Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Market shares" for schools

Last week I wrote about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools competing for "market share" with private and charter schools. A document posted as part of CMS's student-assignment review gives a snapshot of another phenomenon: How schools within CMS compete for students.

The chart (which can be confusing; stay tuned for technical notes) shows how many students within each school zone actually attended that school last year. It tallies only students enrolled in CMS, so you won't see who left for charters, private schools or home-schooling. What you will see is which neighborhood schools are popular and which saw kids flocking to magnets or other alternatives.

Of 132 schools with neighborhood zones, 21 enrolled at least 90 percent of the CMS students who lived there. All are suburban schools with white majorities and low poverty levels. Davidson and Providence Spring elementaries and South Charlotte Middle topped that list at 95 percent or more.

On the flip side, 19 schools lost at least half the students in their zone to other public schools. With the exception of Eastover Elementary, they have high poverty levels and few white students (10 are at least 95 percent nonwhite). Several have been required to let students transfer to higher-performing schools because of repeated failure to meet No Child Left Behind targets, a penalty that applies only to the very high-poverty schools that get federal Title I aid. Irwin Avenue Elementary, which drew 35 percent of the students in its zone, and Shamrock Gardens Elementary at 38 percent had the lowest participation from their zones. Both include magnet programs that attract students from outside the zone.

These patterns will shock no one who's been paying attention. But they highlight a serious tension when it comes to sorting out priorities.

Board members who represent the suburbs hear from constituents who are mostly happy with neighborhood schools. Those folks see magnets as a great extra, in case they want their kids to learn Chinese or earn an IB diploma. In areas with popular neighborhood schools, the public focus is likely to be on reducing such drawbacks as illogical boundaries, large classes and crowding.

On the other hand, board members who represent Charlotte's urban belt hear from people who are desperate for better schools, whether that means getting kids into magnets or making big changes at neighborhood schools. There's some real bitterness floating among those who believe the community's "haves" are willing to herd the "have-nots" into resegregated schools and accept lower standards.

Board members and many speakers at recent public forums have voiced willingness to get past their own perspectives and work for all kids. We'll see how that plays out as the board moves toward specific school-by-school decisions.

Now for the geek notes: The chart I linked to is fascinating but hard to use. CMS doesn't offer it online in a searchable, sortable format. I requested a copy in Excel; if you want one, e-mail me at ahelms@charlotteobserver.com

The chart divides students into three groups. "EC" is students with disabilities who are assigned to special classes. "Magnet" is pretty obvious. Full magnet schools have no "home school" zone, but many neighborhood schools include magnet programs. "General education" is students who are neither in magnets nor special-ed classes. I calculated the percent of in-zone students attending each school by adding the general education students going there (column H) and the students attending a magnet at their neighborhood school (column P, which is blank for schools with no magnet program) and dividing it by all students living in the zone (column C). That tally includes only the appropriate grade level; that is, an elementary school's total doesn't include middle- and high-school students.
If you're new to CMS, some of the labels may prove baffling. "Home school" refers to nonmagnet schools with an attendance zone, aka neighborhood schools; it has nothing to do with parents who teach their kids at home. "Choicing" in or out is a strange construction that evolved from the much-touted "choice plan" of several years ago. If you're a grammatical purist, mentally substitute "choosing" or "opting."

There's no tally for the number of students living in the Garinger and Olympic zones because CMS listed them by the five small schools located on each campus. Officials say they'll run a campus total in the future. A home-zone tally for the new Berewick Elementary is also missing.


Anonymous said...

---->>There's some real bitterness floating among those who believe the community's "haves" are willing to herd the "have-nots" into resegregated schools and accept lower standards.<<----

Your quote above is the crux of the entire issue.

Define "haves". Define "have-nots".

Whatever the "haves", have, make it equal so the "have-nots" then become equal.

If you do that, "herding" becomes a moot point.

You still perpetuate the tired argument that high concentrations of FRL students don't learn as well, yet somehow if you mix them in with "others" they can somehow miraculously learn. Why is that?

