August 2, 2014

New poll shows increased support for 4K in South Carolina

A new poll released this week found more than two-thirds of South Carolina voters support more state government involvement in early childhood education and also believe the state is not doing enough to properly prepare its children for school.

The poll was commissioned by the Institute for Child Success (ICS)– a nonprofit that works to better coordinate resources for pre-school children in South Carolina.

The poll surveyed 581 South Carolina voters last week and found that 69 percent said they are in favor of the state legislature’s recent expansion of four-year-old kindergarten for low-income children living in certain school districts. But 53 percent said they did not think South Carolina’s children are prepared for school by the time they begin kindergarten, compared to just 30 percent who believe they are.

“This poll was very encouraging for us, because it demonstrates that most South Carolinians are supportive of investing in young children,” ICS vice president Joe Waters told South Carolina Radio Network. “But most South Carolinians also believe that there’s more that needs to be done and they would support the state doing more.”

The poll by left-leaning Public Policy Polling surveyed roughly even numbers of self-identified Republicans and Democrats (38 percent and 37 percent, respectively), while 25 percent said they were either independent or another party. The results have a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

It’s the second year that the Institute for Child Success has sponsored the poll. Last year, pollsters found 65 percent support for expanded 4K and 56 percent support for more state involvement in early childhood education (compared to 69 percent and 62 percent this year).

After four consecutive questions on early childhood education, respondents were then asked what they thought was the most challenging issue facing children aged 0-5 in South Carolina. Lack of access to pre-K had the most answers at 26 percent, while poverty and living in single-family households trailed slightly at 25 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Agreement on evolution teaching standards may be near


Sen. Mike Fair (L) listens to EOC Chairman David Whittemore during Tuesday’s meeting

An agreement on the new teaching standards for the science of biology may soon be hammered out after two years of debate over how much evolution should be questioned in the classroom.

A committee made up of three members each from the state Board of Education and the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) met in Columbia on Tuesday. EOC executive director Melanie Barton said they carefully analyzed the National Science Teachers Association’s position statement on evolution and what the group believes should be taught.

Barton said everything those science teachers suggested and pushed forward to change the science standards on biology were included in the latest proposed document, with one important addition.

“The beginning of the world as we know it, how did that start?” she said. “None of us were there, of course, and all of us have our own cultural conceptions, our personal beliefs of how the world started. So this is just to say when science comes with ideas and suggestions on how things evolved over time, that students will have access to that and critically think about it.”

The recommendations will now go to the full EOC on August 11. The revised standards would then be presented to the State Board of Education on August 13. Approval from both is needed before the new standards can take effect.

Barton said the analysis of the biology standards is part of the cyclical review of standards of sciences as taught in the public schools. The 2005 standards are in place until the revision takes place.

“All we’ve done is add one more to say that students must be able to critically analyze new scientific evidence and decide how this fits in with what we know about evolution, how does it not, how does it raise other questions, really focusing on the critical analysis of students,” she said.

State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, is the Senate’s representative on the Education Oversight Committee. Fair has been one of the most vocal opponents against teaching natural selection as fact, adding that there are other theories students deserve to learn. Fair said he hopes the new requirement will create critical thinking.

“Synonymous with critical thinking is research,” Fair said after Tuesday’s meeting. “It would be wonderful if high school students would debate each other on some significant parts of the science standards and look at some of the facts out there and come up with some great conversations in the science class.”

The standards will require students show proficiency by being able to “Explain how scientists develop theories and laws by using deductive and inductive reasoning in situations where direct observation and testing are possible and also by inference through experimental and observational testing of historical scientific claims. Students should understand assumptions scientists make in situations where direct evidence is limited and understand that all theories may change as new scientific information is obtained.

Barton said developing students’ abilities to critically analyze material is a key element in measuring students’ grasp and basic understanding of the material.

“Can they look at scientific evidence and come to their own conclusions rather than being fed the information by an instructor? Because that’s the way students will get engaged in science. If they can take it, own it, and apply it.”

USC’S McNair Center lands home for research

Harris Pastides USC president

Harris Pastides
USC president

The University of South Carolina’s McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research announced Monday it has secured a 13,500-square-foot office and research home near downtown Columbia.

