Thursday, August 11, 2011

CMS reform: Thumbs up or down?

I recently reported on the results of the first three years of strategic staffing,  former Superintendent Peter Gorman's quest to let top principals and proven teachers turn around struggling schools.  It's tough to render a verdict, given that promising gains are mixed with widely varied results.

That's disappointing.  Three years feels like a very long time in a world where urban superintendents seldom last much longer.  It's a safe bet that whoever gets Gorman's job will come in with new strategies  --  nobody gets hired saying "Things are pretty decent here;  I think I'll maintain the status quo"  --  and we'll have to start the clock again to see if anything really works.

Folks who study such things say there's seldom a simple answer.  Sometimes you just end up with new and better questions.

Cheryl Pulliam,  research director of the Public Education Research Institute at Queens University,  has worked with CMS on evaluating strategic staffing.  She and the CMS crew have done some smart comparisons of the gains at strategic staffing schools compared with those at other CMS schools serving disadvantaged kids;  the results have been inconclusive.  She's familiar with the tension between the approach of principals such as Sterling's Nancy Guzman,  who swooped in demanding change and got quick results,  and those such as Reid Park's Mary Sturge,  who thinks slow and steady is the way to build lasting change.

Pulliam's questions, as the effort moves forward:

  • Can principals like Mary Sturge keep teachers there long enough  (that is , reduce turnover to practically zero)  so she can build that capacity and buy-in she needs to build the culture she needs,  or will it be a continually rebuilding? 
  • Have Devonshire and Sterling  (the highest-performing strategic staffing schools)  reached a plateau so that it makes it even more difficult to raise the scores even higher?  If so,  what’s next to get them up and over any plateaus?
  • Has CMS developed that succession plan needed for all these schools so that progress isn’t lost when the principal moves/retires/is transferred?
Ross Wiener of The Aspen Institute's Education and Society Program gathered superintendents from around the nation last year to learn more about strategic staffing in CMS.  When I emailed asking for his take on the three-year results,  he,  too,  replied with more questions,  and some interesting thoughts:

You're asking an important question that will come up more and more often:  What is success in a turnaround school?  What is success for a district that is managing multiple schools?  Is it success if performance is better than trends would have suggested without the intervention? Being among the fastest gaining/progressing schools?

The sector has a pretty bad track record with sustained turnarounds,  but nothing compares with the scale of efforts over the last few years  --  so we'll have a lot more data points and more info on which to answer the question of what constitutes success.

I still think there are important innovations in the Strategic Staffing model and that others will continue to look to it for guidance.  There are few other places I know of where the district put together such a comprehensive change package.  Two particular aspects seem promising:  CMS was able to give high status and prestige to working in a turnaround school,  and managed some of the most sensitive parts of the process at the district level  (e.g.,  staffing,  including removing teachers the principal didn't think were a good fit;  assigning accomplished central office administrators to support roles).  In most other places,  each school has operated as a "one-off" and had to solve lots of issues on their own,  while SSI took the step of making the turnaround a district responsibility.

None of that is to diminish the focus on results.  I'm not in a good position to do comparative analytics from here,  but if the results aren't what was anticipated,  then CMS needs to dig in and understand what distinguishes the most successful from the least successful and average.  Were any of the hypotheses for improvement implemented with rounds 2+3?  What can be learned from other turnaround efforts in NC and other states?

Others will still seek to learn from SSI because it is at the vanguard of what are still-nascent efforts to turn around the lowest-performing schools at scale.  Unfortunately,  there are not models that have worked consistently and at scale.  So we have to pay attention to serious efforts and modify based on results and on local context.  Better alternatives have to be created, they can't merely be chosen from among existing alternatives.

When things go well in turnaround schools,  it's always because educators on the front lines responded to thousands of unexpected challenges with the right mix of sensitivity,  tenacity,  and flexibility  --  each in just the right measure at just the right time.  There is no formula for doing that well,  but CMS has made some smart bets in creating the conditions where this work can flourish.  We need to learn from these efforts and keep getting better.


Wiley Coyote said...

Very good article on how educrats operate.

The sector has a pretty bad track record with sustained turnarounds, but nothing compares with the scale of efforts over the last few years -- so we'll have a lot more data points and more info on which to answer the question of what constitutes success.

Are you talking about Bright Beginnings? We're still waiting on THAT data.

Silly me. I know they aren't talking about THAT waste of good money after bad program.

Just thought I would put this article into perspective.

Anonymous said...

CMS will succeed in one area only, the ability to drive out dedicated professionals to other counties. This is the only concrete gain they will post!!!

Anonymous said...

SSI is a wash. Someone needs to look at the "emotional sustainability" of this process. Ask the former principal at Ranson how she feels today. As the staff members how they feel at the hands of some of these "successful" principals. As the folks that you spoke with point out, it is a very complicated process and many of the variables are beyond anyone's control. Change needs to be systemic and ongoing for many years for anyone to really say that is is real true change. Otherwise, this is more akin to a placebo.

Anonymous said...