Here's an idea. Take all of the students at West Charlotte, move them to Myers Park and move Myers Park students to West Charlotte. The students moved to MP now have what the MP students had; Better facility? Better teachers? What will your excuse be now if those students don't learn?

FIX the issues between the have and have-nots, whether it is teachers, infrastructure or whatever the issue is and let's move on.

Anonymous said...

It is unlikely that the "have" vs. "have nots" issue highlighted in this article will ever be fixed, yet it will provide aspiring politicians material to cmapaign on until long after any of our children have finished school.

Despite throwing ever increasing amounts of tax payer money at the problem, the problem still exists. And that is because, no matter what the "have not" group receives, there will always be something that the "have" has that the "have not" group lacks.

The bottomline is this: life isn't fair, and nothing anyone can do will ever change that fact.

Accept what you have, make the most of it and move on.

Anonymous said...

Well if it were just up to spending money and moving kids around to learn through osmosis your plans would work. However, the tired old policy of spend and move kids around does not work. It takes more than just a nice school, free breakfast lunch, lower class sizes. It takes the student actually caring, with a family that supports education and hard work at home. This is the key you will never be able to replace. I am sorry if it is predominately a problem for one culture or race over another. You cannot change it by mixing students with different ideas together because what happens outside of the classroom remains the same.

therestofthestory said...

Interesting stuff. I just want to be sure I understand one thing before I start digging in the data and chart. You mentioned "EC" kids as to having special disabilities. Are you sure this is the only category because in CMS, they lump the "gifted" kids in this same program office in the ivory tower?

Otherwise it seems the data and chart bear out the feelings once you cut through all the emotions at these public meetings.

I had an interesting experience with a child when my neighborhood was reassigned from one high poverty middle school to another high poverty middle school and then 2 years later, reassigned back. I had a child who tested "AG" in ES and then was assigned to this MS. This MS did not have any "gifted" program. My child never once all year got to use the computer lab. So they were subject to just the usual classroom curriculum. With no "gifted" classes, the teachers assigned them extra work to do but usually that took some doing because of the attention starved high poverty kids in the classroom were always interupting. If you could limit the numbers of those kids in a classroom to 2 or 3 and had them on separate sides of the classroom, the teacher could manage the class. Secondly, I will add that 3 of the 5 teachers were first year, the 4th teacher was a second year, and the 5th teacher was 10 or so years but had to leave during the year for health reasons.

In summary, that was my child's biggest jump in EOG scores. However, the black community has condemned (and the kids are fully aware of it) the use of first year "white" teachers for these children so then the chldren and parents are unwilling to give them these teachers much of a chance. When the children are sabotaging their education, I not be inclined to give them a break or bend over backwards to do anything else.

Anonymous said...

"Equality" is a very different thing to quantify, measure, and put in place.

When I think of equality I think of:
Spending per student
Student: Teacher ratio
# of after school programs
Technology footprint (computers/ student)
Avg (Median) years teaching experience of faculty in the school

And I think it is easy to see that while you can mandate equality for all of those items there are a number of intangibles which you can't track or mandate. How about the involvement of the parents in the students' learning? I realize that some parents work multiple jobs and don't have the opportunity to work with their kids. Do you mandate that there are additional resources available to work with children in their parents' absence? And can you honestly expect a stranger to have the same impact on a child as a parent?

Educational success is more than student teacher ratios, spending per student, and "equality" in the classroom. And until you can get the "out of school" activities consistent you won't see equality.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Restofthestory: Yes, in this context "EC" means kids whose disabilities are severe enough that they're assigned to self-contained classrooms. It doesn't included gifted kids and it doesn't include the many, many kids who have learning or other disabilites that require some help but do not keep them out of regular classes.

Anonymous said...

EC typically refers to any kid with an IEP, not just self-contained, however perhaps for perhaps of this document it is different.

There's an ocean of research out there that today, economic well-being is the single most important factor in educational success. The have's should not be resented for what they have, but to deny this basic fact is silly. Here's an example.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that link was: