Thursday, February 10, 2011

Politics, data and other CMS updates

Let's see ... CMS has scrapped some of its most cherished data, politics are getting personal and there's more good information popping up online than I can keep up with. Yes, folks, it's time to mop up after another week on the education beat.

On political elbow-throwing ...
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, a Republican, has been e-mailing the suggestion that school board Chair Eric Davis's vote to delay a decision on Bright Beginnings prekindergarten cuts was influenced by his connections to the Babb family. Julie Babb is CMS's director of prekindergarten services. James claims that "her mommy"  is "a big time Democrat and Eric’s campaign manager so instead of taking the heat themselves the School Board wants to punt and throw the heat to the County Commission for the next several weeks."

Actually, Davis's campaign manager in 2007 was Nancy Babb Falls, a Democrat who is Julie Babb's sister. "I'm not ashamed one bit that she helped me run," said Davis, who is an unaffiliated voter. He says his vote was based on following Superintendent Peter Gorman's recommendation.

"I think Mr. James might be feeling the pressure from the community," Davis said. "When you feel the pressure, you reach out and attack through some personal issues."

On data wars ...
Superintendent Pete Gorman says there isn't any Bright Beginnings data good enough to use in decision-making.

Brett Loftis of the Council for Children's Rights says there's more data on BB than 90 percent of what CMS does.

What does Gorman say to that? "He's probably right."

In other words, there's little to no solid data to show that any of CMS's reform efforts, from strategic staffing to teacher effectiveness ratings, makes a difference.

With a research and evaluation staff of 3.5 people, Gorman said this week it's not realistic to expect rigorous academic evaluations of everything the district does (and I'd add that such results never come quickly).

Instead, he says local officials use national research on what works -- for instance, the value of effective teachers -- and figure out strategies they hope will translate to gains for CMS kids.

One of the things that had puzzled me was that Gorman and Chief Accountability Officer Robert Avossa were rejecting an ERS study on Bright Beginnings while continuing to use ERS as a consultant. Turns out they're different ERSs: Virginia-based Educational Research Service did the 2003 BB report; while  Education Resource Strategies of Watertown, Mass., is working with CMS now.

On Web info ...
CMS has posted answers to a long list of budget questions the staff has been getting.

The district has also posted a new batch of School Quality Reviews. These in-depth reports can be a great source of insight into what's working and what's not. Check the dates; some reviews are recent, some older. A few schools still haven't been reviewed, but CMS expects to have them all done by the end of this year.

As one of you noticed, I've taken down the Observer's School House collection of data on CMS schools because I wasn't able to keep it fresh while meeting other demands on my time. CMS keeps a lot of info at its "data dashboard." I've never found that particularly easy to use, but it's probably your best bet for now.

And here's a new one y'all should find interesting: The Center for Education Reform, a group that promotes charters and school choice, has launched The Media Bullpen, an attempt to rate the quality of education coverage across the country. Among education reporters, the early buzz was over how much it would focus on accuracy/fairness/quality vs. simply rating coverage on how well it promotes the center's views. At first very quick glance, I just can't tell. The "bullpen" baseball theme may be more accessible to sports fans; I found it difficult to follow (best I can tell, they haven't "umpired" any Observer articles yet). Some of you may have more time and sports knowledge than I do; if you sort it out, let me know what you think.


Wiley Coyote said...

OK, let me shake the nonsensical stuff out of my head so I can try and understand this statement:

He (Davis) says his vote was based on following Superintendent Peter Gorman's recommendation.

On Jan 11 Gorman stated this:

At the Jan. 11, 2011 board meeting, CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman proposed cutting the number of Bright Beginnings classes from 175 to 70.

This posted by Ann at the meeting on Jan 25:

Appears Bright Beginnings vote may not happen tonight. Gorman says board members keep telling him they're not ready to vote and want more time, and he's willing to go back and look for more options. But he cautions that he doesn't have any ideas. Anyone who wants to save Bright Beginnings needs to get busy, he suggests.

Every comment from Gorman suggests he wants BB on the chopping block and that there is no data to support keeping it.

Eric Davis states his vote was based on what Gorman wanted?

That's well, a misremembered statement?

The Board voted 8-1 the other night to delay a decision again and the lone vote cast against hat was by Kaye McGarry.

The Board of Education didn't vote to delay cutting Bright Beginnings, they voted to NOT do their job by shirking their responsibility over to the County.

Pamela Grundy said...

Hi Ann,

I'm sorry to lose what was the clearest and most accessible information on school performance. You may find using the Data Dashboard difficult, but I find it impossible since CMS chose to create it in Explorer-only format, shutting out those of us who work on Macs. Can anyone say "Gates Foundation?"

Anonymous said...

It should come as no surprise that little of the reform efforts that CMS does are research-driven. The core of everything that CMS does (in fact the core of most modern reform)is that teachers are the problem. This crisis has given "Pete" the opportunity to dump as many teachers as possible, while bringing in the new and young roboteachers from TFA.

