believe that, you know Common Core is trying to takeover students' minds, that it's trying to influence them in one political position or another.
And then there's the perception among some conservatives, that the federal government is overreaching into state affairs.
(Arne Duncan) Historically, many states dummy down standards, they reduce standards, why?
To make politicians look good.
And that's terrible for children, that's terrible for education, that's terrible for our country, and for our country's economy.
And we know when standards get dummied down it's not the elite kids who get hit, it's the more disadvantaged kids that always get hurt.
When they pick up your paper, you want to start getting points as soon as they pick up that paper, OK.
The child has a title, check.
The child indented, check.
The child used transition words, check.
Do I see punctuations?
Then they will read your paper.
(Ms. Mahn) You know, if you're a good teacher, and you can take the standards and really analyze them, and break them apart, then your children are going to learn.
So, if we have South Carolina standards, Common Core standards we're going to be fine, and you know, we have in our state right now opposing sides against the standards, but I'm not going to stress about that.
I want my teachers to be able to look at it, break it apart, and be comfortable about teaching it and assessing it.
So, it could be any kind of standard, we just need to know what it is, and how we're going to assess it.
So we got to make sure that we're holding them accountable, and making sure that they're working up to their full potential.
(Ms. Mahn) Do not fuss, do not stress out, praise and motivate.
We're at the end for writing, so, you've got a few days left, do not fuss.
We are 5 days before testing, and I feel like we're a little bit behind with looking at our data because we had those snow days, I wish we had at least another week, but we don't.
So, we have given a district benchmark, and we have just looked at the district benchmark data, and kind of gone over some of that information in writing.
Number one, it says Tina was as bright as a bulb.
I'm comparing her to something, what type of form of figurative language is this?
Number two, it was so hot we could fry an egg on that sidewalk.
(Ms. Mahn) Last year writing was a weakness for us.
So we really focused on writing, we pinpointed some things that we really needed to work on.
Hyperbole, good job!
I know we're ready for this writing next week.
(Ms. Mahn) Here we've turned the lights on for a lot of students, they realize what they can do, and as long as we keep them motivated they're going to do a great job too.
Your title focus is homelessness, OK. Come up with a title.
(Ms. Mahn) I mean, they want it really bad.
Everybody in the school wants it.
And, you know it's not just about testing, we want to prepare our children for writing, being able to grow up as adults, and write.
(female teacher) 3, 2, 1 show.
♪] (Ms. King) Go on in, and start filling up the tables, OK.
I don't exactly have butterflies in my stomach just yet, I am a little bit nervous about how the kids will perform.
I think they've been prepared this year.
It's always the worry about whether they'll actually show exactly what they know on the test.
So, I am just a little bit nervous, it will be my first testing situation.
More so not about kids, but just making sure everything runs smoothly from having a small group setup, making sure the monitors are in the right place, and just making sure we have everything that we need setup for the kids.
That's probably the more nervous part for me, and not whether or not the kids are going to do what they're supposed to do.
All right, I've got a challenge for you.
We've got some people across town that are saying they're going to outperform West Hartsville.
[students react] I felt the same way, I was like they're tripping, really?
[students react] And then, let me go a step further, let me tell you what they had the nerve to say, they say you know, "Tigers beat Foxes any day."
[students react] Do y'all know who I'm talking about that said they're going to beat us?
So, I called the principal this morning, and after we got off the phone she sent me this text.
She said, "Oh yeah, you know a fox can't beat a tiger."
[students react] (student) A fox can outsmart a tiger.
So, you know Ms. King was like, she must not have met my Foxes, I'm not sure about anyone else's foxes, but I know my Foxes can do what Donovan?
(Donovan) Outsmart them.
Outsmart a tiger.
So yeah they might be more aggressive, you know but we're smarter than those Tigers across town.
Am I correct?
Are we smarter than those Tigers across town?
So, you know what Ms. King always says, "Prove them wrong."
5th grade are the Foxes going to outsmart the Tigers?
Are the Foxes going to outsmart the Tigers?
Should I call Ms. Mahn... (students) Yeah!
I think so, hold on.
Hey Ms. Mahn, you got a quick minute?
Just a quick minute.
I was talking to my kids in the cafeteria, and I was telling them that the Tigers said that they were going to beat the Foxes.
And guess what they said?
They said, "The Foxes were going to outsmart the Tigers?"
(Ms. Mahn) Oh, OK. Is that what they said?
Did y'all here say, "That's what we said?"
What did you say Ms. Mahn?
(Ms. Mahn) I said, I guess they'll have to prove it then, won't they?
They sure will.
[students yell in response] I thank you for your time this morning Ms. Mahn, but I think we're going to beat y'all this year, I really do.