It is disappointing that after three years “promising gains are mixed with widely varied results”. If the Strategic Staffing Model were successful, I would thing the results would be more consistent, not widely varied.
Is the problem in the design of the model or the implementation? Or both?
Ross Weiner says in his email: “When things go well in turnaround schools, it's always because educators on the front lines responded to thousands of unexpected challenges with the right mix of sensitivity, tenacity, and flexibility -- each in just the right measure at just the right time.”
Why can’t the CMS Superintendent and his staff of administrators be held to the same measure they are demanding of the principals of these turnaround schools?
It sounds a lot like “Do as I say, not as I do”.
If the new superintendent chooses to use the SSI model, it needs to be overhauled so consistent results can be anticipated and everyone, from the superintendent to teachers aides can be held accountable for the success (or failure) of yet another academically designed program to right the sinking ship that is our national schools.

Larry said...

When you go to Las Vegas you see the advertising where people have won millions. But that is just one in a million.

That is why the advertising for CMS should show a dropout or someone going to work for a service industry, instead of that reaching for tomorrow thing.

The NC Lottery has to walk a thin line in what they promise and do, so why are we not making CMS do the same thing?

Competition and Choice that puts the Power in the Parents Hands is what CMS needs to make it stronger today.

Anonymous said...

Good grief look at the sources in detail for this article, Public Education Research Institute at Queens University - are you kidding me...Do some research on this institute and make your own decision.

In other words, who really cares what these supporters of CMS have to say - look at the Board Members of this School of Education...hummm previously Peter Gorman and Ann Clark. Not exactly impartial data analysis going on in that shop.

therestofthestory said...

5:23 PM Yes that is the sad thing about low level of integrity the CO has. You would think a community the size of Charlotte could have an objective newspaper willing ot print all sides and let the public make up their own mind. However they let cheerleaders throw out accolades and do not challenge them as to their authencity. I remember last year when so much was made of Sterling and you could go back and find many schools without any of these intitiatives in place with similar demographics improving just as well.

Seriously if they would get back to basics and run schools as schools, discipline by the approved handbook, and hold the adminstration responsible in assisting teachers be successful, then I think you could see some reasonable, cost effective school operating costs.

As you have seen in the newspaper recently about the young man from Vance and the young woman from West Charlotte, there is the example of successful parenting leading to successful students.

Anonymous said...


How are Cobitz and Baxter on the payroll making almost a HUNDRED THOUSAND apeice ?!!?

They could not answer a 2 + 2 question.

Anonymous said...

CMS is a lost cause,it has been for a while. As long as liberal educrats run the show the downward spiral will continue.

BolynMcClung said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BolynMcClung said...


When an annouced candidate for the school board makes a routine of posting on a blog, it comes with certain liablities. The least important is spelling and grammar. That’s easily forgiven. But misstated claims, poor understanding of facts and disconnected comparisons should be intolerable except those errors help weed out the unqualified.

Let’s look at today’s contribution from At-Large candidate Mr. Larry Baumgarner.

He wrote, “When you go to Las Vegas you see the advertising where people have won millions. But that is just one in a million.”

His sentences are illogically constructed but he’s trying to compare the odds of being successful in CMS to the odds of winning a million dollars. He writes it is “one in a million.” So let’s look at the most available publications of chance: national lotteries.

In Powerball the odds of winning $200,000 are 1:5million. Their charts says the chance of increasing that to a $1 million with PowerPlay is 1:4. So 1:20million are the odds. Just for comparison, winning the whole enchilada is 1:195million.

So Larry goes on and writes, “That is why the advertising for CMS should show a dropout or someone going to work for a service industry, instead of that reaching for tomorrow thing.”

Under Larry’s outline, if there were a million CMS students, only one would be likely to be able to reach for tomorrow. A million CMS students (10,000 new students each year) would be 100 years of new students with only one success story. Remember the true math above. In Larry’s world the true ratio should be one student in 2,000 years. Recently the Observer ran a story on a family with multiple successes and one on the way

But this little note has little to do with Larry’s miscalculation of the number of successful CMS students. It addresses his misunderstandings of how important it is to tell the public useful information. As an aside, his poor math skills aren’t going to be helpful at budget time.

Larry is in a contest where the odds should be 1:16. Realistically and thankfully, they are one-in-a-million.

Bolyn McClung
Pineville, NC

Ann Doss Helms said...

5:23, that's interesting; I had not seen the Board of Advisors list. In this specific case, though, the connection was even clearer: Cheryl Pulliam was actually hired by CMS to do research on strategic staffing schools. Yet the results in no way paint a glowing picture of success. Yeah, the executive summaries accentuate the positive, but if you read the full reports on the CMS site (buried, but there)they raise huge questions about the effectiveness of SSI. And that's what I've consistently reported.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Link to find Strategic Staffing reports done by Pulliam/CMS:

Ann Doss Helms said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Doss Helms said...

Argh. Blogger is just not going to display that full link. So:, departments, accountability, center for research and evaluation, research and evaluation reports (told you they're buried).

Anonymous said...

