Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Evaluating Project LIFT

The decision to revamp N.C. testing put a major kink in Project LIFT's plan to chart five years of academic trends at West Charlotte High and its eight feeder schools. Test scores from 2012,  which were supposed to form the baseline for measuring changes that started this year,  won't bear much relationship to results on new tests that will be evolving over the next couple of years.

In a report to the school board Tuesday,  Zone Superintendent Denise Watts outlined an evaluation plan that will be carried out by Research for Action,  a Philadelphia-based nonprofit.  The delay in 2013 test results means the first-year report won't come out until January.  While the change between 2012 and 2013 might not mean much,  the researchers will compare performance with similar  "comparison schools."  They'll also look at attendance, retention and behavior  --  measures that should have some continuity with past years.

For anyone who has missed it,  Project LIFT is a $55 million,  five-year investment from foundations that want to make a significant difference in long-struggling westside schools.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools created a groundbreaking public-private partnership that gives the private donor board a strong role in hiring, firing and other key educations decisions.

As you might imagine,  when you have groups such as the Bank of America Charitable Foundation,  the Leon Levine Foundation and the C.D. Spangler Foundation putting up $10 million each,  they want solid data on whether their money is making a difference.  And CMS leaders want answers about whether Project LIFT strategies,  from teacher recruitment efforts to year-round schools,  produce strong enough results to justify spending public money to expand them.

One year isn't nearly enough to prove the project a success or failure,  but it'll be interesting to see the tracking start.


Anonymous said...

As usual, there will be no real accountability.

Why not just proclaim the project a "success" and move on?

It's just about getting more money for the usual crowd who is used to getting more money for NOT having another "D-Day" as it was once so eloquently said.

Just consider it a local variation of the Federal FRL money.

No auditing necessary.

Wiley Coyote said...

Finally, validation that data is impossible to track in CMS, whether it's Project LIFT or any other data.

Look at changes that have been made over the past 4 or 5 years with school closures and consolidations. There is no way CMS can possibly do accurate comparisons using change year ago data.

Vote NO! on CMS Bonds this November!

Anonymous said...

At this point there is nothing to measure. I don't care if Bill Gates was donating 50 million alone. If you can't change the parents, you can't change the schools.An apple is only as good as the tree.

BolynMcClung said...


If the community had wanted a plan to feel good about the education opportunities for the students who have to attend the nine L.I.F.T schools, it could have easily just said it is going to do something different, then done little, but said it had. That has been the model across the nation. It is typified by the “Silver Bullet” administrator upon which every success depends.

That’s not L.I.F.T. But this year’s reporting and testing fiasco doesn’t help prove that.

Fortunately, part of L.I.F.T. is a third party reporting company. I suspect many will not be willing to accept such assurances that group might note. But I think I will. The reason is that Mrs. Watts has proven herself very frank about what is going-on.

At Tuesday night’s Board meeting Mr. Davis asked an important question. He was concerned about the lack of reporting too. “What,” he asked, “are some successes you can tell to us?”

Denise Watts’ answer wasn’t about the Silver Bullet or some student or even a school. It was that the structure of L.I.F.T as a feeder pattern appears successful. She did point to the West Charlotte principal as a leader but only in the respect that he has the correct understanding that the elementary and middle schools are moving students up the ladder for graduation. I’m not sure such a tight model is in existences even the south of the county.

I can’t imagine there is anyone that would want that model to fail…….but there are.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...

"A feeder pattern that appears successful"?

Elementary, to middle to high school.

My son went through the same type feeder pattern so what's the difference other than free stuff, Zumba, health care, etc?

It doesn't matter which elementary, middle or high school you go to. You still have to know your alphabet and what 2+2 equals.

Anonymous said...

Are you for real with wanting data from either of these organizations. CMS cannot get data unles its scrubbed by the PR department. LIFT does not have a clue as to what Watts is doing with the money or the educational value. This is year one and you can print your story again in 12 months then 24 then 36 its not going to change. Then again the same folk who did no research on LIFT before they got in bed with it (LIFT) are now asking questions ? (Morgan,Davis,Lennon) Folks its after the fact and LIFT is not going to increase any gpa or graduation rate.

Anonymous said...