(Ms. Mahn) OK.
I need you settled in like two seconds.
They are wild today.
All right, welcome.
We're going to go through the testing material.
We're going to take the test, we're going to make a hundred on the test, we're going to stay an A school, what do you think?
(female) Yes ma'am.
West Hartsville already called me at their assembly today, and they were talking smack.
They said that the Foxes were going to outsmart the Tigers, but I told them all kinds of stuff, so just don't worry about it, we are going to be fine.
We have worked hard.
I analyzed our writing benchmark data, and I think we're going to be at least 10% up from last year, so that's going to be a really big increase, and I appreciate all of the work that went on in the writing cluster.
So, you need to give yourselves a round of applause.
[applause] That was weak, but OK, we'll hoot and holler when we get the scores back, all right.
We're going to go through all the information... ♪] (Ms. Mahn) All right, are we ready?
We're 5 minutes late.
I do not like being late.
Attention students and teachers, I believe we are ready to begin.
Boys and girls you know I believe in you.
You know that I know you will do a great job, if you work and hard do your best.
Teachers I appreciate all of your hard work.
Just keep on going today, and I will check on you throughout the testing period.
You may begin now.
Well, you know I always get a little tense because of course I want our school to do the best, but right now, I know we've worked hard, and so, it's going to be what it's going to be.
We couldn't have worked any harder than we've worked, and so I just got finished talking to the teachers about that.
Don't stress the kids out, go over those last few things that we've talked about, and just take the test.
We know we've done the best we can.
And our whole school year cannot be about one test on one specific day, because our job here is to develop the whole child.
♪] (Ms. King) Rashon Johnson!
[applause] (Monay) Rashon is smart.
(Ms. King) He's very smart.
(Mr. Brown) I know mother works two jobs.
(Ms. King) I asked mom this morning, you know, "What time is she getting off now?"
And she said, "11."
And for him to get up at say 5:30 in the morning, that's a lot on an adult.
(Ms. Adams) It's just that transition from the weekend back into structure is difficult for him.
(Eric Brown) Playing in class, not following directions, and hitting another student.
(Ms. King) So now we're seeing some regression, so we got to go back to the drawing board, what do we need to do differently for Rashon?
(Ms. King) We've been working with Rashon a lot this year, and his mom, as well to try put some strategies into place to help him.
We actually recommends some outside counseling for him, based on some of the things that he was doing at school that just were not normal behavior, they really raised some concerns.
(Monay) Well, they say he hit Mr. Brown, but he actually say he didn't mean to hit a teacher.
And it's like, making noises in classes, talking, picking at other students.
(Monay) So, how do they determine all his grades?
Anything... (Monay) And I mean, some of the issues I wasn't aware of, and some of them I were.
(Mr. Brown) Rashon throughout the year gradually got worse.
I really believe that if I wouldn't have reported it, and not turned it in, and this whole process wouldn't have been started a way worse incident would have happened in middle school or in high school, and the boy could end up in handcuffs, instead of therapy sessions.
How are you doing ma'am?
(Ms. King) So, as we sat around the table, me, Mr. Brown, and Ms. Adams we had this look that just probably communicated to the hearing officer that this is really not what we want to be doing, but we think it's actually come to this point.
(female) He makes a lot of noise.
(Eric Brown) He called him some names, disrupting class, hitting.
(female) Swings his arms.
(female) There's something going on.
(Ms. King) A conflict with authority.
♪ music swells♪] The decision was made to expel Rashon from school for the rest of the 2013-14 school year.
It was a very emotional meeting, because everyone around the table cares so much about him, as well as his mom, so it's a very emotional moment for everyone.
[birds chirping] [truck passing] [cars passing] [dog barking] ♪] ♪] ♪] ♪] ♪] ♪] ♪] [car door shuts] South Carolina leaders are getting ready to change how your child learns.
It's not a black issue, it's not a white issue, it's not a Democratic issue, it's not a Republican issue, it is about the children of America!
[cheers & applause] It all boils down to getting rid of Common Core.
Common Core curriculum basically aims to standardize what students across the country need to learn by each grade level.
(reporter) The state school board decided on Thursday to have teachers from around the state create new curriculum from scratch.
Teachers will look at how students are being taught now, how they've been taught in the past, as well as look at other states' plans.
A welcome change for some from the past 4 school years.
(male) As a senator that represents several Title I school districts, I'm concerned about losing $514 million dollars in federal funding for my local schools, that's a grave concern.
I am equally concerned about having a test that has not been peer reviewed.
That is a very dangerous slippery slope.
(male) Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
[applause] (Arne Duncan) There are legitimate questions about high standards, we should address those questions.