After listening to Corbitz this morning, I realized he is a condescending little brat who is part of the reason teacher's morale is in the tank. The interim superintendent failed to mention that scores went down because senior staff ruined teacher morale. How Corbitz can keep his leadership job is beyond me. How his plans are going to be implemented is a a fallacy. No one on the senior staff has the stones to stand up to this bureaucrat. Shame on CMS for destroying the morale of the people who care the most.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment about morale...I had to chuckle about the gentleman saying that SSI had given prestige and desirability to working in those situations. The principals may have been honored, but teachers were very much thinking: "So if I do a REALLY good job in a school I love, you're going to MOVE me to a situation where so much is out of my control and I have no idea if I'll be supported, successful, or the scapegoat. But I might get a bonus. Gee- that's incentive." SSI did not take into account that rapport in the classroom is a fragile, powerful thing. I would bet that the "successes" were from schools/classrooms where the teacher(s) were able to establish strong relationships with students and parents, not where the teachers/admin moved for prestige or the promised bonus.

Anonymous said...

There is so little success with SSI or other similar programs like WSS, BB, etc. why are we spending any extra county money. Take the extra state and fed moneyand say thank you and move along. Make pupil student ratios the same without the state lottery money and the title 1 money and then apply those monies to the appropriate schools and be done with it.

Larry said...

Sorry Bolyn I am already Married.

And you said before you would not vote for me.

So direct your sweetness to the other candidates who do not dare post.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this link will work.

Larry said...

Just got in from the meeting at the Church on Beatties Ford Road.

It seems the problem with CMS is they need more funding, smaller classes, schools opened back up, more money for just challenged schools, in fact what ever it takes and taxing authority for the school board.

Or at least that is what the majority of those running are saying including the person on the current board who is running.

The only dissenters were a couple of us who understand that CMS has not been a good steward of our money in the first place.

It was a great meeting to see just how much fun you can have.

Wiley Coyote said...

I contend CMS and every other public school system in the United States has more money given to it from the Federal government than they need and that billions are wasted every year due to false data.

CMS certainly doesn't need taxing authority. These morons can't manage what they have now.

Anonymous said...

Strategic Staffing is a fancy term for the policy of providing a disproportionate amount of money and good teachers to schools that are failing relative to their piers.

Trying to turn around failing schools is a noble goal. However, in a world of limited resources, Strategic Staffing policies make it impossible not to shortchange other schools in the process. Strategic Staffing is one of a host of reasons for the continued migration of upper middle class families away from CMS.

We don't need Harrison Bergeron reforms. We need reforms that help all kids.

Mudd E. Diction said...

True leaders do not test waters seeing which way the wind blows as the basis of decision making. This act is to follow by definition. Morale is a factor requiring trust in leadership. The current method of instilling trust: close schools...riff trailers...hire learning communities...close learning sports...sports...multiple schools on a school on a site? CPCC SPX7205 Business Plan Fundamentals.

Wiley Coyote said...

We constantly hear how students in high poverty schools are at a disadvantage, don't have quality teachers or enough funds directed towards helping them succeed.

Based on this article, it appears that having everything, including the kitchen sink, thrown into these schools does not work.

Same thing with Bright Beginnings, according to Gorman, it has mixed results with no real advantage to students who attend versus those who don't.

She (Pulliam) and the CMS crew have done some smart comparisons of the gains at strategic staffing schools compared with those at other CMS schools serving disadvantaged kids; the results have been inconclusive.

We're throwing tens of millions into programs like this, with another boondoggle called Project L.I.F.T. about to waste another $55 million.

It certainly isn't a money problem.

At some point, I'd love for one of these smart Drs. of Education give us some definitive date as to when we can expect a substantial return on our tax dollar investment, because so far, the returns are pathetic.

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results...

Anonymous said...

Corbitz wouldn't know leadership if it bit him on his rump. The way he talked to us yesterday was so unprofessional. The way he has not been able to answer direct questions is unprofessional. He got his attitude from Gorman, who treated his teaching staff like garbage. I hope this interim superintendent sees Corbitz and his "fine arts finally has to be accountable"...when we place our job performance in front of the public more than ANY core teacher..for what he is. You want superior performance in the classroom, treat us like professionals, and dump unprofessional dolts like Corbitz.

Larry said...

Speaking of disparity of funding. At the event about 12 of us running for School Board were at on Beatties Ford Road last night.

They were running out of time and about seven people were allowed to answer the question on disparity in funding at CMS.

Did you know that we need to spend more on the Urban Schools?

As Tim said what ever it takes in spending.

I guess that is why the Moderator ignored me. I kept trying to get to speak but he kept going to the others.

I guess my telling them that Suburban Students getting four thousand and Urban Students getting twelve thousand in funding is just wrong and then we can consider the results would not have help me with any votes anyway.

Wiley Coyote said...

I'm glad to know that Tim, like his brother, believes we have an infinite supply of funds to waste.

Tim will NOT be getting my vote.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the spending disparity--this past Tuesday at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast forum 6 of the board candidates addressed the group. The forum has posted videos candidates' answers to some of the questions asked. However, they have not yet posted the answers to question number 10: "How will you get a good teacher in every classroom when Human Resources is routing the best applicants to southeast Charlotte schools?"
Just where has this attitude come from? Could it be years of telling minorities how inequitable the system is? Can't wait to hear the answers once they are up on the Breakfast forum's website.

therestofthestory said...