Anonymous said...

I respect Eric Davis and think he has done an excellent job as board chair through what went on last fall. But wow--what a coincidence-- having the sister of CMS's prekindergarten services director as his campaign manager--and then voting to delay a decision about the pre-k program. I have to go with Wiley on this one--it doesn't appear that he was following Dr. Gorman's recommendation on this one.

Anonymous said...

"I think Mr. James might be feeling the pressure from the community," Davis said.

Really Mr. Davis? That's exactly what the community thinks the BOE just did. Too much pressure to do the right thing? Inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

1. I believe the term is "Pandering Dunderheads."
2. Avossa to Broad Superintendent"s Indoctrination
Society for further patronage and misappropriation
of Accountability.
3. Bogus or misleading arrest records due to under-
reporting by terrified administrators.
4. Bogus Mcrel observation/evaluations due to under-
trained or inappropriate evaluators.
5. The CMS Inquisition continues.

Anonymous said...

CMS put an email out today announcing a new program. They are creating a talent pool of assistant principals and principals to hire from within, I guess. What???? I think that this communcation is probably stemming from a law suit. It just smells fishy!

Coulwood Middle School has a relatively new principal that has never been an assisstant principal. Several people were passed over to give this gal a job.

It was wrong, wrong, wrong. Gorman is probably getting the pants sued off of him for these his misdoings.
I know of several people who have and plan to file suit against CMS for making piss poor decisions.

therestofthestory said...

RIFLMAO... Just wait till they see the other $90 million that has to be cut. You make the classrooms any larger in the non AZ schools and the kids will only be able to stand. Many have to sit in the floor now becuase they can not get desks in them.

Cut anymore at these schools and I guarantee a complaint to the office of civil rights at the Department of Education.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I am disappointed in the NAACP leadership here in Charlotte. I usually see their point, but in this situation, I just can't see how CMS can spend sometimes twice as many dollars per student in poorer and minority schools as spent on middle class students of all colors, and then claim that "only the poor feel these cuts". I also support Bright Beginnings as a great program in "flush" times, but when we are not getting the job done K-12 (especially 9-12), we must focus on what every child in NC IS entitled to... a sound education. This is not a contribution to the discussion at all, and just drives reasonable citizens out of the school system, because they do not feel anyone cares about them and their students.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who wrote about Gorman’s new “pool” for Principals and Assistant Principals. Gorman for the last four years has weakened CMS’s work force of excellent. teachers and Principals by pushing them out right before our eyes. It amazes me how the Citizens of Charlotte do not see it, and are not up in arms about it. He already reduced Assist. Principals pay, and they are some of the hardest working people in the schools. He plans to strip teachers up to 10 % to 20% of their pay so he can combine the money to pay a select few what he wants them to have. Now he has come up with these pools to house displaced employees. It is just another way to starve more qualified people out. Folks, CMS is in turmoil it is suffering badly. Teachers are near their wits end trying to be there for their students while this Superintendent’s decisions continue to make working conditions inhuman, sub-standard, and unsafe. What is it going to take for Charlotte to pay attention to what is really going on.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 1:24..

Even if we're to take your word for it that Gorman has "weakened excellence", which may or may not be the case, it certainly isn't the reason why CMS and other public school systems have failed over the past 40 years.

Perhaps it's government mandates as what is to be taught in the classroom, how to test, where and how government monies should be spent that gives Gorman the idea that inserting a monkey in a classroom to teach is no different than having a teacher doing it.

When you have to cut $100 million dollars from a budget, you can make anything sound plausible.

Anonymous said...

Our school was recently reviewed by the School Quality Review Committee and what they saw and who they spoke to in the school was completely orchestrated and fictionalized by the principal. I'm disgusted by the way good teachers are not given a voice and how they are mistreated in their own schools, how parents are being misinformed by the administration who determines what information is allowed to be shared and how it is delivered, and by the School Board/Superintendent who speak weekly with a lack of respect for the teaching profession as they whittle away any hope of keeping highly qualified, intelligent educators here in CMS. Who is advocating loudly and continuously for the rights of the well-educated, experienced, highly degreed, highly qualified state employed teachers who are working their tails off and still suffering greatly every day? Even the Observer is asking for teacher feedback, but doesn't realize that if teachers can't speak or write anonymously, it will come back in some form of negative retribution from their school administration or the district? PLEASE ASK QUESTIONS, BEG FOR ANONYMOUS FEEDBACK, PUBLISH THEIR RESPONSES, ALLOW THEM TO TELL YOU WHAT IS HAPPENING FROM INSIDE

Anonymous said...

You, as I, know about and have witnessed the insertion of primates for teachers and the BOE ever since Jay Robinson was here. The removal of productive members of the community (and the slackers) will continue to decimate the community, shrink the middle class, and increase the 35% devaluation of local homes and properties. At some point corporate recruiting will be pointless, as no one will move here unless they can afford a private school. One may call it survival of the fittest, but you won't get rid of the underclass, nor educate them as well in this climate of fear.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 6:43...