But so much of this frankly is about politics, it's not about education.
Historically South Carolina has very low marks, and that's not something anyone should be proud of, we need to resist any temptations to go back to the bad old days.
(protestors) Stop Common Core... (female) I'm glad to present to you the honorable Governor Nikki Haley.
Haley) We don't ever want to educate South Carolina children like they educate California children.
We want to educate South Carolina children on South Carolina standards, not anyone else's standards.
We are telling the legislature, roll back Common Core, let's take it back to South Carolina standards.
When that bill gets to my desk I absolutely will sign it.
[applause] ♪] (Ms. King) Whenever you get to the point where you have to recommend a child for expulsion, that means you've exhausted all of your avenues to help this child.
That there's nothing else that you can do.
I felt like we had failed Rashon.
Not that he failed us, but that we had truly failed him.
♪] Did you do all the work?
I still got... (Ms. King) I never asked Mr. Brown to mentor Rashon, never.
I'm about to give you some more stuff.
(Ms. King) Mr. Brown devoted every day of his second planning period to mentoring young men from the 5th grade.
And Rashon was one of them.
If you need any help, call me, call me.
(Ms. King) His relationship with Rashon probably was closer than any other male in 5th grade hallway.
All right, that's my cell phone number.
(Ms. King) But I thought that relationship was kind of damaged after the expulsion hearing for Rashon, but Mr. Brown ran into him and hugged him in the hallway.
You know, told him everything was going to be all right, he was there for him.
So, they have a really strong relationship.
And I don't know too many people that a student could have hit, and a couple of days later that same teacher would have been hugging them, and offering their tutoring services, and helped them with anything they need.
(Mr. Brown) What you want to go to school for?
(Mr. Brown) Boy, when you in college you got to have one thing you want to do.
So, if you could have one job besides basketball, what would it be?
[laughs] (Ms. King) I don't know too many individuals that could have swallowed that that quickly, and recuperated, and being able to realize that this was a child, and this was a child that has a lot going on.
And if I turn my back on him because of a mistake they made, then how does make me any different than anybody else?
♪] ♪] ♪] ♪] (Ms. Mahn) Our students are very happy to be here tonight, and to perform this play for you, "Pinocchio Jr." We are judged by our test scores.
I say time and time again, "That's how society looks at us."
(Ms. Mahn) Enjoy the show.
♪ music & singing♪] They don't know the increased parent participation.
They haven't seen the first year teachers grow into mature teachers.
They haven't seen the other positive things that happen, like a card I got from a student, who's been challenged, when I read the card, that to me was like, "Yes, you made a difference."
[applause] This school has so many triumphs that no one ever sees.
[chatter] (Ms. King) This year has actually been a pretty wonderful year for my first year as a principal.
(female) That's beautiful.
(Ms. King) I've seen a lot of changes since the beginning of the year.
But the beginning of the year the culture was not too positive.
I wouldn't say it was toxic, but it definitely was negative.
And it was negative because people were apprehensive, they didn't know what to expect.
The culture has truly evolved this year.
Even people from the outside can tell that the culture has truly changed and evolved.
(Ms. King) Are you ready?
(Ms. King) Whoo, look at my boys and my girls!
My young men and my young women.
Remember you should be proud, this is your night.
["Pomp and Circumstance" plays] (Ms. King) It gives me great pleasure to stand before you this evening as the principal of such a remarkable group of 5th grade students.
We are here to celebrate their completion of 5th grade.
(Superintendent Ingram) Any time you change the culture, that's tied to the energy of the leader.
The energy and the persistence, and the staying power of the leader.
Of setting the vision, and developing that sense of identity, that every school has.
If the leadership stays, and is consistent, and is competent, you will see positive culture shifts.
And the academic achievement, and the statistics follow pretty closely as the climate improves.
[applause] (Ms. King) Their future is bright as they continue on the path to being exceptional... (Ms. King) When I started at West Hartsville Elementary, we had 217 referrals the previous year.
I'm happy to say that we now only have 64 school referrals, which was a 71% decrease.
(Ms. King) Thank you for being here to support our children.
But parent involvement still continues to be a struggle for West Hartsville.
It still continues to be one of our biggest challenges.
[applause] At the beginning of the year we did only have 1 parent to show up.
But they come to the events that we have for their kids.
So, whether it's a cookout that we're doing, whether it's a music program, honor roll assembly, they show up to those things.
So, I'm trying to teach the staff that parental involvement is not necessarily coming to meetings.
Parental involvement is being involved in your child's education, period.
♪ Pomp & Circumstance♪] (Monay) It ain't easy raising three kids alone.
It's hard, but I try to do my best.
When Rashon got back in school yeah I was glad, because that's where he was supposed to been at the first time.