So you are saying Human Resources is circumventing the "prime directive"?

therestofthestory said...

As to Larry's last point, it sure is sad when no one wants to hear facts and just continues to believe in the 50 year old mantra. And that these candidate forums are just setups.

Anonymous said...

I'm saying that there is a persistent attitude that "privileged" schools get it all, which we know now is not true. This attitude has been fed for years by sloppy editorializing, the public's misperceptions of per pupil spending at individual schools (rich schools supposedly received greater funding), and by advocates that have told minority groups time and time again that they are being mistreated. We do not need to elect any board members that buy into this.

Anonymous said...

Focusing disproportionate money and top teachers on low-performing schools is short-sighted. Even if it helps those schools in the short term, it also helps to drive out middle class families over time.

Pier groups matter. More and more educated kids are leaaving for greener pastures because their parents realize the system thinks of their kids as a secondary priority. And when this happens everybody loses.

Wiley Coyote said... all comes down to mindset....not money.

Anonymous said...

Many of you might be interested in hearing what 6 candidates had to say to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum. The following is the link to videos of the candidates' opening statements and their answers to questions. Question # 9 concerns baseline standards but apparently really alluded to the ending of the Equity Committee. You might find Ericka's answers interesting.Elyse needs to learn about the subject. Tim Morgan gave a good answer.

Anonymous said...

I think all of the need for teachers and the money being spent in poor schools to get good teachers is a big joke. I have 15 years, successful, experience as a Math teacher - I have a masters degree and am National Board Certified and I can't even get a call from HR after I have applied for 3 vacant positions.

Pretty sad that I actually am very qualified and desire to work for this district and HR can't connect me with a position.

Anonymous said...

I can speak firsthand as to how the staff members at Eastway Middle feel about strategic staffing. It was a horrible idea that wasted money that could be going towards teacher jobs and it yielded no evidence of change. The only change of climate from strategic staffing at Eastway is the pervasive emotional abuse that is dished out on the teachers with constant threats of termination sometimes even in the presence of students, and in one instance the complete bashing of a teacher in an email that was sent to the entire staff of the school.

Teachers are constantly told that they have lost control while the administration lines up 67 7th graders to take them to the cafeteria just to sit for a week with no instructional activities for the students at all.

Prior to strategic staffing being implemented, the administration was already in the habit of running the school as if it were a prison and treating the students as criminals. In the end it all backfired as the students that were treated as criminals became more like inmates that were running the asylum.

The only true prisoners are the teachers who have to slave away in the midst of a discouraging situation with a lack of strong visionary leadership. Year one of the nightmare is over, and two years are still left to endure. Someone please investigate for the sake of the hard working dedicated teachers who give their all and truly care about helping all students to be successful, but struggle to overcoming the obstacle of being imprisoned in a catch 22 situation where there is much evidence of the absence of strong administrative support.

Anonymous said...

What a freaking joke. We do not have enough money for books, supplies, technology for each classroom, but we have the money to put into middle school sports. We all knew middle school sports was a scared cow and nothing was going to happen the program. Teachers are evaluated on how we use technology in the classroom, yet we do not have the equipment to add technology. But, of course, we have middle school sports.

Larry said...

5:12 I too have asked about that focus on spending money for sports instead of education in the troubled schools, and almost all the Principals have told me the same thing.

Most of the students would not even bother to come to school if it were not for the sports they could play.

So as you can see we have to refocus our schools. Maybe we have allowed too many outside groups to become our leaders.

Perhaps our schools are just running scared are just running with out any real purpose, either way we know they are not working.

So changes and competition as I propose will make them stronger and more focused.

therestofthestory said...

For 2:15 PM yesterday and the other poster about the question at the Ballantyne Breafast Club, the CMS HR department does little as far as sending certain applicants to certain schools. If you want to teach in a certian school, you need ot make contact with the principal or find someone at the school to help you "network" in. A great way to do it of course is to get on the volunteer list. Rarely have I seen the HR department able to function much above "pushing paper".

Bottom line, most hiring works through the schoolhouse level.

But do not forget also, CMS is more interesting in keeping up its image with TFA and other such groups.

Anonymous said...

Rest of the Story--I was not referring to the Ballantyne breakfast Club--question about staffing was raised at a candidate's forum at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, which has been taking place at West Charlotte recreation center for many years. It is primarily attended by African Americans The question from the audience about staffing obviously was from someone who had bought into the idea that southeast schools get it all.

therestofthestory said...

Okay, thanks for the clarification. Kinda like the comment I posted earlier that some are so ignorant that they hang onto the 50 year old mantra.

Anonymous said...

Rest of the Story--
There's a lot of old mantra believing going on on Tuesday mornings--unfortunately aided and abetted by those who really do know better.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 2:27...

Do they really know better?

You would think those same people would have "known better" for the last 40 years...

We still have people who think they know better wanting to bring back busing.

Anonymous said...

