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Efforts To Take-Over Burke Based On Fear
5/20/2015 4:16:59 PM

Kara Keale
By Kara Keale, Burke High School Teacher

One of the most important lessons that students learn in our social studies classes is to rely on facts and data, rather than stereotypes and stories, in crafting arguments and supporting them with evidence.

And yet, just as this message is instilled within our classrooms, our students, my colleagues and I are the victims of a ruthless campaign by several misinformed downtown community members and statewide school reform organizations who perpetuate the myth that Burke has a population of “at-risk students,” with a “poor reputation” and an “abysmal academic record.”
Fortunately, the real Burke High School is dramatically different from the Burke High School that exists in the collective imaginations of those who choose to believe those rumors about our school.
Comparisons between Burke High School and institutions like Academic Magnet are impossible and unfair. Burke serves a population which is 97.7% African American and 85.2% of whom receive free or reduced lunch services.
The “Achievement Gap,” which has an overwhelming effect on my students, means that my students’ “starting point” in the classroom is metaphorically miles behind their more privileged, oftentimes white, peers. As such, to accurately judge Burke students’ performances, we can only be compared to schools like Garrett, Lincoln, North Charleston, St. John’s, Stall, West Ashley, and Wando that serve students of similar demographics and socio-economic status.
We must consider if those schools are dramatically better at meeting the academic and personal needs of their African-American, free and reduced lunch students. When those comparisons are drawn, I am proud to say that at the real Burke High School:
    •    Our African-American, free and reduced lunch students performed higher than students at Lincoln, North Charleston, St. John’s and Stall on the 2013-2014 End of Course exams. Students at West Ashley High School outperformed those at Burke by only less than 1%.
    •    Our African-American, free and reduced lunch students performed higher than students at Garrett, Lincoln and St. John’s on the 2013-2014 HSAP math exam. Once again, our students were outperformed by West Ashley High School’s students by less than 1%.
    •    Our African-American, free and reduced lunch students graduate at a higher rate than both North Charleston and Stall.
    •    Our African-American students have continuously performed higher than students at West Ashley High School (USHC EOC in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and Algebra I EOC in 2013), Charleston Charter School of Math and Science (USHC EOC in 2012 and Algebra I EOC in 2014) and James Island Charter High School (Algebra I EOC in 2014).
    •    Our free and reduced lunch students have performed higher than students at West Ashley High School (USHC EOC in 2012 and 2013), Charleston Charter School of Math and Science (USHC EOC in 2012 and Algebra I EOC in 2014) and James Island Charter High School (Algebra I EOC in 2014)

Based on this data released by Charleston County School District, it is quite obvious that the downtown rumors that create a fictitious “failing” Burke do not mirror the same school that my students, colleagues and I walk into everyday. This myth still constitutes the assumptions many “reformers” are making as they state that Burke needs to be “taken over”, “radically changed” or even “renovated”. Such assumptions are based more on fear than on actual data.
As a community, it is our responsibility to do what is best for all children. We need to rely on facts and data, not stereotypes or rumors. We must acknowledge the data-proven successes of Burke students as compared to their peers at other schools. At the same time, we clearly have a district-wide problem of adequately meeting the needs of our African-American, free and reduced lunch students.
All schools, not just Burke, must take immediate action to address what can be done to lessen the Achievement Gap. Yet, according on the downtown smear campaigns, Burke is the problem? Hardly.
The future of Burke is bright and filled with potential. Our students are a part of a long legacy of excellence that dates back to 1894. Under Mr. Cannon’s leadership, faculty and students have continued to take up that mantle to maintain Burke’s legendary status and pride. Our students stand toe-to-toe with their peers at other schools. Our students are future lawyers, doctors, journalists, architects, accountants, Olympians and teachers. Our students are artists, mathematicians, athletes, musicians, performers and scholars.
They may not have political or personal connections to those with self-appointed power, but they have risen above unimaginable challenges to let the data speak for itself. Our children, statistically speaking, are expected to fail, but have shaken off the shackles of oppression to be academic and athletic champions.
Our students have been defeated, let down, ignored and forgotten by so many before joining our Bulldog Family, yet they have found a faculty and a family who refuse to give in to the stereotypes and rumors, who encourage them to do more and be more than what many expect, including some dishearteningly unsupportive members of the downtown community and their allies.
If some of those same members of the downtown community have their way, Burke High School will cease to exist in its current state and will lose its identity and history. If we do not look at the true numbers that our students have generated, our students will be, once again, intentionally defeated, let-down, ignored and forgotten.

Kara Keale
Burke High School Teacher
Downtown Community Member


Visitor Comments

Submitted By: kandi Submitted: 5/23/2015
Happy tears. Thanks for not having a spirit if fear and speaking up for all children. You are a teacher. So you are teaching the misinformed and people who have hidden agendas. Our Youth need us Adults more now than ever for guidance. God bless you and your family. Keep up the good work.

Submitted By: Tameka Richardson Submitted: 5/25/2015
Very well said , Ms. Keale ,

Submitted By: Mr Hill Submitted: 5/27/2015
I have never been more proud of a colleague. My exceedingly high opinion of your has just been raised another notch.

Submitted By: Caroline Canty Submitted: 5/27/2015
Thank you, Ms. Keale. I appreciate your willingness to provide research-based comments to dispel myths about our beloved Burke High School.

Submitted By: Will Moredock Submitted: 5/27/2015
Well said, Ms. Keale. Any student would be fortunate to have a teacher of your passion and clarity.

Submitted By: Kathleen Kelly Robinson-1984 Alumni Submitted: 5/28/2015
Thank you Mrs. Keale, tears of JOY after reading your comments. Burke High School is Very Bless to have you. Thank you for the information.

Submitted By: Sarah M Submitted: 5/29/2015
Good for you, Kara! Wishing you and your wonderful family at Burke all the very best. The students are so lucky to have such a wonderful role model in you! And I know how much each and every one of those students means to you.

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