(Ms. King) Mr. Rashon Johnson.
[applause] (Monay) When I seen Rashon graduate I was very proud of him.
And hope he continues to keep up the good work.
(Rashon) I was scared about getting held back because if I would have got held back I would have learned the same thing over and over for two years.
The teachers would look at me like I'm a bad influence.
♪] I ain't want people to think that everything I do is bad, or I don't know how to act.
I want to be a good influence.
I want to do good things in the future.
(Ms. King) This is the class of 2021.
Did y'all know that?
[applause] Thank you for being the best 5th grade class a first year principal could have ever asked for.
You all are truly a wonderful group.
[applause] At the beginning of the year the only thing that I ask of each of you is for you to give 100%, and to do your best at all times.
So as you prepare to go to middle school I am going to leave you with a poem by Donna Levine.
"There is inside of you all of the potential to be whatever you want to be.
All of the energy to do whatever you want to do.
Imagine yourself as you would like to be doing what you want to do.
And each day take one step towards your dream.
And though at times it may seem too difficult to continue, hold onto your dream.
One morning you will awake to find that you are the person you dreamed of.
Doing what you wanted to do.
Simply because you had the courage to believe in your potential, and to hold on to your dream."
[applause] ♪] (female) Olivia, smile.
That was a bad one.
I don't care, I'm keeping it.
♪] ♪] I don't think educators do a good job of telling our good stories.
You know, we're not good at tooting our own horn, or patting ourselves on the back, but public educators, for all the criticisms that we get, we really don't get up in the morning and drive to work thinking about how badly we can do today.
We're really doing the very best that we know how to do, and we're always looking for ways to do it better.
And if there's a need we try to fill it.
We're not perfect, we're far from it.
There's so many exciting things going on, we can't rest on our laurels.
I mean, what's so great about being the best in a state that's near the bottom of the nation?
The heck with it, we don't even pay attention to it.
We're focusing in on what are the best practices in the nation, in the world?
(Ms. Mahn) Y'all come with me.
♪] A lot of times I get really mad about the stories we do tell about education because they are gloom and doom.
There are good days here, there are bad days here, you know it's a journey.
It's not just about coming here and doing some work on a piece of paper and leaving.
We touch lives, we experience a lot of different things every day.
From the safety of the school, to the academics, to, did somebody's feelings get hurt today and we didn't do anything about it?
DSS might have come in over a situation.
Every day is an eventful day.
♪] (female) Last one, thank you... ♪] (Ms. Mahn) We look to forward seeing you back in August.
Don't forget to come take your test over the summer, and make sure you read, read, read.
At this time I need all 1st and 2nd grade bus riders to please walk to your buses.
All 1st and 2nd grade bus riders.
Well, the biggest challenges our children face would be money.
(Ms. Mahn) Bye Totay.
(student) Bye Ms. Mahn.
You be good, OK.
I think if you are a middle class person then sometimes you don't understand the challenges that a person living in poverty has to deal with just to get to school.
And so, giving the children a break, not letting them off, but just giving them a break.
If I'm sleepy because I got picked up at my grand mama's house at 11:30 at night, and went home, went to bed, then had to get up at 5 o'clock to get on the bus, I'm sleepy.
You know, I'm a 4th grader, I'm 10, I'm sleepy.
So, let them put their head down, let them rest a little bit.
I need all children out of the building.
All children out of the building.
Bye baby, have a good summer, OK. You know what?
Last year if you had asked me I had said, "Test scores."
It's extremely important.
This year it's important, but it's not the end all be all.
(student) Ms. Mahn I'm going to miss you.
(Ms. Mahn) I'm going to miss you too.
You know, yes I want this to be a school where children are learning, but I also want it to be a school where children are happy, parents are happy, you know we are doing things for our community, there's just a bigger picture here than just being an A, you know that's just kind of has come on lately with me.
But it was definitely a successful year.
♪] (Ms. Mahn) He doesn't want to leave.
♪] ♪] Bye!
♪] [applause] (Ms. Mahn) These are our children.
They started with me, five years ago, so when they go to the middle school they'll still be my children.
[applause] ♪] (Ms. King) I think this is a good stop, y'all ready?
(chatter) (Ms. King) Hi guys, how are y'all?
(male) You ready for school son?
(Ms. King) OK, what school you going to little man?
(student) West Hartsville.
(Ms. King) West Hartsville that's what it is.
Thank you, I'm Ms. King, your principal.
♪] ♪] ♪] with the 180 Days Discussion guide, at pbs.org/180days.
180 Days: Hartsville is available on DVD.
To order visit SHOPpbs.org, or call us at 1-800-PLAY-PBS.