Regarding leadership changes:

All leadership changes create growing pains even at schools that run like butter with strong PTA's. Case in point - Endhaven Elementary when it first opened which drew a majority of students from overcrowded Hawkridge and McAlpine located in south Charlotte. Despite having a highly experienced and well respected principal in addition to a PTA on steroids, it took a year for the prevailing two parent cultures, staff from various schools and administration to fully merge. However, as expected, the school scored near the top of the charts the first year it opened even as people were forced to adjust to change. At the time, most parents in District 6 were justly screaming for stability and continuity in student assignment because these things do matter. Stability and continuity matter even more at schools without strong PTA's which, like it or not, are generally located in low-income areas. Suburban parents would do themselves a favor by acknowledging this reality. I don't like the huge disparity in per-pupil spending but the fact of the matter is there is an indisputable link between poverty and student achievement. When someone finally figures out the best way to address this problem, we'll all be better off. A school is nothing more than a reflection of the community it serves. Therefore, schools in affluent areas are generally going to perform better regardless of funding disparities. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean higher performing schools are providing the best education they can. Shoving 35 kids in a class does affect the quality of education students receive. It's great Japan can shove 45 kids in a class and still outperform us. However, for better or worse, we're not Japan.

Personally, I think the current direction U.S. education is headed in is the future we face. This future includes a combination of traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools and parochial schools that are, at some point, going to be forced to figure out how to effectively work together for the greater good. Right now, everybody seems to be at everybody else's throat with kids caught in the crossfire.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 5:50 said this..

I don't like the huge disparity in per-pupil spending but the fact of the matter is there is an indisputable link between poverty and student achievement. When someone finally figures out the best way to address this problem, we'll all be better off

Then said this :

A school is nothing more than a reflection of the community it serves. Therefore, schools in affluent areas are generally going to perform better regardless of funding disparities.

You answered your own question as to how to address academic problems in high poverty schools.

If the school is a "reflection of the community", then why was the NAACP marching today downtown like it always does instead of addressing problems in these schools? They want to blame these ills on some phantom segregated school system that no longer exists.

CMS is 67.2% minority. Who is it they want to integrate?

What people would do well to understand (your terminology) is that 2+2=4 in every school in CMS, so household income knows no different answer. Either the child learns it or they don't.

Also, the teacher student ratio in CMS is about 16 to 1. There may be some schools that have more than 30 per classroom, but someone would have to show me those facts by class and by school so we could get an actual assessment as to whether this is a major issue overall.

What is YOUR solution to the fact people live where they live and attend their neighborhood school(s) to dilute the poverty? Busing?

The mantra used to be a Black child had to be bused to a school to sit between two White children so they could learn.

Has that "progressive" argument now changed to we need to bus a child with a household income of $25,000 per year to a school to sit between two kids whose household income is over $$100,000 per year?

therestofthestory said...

4:28 PM I ran a PTA in an urban middle school. We were very successful but still it is always a small percentage of active and caring parents that made it all happen. The surrounding community of parents were more than happy to let us "pull the wagon" while they and their kids "rode".

Making the schools more neighborhood type should have been the best thing for these parents to make them get off their rumnps and get busy but however CMS and the community organizers kept telling them it was not their responsibility.

Anonymous said...

At some point within the past year, the Observer listed all the schools that had classes with over 30 students in them. Some schools had close to 40 students in a class - mostly at the high school level and mostly at schools that supposedly perform well.

The main point I'd like to make is that no one has yet to come up with a long-term solution to the U.S.'s gaping achievement gap. It's still all rhetoric. I don't have the answers although I do believe urban public education in it's current form is unsustainable.


Anonymous said...

Hey Wiley,
I do find it interesting that rural poverty (vs. urban poverty) as it relates to student achievement is rarely written about.

Thoughts and insights about this?


Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 11:32...

Poverty is poverty regardless of where a person lives.

All of us wish there was no poverty, that's a given.

There are those who may not meet the government's current criteria of what poverty is and are just above that line, but they still have hardships.

My problem is there are two government definitions here.

One is the official US 2010 Census that states in Mecklenburg County, the number of school aged children between 5 and 17 years old at or below the defined poverty level is about 30,000.

The second problem is the number of FRL recipients in CMS is 75,000.

Since virtually everything related to low income students is based on that 75,000 number and CMS has already determined that potentially 60% of those don't qualify, you begin to see where the disparity in numbers leads to a vast waste of education dollars.

I for one do not believe that what your skin color is, where you live or what your household income is determines whether you can learn or not. Progressives love to use obvious statistics of where concentrations of low income students are to siphon more money into programs that in my opinion don't work.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 11:27...

I have yet to find any data showing classroom sizes of 35 or more students in CMS.

As I stated before, I don't doubt that in certain cases those classrooms exists but I do not believe it is ramapnt throughout CMS.

Here is a link showing 2009/2010 high schools per pupil spending, FRL and stedent/teacher ratios.

Again, please post any information to the contrary.

Anonymous said...