The school announced a new five-year lease agreement with SC Research Authority on Monday. The building has housed the offices for the center for the past two years, but will now expand to include a new $4.5 million research center.

The new Advanced Composite Materials Research Center will include an automated fiber placement machine for use in developing new lightweight composite structures and advanced robotic technology used to build aircraft composites. At the official facility announcement Monday, USC President Dr. Harris Pastides said this will be the first time such a state-of-the-art industrial machine will be owned outside a corporate entity.

“That’s the kind of equipment and facility that will allow companies, large and small, to come to South Carolina and play their role as best they can in developing the great aircraft and parts of the future,” Pastides said.

Pastides said for some time now the university has had the students and the faculty, but not have the right physical space to conduct the kind of research that Boeing and other aeronautic companies want. But he said the massive center allows the university to conduct the type of research that will attract other companies to the state.

“We hope to attract, maybe even lure, other companies that can’t afford that machine where they are, but would move to South Carolina so that they can have an opportunity to work with it and work with us,” he said.

The McNair Center has more than two dozen contributing researchers working in a wide range of aerospace-related fields. Pastides said the center cannot be more aptly named because Lake City native Ron McNair worked long and hard to transform himself from small town dreamer to physicist/astronaut. Pastides said the story of Ron McNair’s life continues to serve as an inspiration.

“When it came to attending college, they told him he couldn’t go to MIT. They told him he couldn’t become an Air Force pilot or an astronaut. So that’s the kind of role modeling that will continue to inspire us. When people tell us ‘no you can’t,’ we’ll say ‘Ron McNair did; we can, too.’”

Construction on the Advanced Composite Materials Research Center is expected to begin in August.


Converse College basketball coach resigns after shoplifting arrest

Former Converse College Head Basketball Coach Kaye Waldrep (Image: Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office)

Former Converse College Head Basketball Coach Kaye Waldrep (Image: Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office)

The head women’s basketball coach at Converse College in Spartanburg has resigned after being charged with shoplifting on Tuesday.

A Converse spokeswoman said in an email Wednesday that the college had accepted the resignation of head basketball coach Kaye Waldrep, effective immediately. The spokeswoman said the college was unable to make any further comment on a personnel matter.

According to WSPA, the 35-year-old Waldrep was seen trying to hide and steal over $500 worth of merchandise from a Kohl’s Department store.

The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s office incident report said Waldrep and 38-year-old Ricky Dean Ponder were seen selecting perfume and tennis shoes and trying to hide the items in Waldrep’s purse before attempting to leave without paying. The pair were detained by security guards until deputies arrived.

The police report says Waldrep and Ponder admitted to the deputies that they attempted to steal the items and were arrested and issued tickets for first-offense shoplifting under $2,000.

Waldrep was hired by the college in 2012 after she spent four seasons as the assistant basketball coach for the College of Charleston women’s team. Waldrep began her coaching career in 2001 at her alma mater, Newberry College.

Converse College has removed Waldrep’s profile from the school’s athletics page.

Patrick Ingraham contributed to this report

USC awarded $11.3 million grant for new pharmacy research center

Randall Rowen

Randall Rowen

A research center dedicated to developing the next generation of drugs to treat everything from diabetes to cancer will be created at the University of South Carolina thanks to an $11.3 million federal grant.

The five-year grant is one of the largest competitive awards in the university’s history and will establish the Center for Targeted Therapeutics (CTT) at the USC College of Pharmacy (SCCP). Interim executive dean of College of Pharmacy Randall Rowen says the grant award is a big step.

“I think both the university and the college is going to have a very significant impact on the citizens of South Carolina,” Rowen said. “So, even though this is federally funded, it is something that is clearly going to benefit our citizens, our students and so forth in the training of future investigators. And they will go all over the country, if not the world.”

The center will work toward creating drugs that target diseases on a molecular level without the adverse side effects common of traditional pharmaceuticals. USC pharmacy professor Igor Roninson, who school leaders say played a major role in securing the grant, will lead the new center.

[Read more...]