I don't disgree with your assessment but much of this has been going on for 40 years, in particular, white flight. Now it's gotten down to bright flight.

Mecklenburg County is 62% White and CMS is 33% White.

Private schools are doing quite well.

Ask Mayor Foxx and Councilman Cannon, they can attest to that.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is very important to listen to such posters as Wiley. He states, “CMS and other public school systems have failed over the past 40 years”. Many will find the public using such “justification statements” as this because the reality can be very over-whelming. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and ways for coping with the break down. However, if you are in the Education Field, especially in CMS, you know what is really going on daily in your schools and in your classrooms. If you are an educated person, and you value your students having the opportunities to learn in a safe, productive environment, then you must speak up and inform the public. I learned this week that 3 of our most cherished (2)Math, (1)English teachers left the system. Word has it, Texas, Virginia and Greensboro are still hiring quality, certified experienced teachers. I love Charlotte. Ouch! This hurts.

Wiley Coyote said...

You have to watch the short commercial but here's an interesting report.....such as it is..

Secret to Catholic Schools' Success?
Feb 11, 2011
- 3:20 -
Tucker Carlson weighs in

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 10:45...

I don't believe my "40 year statement" to be a "blanket justification", but rather a basis in fact.

I lived the turmoil of busing in the late 60's and early 70's and my two younger brothers had to live with the aftermath. Fortunately for my youngest brother, my parents could finally afford to put him into private school from grades 9 - 12.

In a past life, I was married to a teacher for 12 years and saw the garbage she had to put up with in a school district just like CMS. She taught at a school that was 99% Black.

As my father was for my brothers and me, I have been involved day one in my child's education and fought the same battles with principals over inept techers and with CMS over policies.

Answer your own question as to why your "cherished teachers" are leaving CMS.

Anonymous said...

I have written more recommendations for students leaving CMS this year than I have in the last five combined. Your observation about bright flight is so true. None of these parents are wealthy and only one is white. All refuse to send their children to a CMS high school. Looks like the faucet is open. The current administration is trying every tactic possible to force teachers out on early retirement and more disturbingly, bogus evaluations. Ann, you need to ask how many teachers(especially TFA) have already left the system this year. I don't think Communications will get back to you in a hurry.
Mo Green is no fool in Guilford County. Look at how many CMS personnel have followed. As three Guilford teachers told me last week, there are issues, but at least he can call school off due to weather before 5 pm.
Welcome to the advent of Dollar Store Education.

Anonymous said...

Make that 5 am.

Ann Doss Helms said...

On anonymous commentary from teachers: There's no shortage of outlets for that -- this blog, online stories,, etc. I understand why teachers and other employees are wary of sticking their necks out, but there's limited value to truly anonymous posts. Neither I nor anyone else can evaluate the merits; a comment could be coming from a current or former teacher, someone with no first-hand experience, someone with an axe to grind, whatever.

I do sometimes use comments where I know the identity of the person but don't publish it. I prefer not to do that -- for all readers know, I could be making it up -- but on particularly sensitive subjects, I understand that can be the only way to get people to open up when their jobs are at risk.

Wiley Coyote said...

Saw this just this morning on the news....

Perfect example of how even being "anonymous" can come back to bite you...

Teacher Suspended for Blog Posts About Students

Wed, Feb 9, 2011

Natalie Munroe's rants about her high school students, their parents and other teachers was probably a great way to vent, but posting it online ultimately got her suspended.

Munroe, an Honors English teacher, admitted to administrators at Central Bucks East High School on Wednesday that she did write the posts on her Natalie's Handbasket blog (which was taken down overnight).

One of Munroe's entries, written last January, was about the comments she usually puts down about students when she's posting grades:

" the kids get worse and worse, I find that the canned comments don't accurately experess my true sentiments about them. So now I pretty much choose 'Cooperative in Class' for every kid..."

really like to send to parents:

•Seems smarter than she actually is.
•Has a massive chip on her shoulder
•A complete and utter jerk in all ways. Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities.
•Nowhere near as good as her sibling. Are you sure they're related?
•Lazy a--hole.
•Two words come to mind: brown AND nose.
•Rude, beligerent, argumentaive f***.
•Weirdest kid I've ever met.
•I hear the trash company is hiring.

The list goes on. Other entries include comments about the school's teaching environment and parenting skills.

The posts were from a year ago, but recently got circulated to the school's students and parents via Facebook and Twitter, according to Doylestown's Patch.

An anonymous email we got last night said:

"She bashed the students, mainly the senior class and now the whole school is in an uproar."

The school's principal said they learned about the blog Wednesday morning and that Munroe admitted to the writings. The conversation stopped there and the principal told us he asked Munroe to leave the building.