As a former PTO president at a private school - before transferring my children to CMS for 6 years and then back again - you are correct that it's the same small percentage of volunteers pulling the heavy load. This is universal no matter where you are. My church is no different. However, my experience in CMS has lead me to conclude that many parents (mostly moms) can feel intimidated by PTA's that are almost always run by higher income people with college degrees and generally with a good amount of business experience. With a degree in fine arts, I was the exception to this rule as far as business experience goes. I pretty much flew by the seat of my pants and let the M.B.A.'s handle the spread sheets while I did what I was good at.

I think one of the keys to getting more parents involved at school is making people feel like they have something to contribute no matter what their backgrounds or job titles are - which is true in most cases. I'm guessing your K-12 school experience was fairly positive, as was mine. I think it's important to remember that many parents may not have had good experiences in school or, perhaps, never graduated from high school making them less inclined to feel comfortable around us overeducated know-it-alls.


Anonymous said...

led me to conclude. I never won a spelling contest.

Anonymous said...

State guidelines don't allow 40 kids in a class at the elementary school level although there is some cock-a-meme (sp?) formula that allows for a "plus 2" - plus 5" kids per classroom which I don't fully understand.

Unless I'm delusional (I've been called worse), the Observer did in fact list schools that had 30 plus kids in various classes last year. Again, mostly at the high school level. The list did not include classes like P.E. or Modern Dance.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, The answer to your question at 6:25--"Who is it they want to integrate?". It appears to me that the goal of some is to re-open those under-utilized inner city schools and help fill them by busing in students from overcrowded suburban schools. Wasn't that the original purpose of Waddell?

Anonymous said...

The purpose of Waddell ultimately proved the failed theory of forced busing.

Anonymous said...

Waddell was opened, not reopened, at the taxpayer's expense of a new, fully loaded school designed to fail. The mere fact that a high performing CMS school was available to occupy and succeed, salvages earlier BOE stupidity.

therestofthestory said...

The original purpose of Waddell was to bus kids from the South Meck area and bus kids from the West Charlotte area. However, before construction started, the school system lost the court case and thus had no capacity justification for Waddell. Of course too, the BOE at the time ignored the concerns for safety of that treacherous stretch of roads for the South Meck kids driving to school.

However Arthur Griffith and his band of racists refuse to relocate the school to where capacity was needed, ala Ardry Kell. Since they could not fill the school legally by busing by race, Waddell was forever doomed to be underutilized since the neighborhood did not have the population to support especially with Olympic fairly underutilized at the same time.

For 12:03 PM, yes that is another tired argument I hear about these parents not getting involved because they are too "intimated" by college degreed parents. And they use the same argument when not attending parent teacher conferences, attending PTA meetings, and on and on. When I ran school organizations in the past, I did pair folks who were willing but did not feel that talented with folks who were willing to take someone under their wing that even helped develop leadership for the next year. I made it clear that my job as the president and the job of the vice president was to be sure these committee chairpeople were successful and we would be right there with our sleeves rolled up beside them. It worked.

For 12:31 PM, the BOE's for several years continued to rebuild and build in the inner city and strangle the suburban schools that had real capacity needs. The suburban parents and kids were aware of being social engineered and felt demeaned that they were only a pawn in a political war. Additionally, they knew too that safety was no longer a concern for CMS because they would not remove students who attacked staff, raped other students, gang attacked single kids, etc. CMS was more interested in keeping kids from dropping out than the educational opportunity for all students. I abide by the proverb, one bad apple will spoil the barrel. I would rather cull out the 1 to 2% of the students causing the trouble and save the next 20% that were likely to drop out due to the harmful environment of the school. Just like the principal, Tom Clark, played by Morgan Freeman in the movie, Lean On Me.

Wiley Coyote said...

The sole purpose of Waddell was to placate a constituency.

The building of Waddell was controversial at the time because many felt it was in the wrong place.

I guess 10 years later, those people were proven correct.

CMS can always continue use magnets to "bus" students to low performing schoos.

Anonymous said...

To 1:00 PM--I referred to the "re-opening under-utilized schools" because that is exactly what some would like to do with the schools that were recently closed, with their idea being that that suburban kids from crowded schools should be moved to those schools rather than closing them.
I was not referring to Waddell as a school that had been reopened--I'm very familiar with the history of Waddell.
My neighborhood, which 3 miles from Providence and 8 miles from South Meck was slated to be reassigned to South Meck when Waddell opened. The assistant superintendent in charge of assignment at the time very patiently explained to us all that the kids that lived close to (and loved) South Meck needed to be assigned to Waddell, so we would then be needed at South Meck. Luckily we were able to fight this but it was not easy.
Everything eventually has consequences. The board that voted for improper placement of Waddell in the first place and the county commissioners who voted to fund it are ultimately responsible for the community discord that the closing of Waddell has created.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Strategic Staffing was an innovative idea that was suppose to boost academics among the low achieving schools. They fired principals in seven schools that showed low academic growth three years running . The new principals were placed in the same schools . Teachers that had proven themselves to be proficient in achieving high academic growth through testing were asked to teach in these schools for a bonus. These same teachers faired less than the teacher next door that was not receiving a bonus. The public and one board member repeatedly asked for results regarding the SS program. No data was given. Go back through the data and see that Reid Park was near the bottom (Byers last) for two of those years, yet as teachers were let go, bonuses were handed out to Mrs. Sturge and other strategic staffers. Ms. Sturge can tell you how she runs a successful strategic staffing school . She takes as many students that TFA’s or strategic staffers can not handle and places them into the classrooms of teachers that produce high
academic growth. (teachers that do not receive a bonus.) Once again a good idea is marred by CMS’s integrity.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Here's the link to Eric Frazier's story about large classes in 2010-11; it has a side link to a full list of the classes w/ 35+ students at that time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ann. Interesting. Note this comment from the article, which makes no bones about where the most large classes are--the suburbs:
" "People say, 'Oh, well, the suburbs aren't (suffering).' I'm sorry, they are," McGarry said. "How much are we going to overburden our teachers?"

But advocates for inner-city schools said school board leaders bear some blame for not pushing more aggressively to redraw attendance lines.

They say overcrowding could be reduced by moving some suburban kids to less-crowded center-city campuses. Absent that, they say the results will be disastrous if class sizes go up in high-poverty schools.'

Note, as I mentioned in a comment above concerning some advocates' desire to re-open now closed inner city schools--the goal appears to be to force suburban kids into those inner city schools.

The moral of it all--Be careful who you vote for this fall!

(Of course it's interesting that now that test scores are out, most of the schools listed last November as having many large classes continue to do well despite those crowded classrooms. And those with less crowded classrooms have many students that continue to struggle. Why is that?)

therestofthestory said...

To 11:37 AM What would be the point in busing a suburban kid into the inner city? Understand that with Charlotte's layout and trafic patterns that the suburban kids would have to get on the bus starting at 5:30 AM or so and not get home till 5:30 PM or so. DO you really think those families would be put up with being a pawn in a already deemed failed social engineering experiment? Because that is all they will view this "stunt" as.

Rather why not look how a predominantly black high school like Mallard Creek can have the success it does? Maybe look at the parenting patterns that are different that most inner city schools. Maybe look at the news stories on Khallid Love Vance graduate going to Princeton and the young woman from West Charlotte HS.

Also read the story form August 9 for more informaiton on why majority black schools like Mallard Creek HS, O'Berry and Harding do so well. The last 2 are but their population is black and high poverty and those kids and their families make sure they take education seriously. Some people get it and some are yet to "get with the program". CMS is not leaving any one behind who wants to get ahead. As the old saying goes, You can lead a horse to water but you can not make it drink.

Do you no longer feel that successful students have the right to an education that challenges them?

Anonymous said...

Restofthestory-Please read my comments carefully. Believe me, I am not advocating for the "bus the suburban kids approach". My comments are to illustrate what some have been advocating as a solution to overcrowding. While they may couch their reasoning in terms of trying to help out the overcrowding situation in the suburbs, in reality they are trying to get those suburban kids into their schools for the sake of their diversity theories. (and one might ask why the Observer editorial board continues to lament the school closings) I am adamantly against this tactic and agree with you completely about suburban reaction to this and about how much better it would be to concentrate on what Mallard Creek is doing to reach its kids. But you and I both know the busing advocates are still out there and are still determined to insert their theories into assignment one way or the other. Check out the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum (note--not the Ballantyne Breakfast Club) from 7-12-11 to see what one of their favorite PhD's has to say on the subject ( Or go to the Swann Fellowship's website (yes, they're still around) and see what Steve Johnston has to say about parents who want their kids going to school close to home:

The above is why I say be careful with your vote. With 17 candidates the votes may be spread around so much that candidates with some very questionable agendas may garner enough votes to win a seat.

Wiley Coyote said...

Thanks for posting the link to the various class sizes by school.

Here's what I take from this.

If you look at Mallard Creek for example, is the problem a building problem or a staffing problem?

They state enrollment increased while the number of teachers decreased.

Take West Meck. The numbers show 18 classes of 35 or more yet West Meck has had empty mobile classrooms sitting there for the past few years.

Again, at West Meck, it sure isn't lack of space.

As usual, anything with CMS and public education related to numbers is most always suspect and should be taken with a grain of salt.

therestofthestory said...

Thanks 1:32. I well know the Swann's intention. And I have proof where they have sent out deliberate misinformation and I called them on it. They had doctored a chart I already had the original for that they had put out a few years earlier.

But if you look at reality, who would they bus as KW would say. CMS has shrunk to around 32% white. The middle class blacks are fleeing the system as hard as they can go. If the economy were any better, I am sure those numbers would be going even stronger.

As for redrawing assignment lines, you simply load up more and more high poverty kids into the inner city schools before you get out far enough to touch the suburban kids. When you get kids on school buses riding past 2 schools for their "neighborhood" assignments, you will get strong and loud opposition. Because the proof is out there that a black kid sitting beside a white kid does not help anyone and what the black organizers really want is to pull the white kids down in achievement level. It is just class envy.

therestofthestory said...

KW, at first you might think it is just incompetence the way CMS manages space. And yes a lot of illogical moves are done just to satisfy some loud ignorant people.

But then again, as CMS did for decades when they hid behind the busing court order, they may not want to be that good. More of the incompetencies of educrats.

Wiley Coyote said...


We all know that staffing, Title I, economics, retc, etc go into making a school what it is for "capacity purposes".

What is always misleading - and CMS is not the only school district to do this - is stating capacity at a school as X, then turn around 2 or 3 years later and all of a sudden the capacity is Y.

The school didn't shrink. It didn't expand (unless mobiles were added or subtracted) but you get the point.

Richland One tried to do that numbers game with my old high school back in the mid 80's.

They added onto my school in '72 when I was there and the capacity was about 2,000.

In 1985 when they were contemplating closing a high school, one a traditional all Black and the other before 1970 (my high school) which had been all White.

The capacity numbers they were throwing out there for my school was around 1,300 students.

What? The school didn't shrink and there were no mobiles involved in 1972 so what happened to the space for the other 700 students?

A numbers game....

Anonymous said...

If it's REALLY about "poverty", then why do Korean kids excel:

And why do middle class black boys do worse than poor white boys:

Something else is definitely at work here, not just "poverty".

At least not financial poverty...

therestofthestory said...

KW yes I kept the physical assessment of CMS schools they put out 3 years ago. It was organized by number of classrooms rather than by discounted or not student population. I derived some very interesting descrepancies. Anyway, there are still a number of schools just under 50% capacity or just over that could be reorganized with nearby schools and possibly close another 10 schools/campuses.

Anonymous said...

To Wiley:

I am a teacher at an urban magnet secondary school. The overcrowding is rampant. One co-taught class last year (with 2 teachers) had 70 students in it. Many core classes had 35 of more. In some of them, there was not physically room in a class for seats/desks for every child, and students would take turns sitting on the floor. Our staff was absolutely bare bones for the course offerings we had, and it resulted in these ridiculous numbers. Today I received an email from our principal boasting that we had received additional money towards staffing, had added several positions (even more than he thought we'd get last June) and yet somehow I have a roster for one class with 50 students on it.

As for busing, how familiar are you with CMS' new shuttle stops system for magnet schools? They no longer pick up students from their homes, but rather from other CMS schools. We lost over 100 students (which translated into the loss of 4 teachers a full month into the school year) because some students' parents could not get them to the shuttle stops. The magnet option is not as accessible as in previous years; parents' work schedules prevent them from being able to drive their kid to a shuttle stop and pick them up.

I think something very important that CMS does not focus on is teacher turnover. Someone commented that Gorman did not treat teachers well. I completely agree with this statement. The tone of a school district is set at the top and it trickles down from there. We teachers are viewed as "disposable" and we were neither valued nor respected by our principals, our superintendent, or the parents during Gorman's time. I will say this: in the months since Gorman announced his resignation, the overall tone of emails sent to employees has changed slightly for the better. I can even tell a difference in the way that my principal addresses us now that Gorman is not in charge. We will see if there is a real difference as the school year progresses and we have contact with parents as well.

If we want to improve the education of the children in this school system, there needs to be CONSISTENCY. Year after year, many good teachers seek employment in Union or Cabarrus county because they have had enough at the hands of CMS. CMS needs to change its tone and focus on retaining good teachers. The turnover is ridiculous in some schools and it prevents our children from getting the best education possible. Teachers that are treated well = high teacher retention = more successful students. The teachers who don't do their job well need to be fired, RIF'd, something. CMS is often too scared to get rid of the bad ones unless they can blame it on the budget--they are afraid of lawsuits.

CMS needs to be as consistent as possible from year to year. Everyone--parents, students and teachers alike--dread the changes that come. Teachers don't know if they'll have a job, or where it will be. The same goes for principals. Students are reassigned on a whim. The constant upheaval contributes to the white flight, the teacher burnout, and the general unstability in schools. If they can retain good teachers, that will help "turn the dial" and "do more with less" even in difficult budget years and hard economic times.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 12:53......

As I said before, I don't doubt there are classes with more than 35 students per class. I also don't doubt some schools have no extra space to put students. I do believe some of the problems are lack of staff.

My son's math teacher had enough and gave her notice long before the Christmas break. They couldn't find another math teacher for the 2nd semester so the principal shifted some staff around and the teacher he wound up with just didn't want to be teaching that class. She is one of those who makes a lot of money and has this and that certification blah blah blah.

I am also familiar with the magnet transportation scheme cooked up to save money that we really didn't need to save afterall...

therestofthestory said...

Thanks 12:53 AM This is just the reason any person should be a school board candidate. This school system has got to be run more efficiently so what has happpened the last couple of years is stopped. What CMS is doing currently is unsustainable. Too mnay kids are being denied educational opportunity due to the strangling of schools at $4k to $5k per student and too many schools are getting no value at all for the $9k, $10k, $11k, spent per pupil.

The class size issue is a joke also. The minorities are not going to figure this issue out even if you get to 1 student per teacher. They are not intelligent enough. Nor do they care that tax dollars are squandered.

Anonymous said...

Taxation WITHOUT Representation

High Schools on the westside receiving 5x's the funding of other high schools. Less funding and 35+ in the classroom on the southeast side.

The last bastion of performance will be crippled in the coming years.Watch for the uprise in charter schools.