I believe your son went through one of the most successful elementary/middle school language programs in the country and a mediocre high school with some excellent teachers. The same program still turns out well prepared students, by and large, even if the majority now feed South Meck and the language magnet is in name only over on Tuckaseegee.

Wiley Coyote said...


He still had to pass all required courses. He also took honors and AP classes.

Not sure what you're referring to about SM being the langyage magnet.

South Mecklenburg Academy of International Languages (9-12) and West Mecklenburg Academy of International Languages (9-12)

At the high school level, language students attend the Academy of International Languages at either South Mecklenburg High School or West Mecklenburg High School. Students follow an accelerated course of study that stresses French, German, Japanese or Spanish, grammar, writing, composition, literature, culture and international trade.

Students will have the opportunity to take up to 8 elective courses in their target language during grades 9-12. Magnet program students are required to take seven (7) elective courses in their target language during grades 9-12. The Academy is open to any student with a strong interest in foreign language study.

Anonymous said...

Bolyn- I miss the "silver bullet" Ms. Watts is qouting. I think the West Charlotte principal is a CMS paid employee? From what I see and witnessed last night at one of my kids schools I dont think CMS has the courage to hold a kid back either. So of course a k-5,6-8,9-12 feeder system is the course. I saw 20% of the kids not attend a final music performance and a outside adult (I am sure with no back ground check) involved with them. The kids who did not perform were told they would not pass. CMS budgeting has created so many grey areas for staff its becoming a serious issue. Ms. Watts knows that she used to work for CMS. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

I was invited to attend a Project Lift Meeting about a month ago at Johnson C. Smith University to give parent feedback. I was appalled by the complete waste of time and money spent on that meeting. This was supposed to be a meeting to hear from parents about why we don't get more involved, or why certain parents aren't involved at all and how to change that. After all the preaching and self-promotion, guess how many parents got to speak in the time left: 2. The women who organized it spent more time patting themselves on the back and preaching to the choir than actually accomplishing anything. They said it was such a successful meeting they wanted to meet again to hear from more parents. Tentatively scheduled for October. I encourage ALL CMS parents to attend to take a look and judge for yourself if there is any real quantifiable work going on.

Anonymous said...

Oh I forgot to mention it was a 2 hour meeting and 2 parents were allowed to finally speak in the last 5 minutes. I'm not exaggerating.

I was embarrassed for the more intellectual of the group who were waiting for something more significant to come out of the meeting. I'm sure I wasn't alone in asking myself why I bothered to show up and what, if anything, was really accomplished.

What's the point said...

5:21, this is all about self promotion and it has been evident to many of us who have been around many of these school administrators for awhile. I will bet not many of these "leaders" will be here by the end of this social experiment. They will have made a name for themselves with the already publicized success and moved on to greener pastures in DC and other urban school systems.

Remember, it is not about achieving a higher graduation rate or higher test scores. It is about how you got more and more money for these programs. And of course with no accountability.

Despite how this article starts out, it is a blessing to LIFT that the tests have changed. Sadly, the previous tests were supposed to ramp up in difficulty over the years but once they did that and saw which demographics' scores were hurt the most, they never followed through that again.

DPI decided the best thing to do was to allow the retests to count. It would be another year or two putting off the eventual spotlight. But by then, school adminstrators could figure our how to change home school lines, magnet offerings, etc. to prevent any apples to apples comparisons.

But thanls however to you for your participation and interest. I did not catch though how many parents you thought were there give input. It sounds like the BOE members and the LIFT sponsors are not interested in the nitty gritty details of how success happens. They've been given rose colored glasses to wear.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:31pm,

Why do you think a project LIFT meeting would engage the "intellectuals" in the audience?

They know their target audience when it comes to parents.

And it isn't the intellectuals they are concerned about.

Or trying to impress.

Anonymous said...

Ann, I'm curious to know what qualifications Ms. Watts had to qualify her for Zone Superintendent for Project L.I.F.T.? I'm somewhat confused about the entire purpose of this program. I know what the goal is, but not the purpose. I'm also curious as to how the money is being spent. I have read the articles pertaining to the events for parents disguised as PTA meetings and I even subscribed to receive the text messages to be notified about upcoming events for Project L.I.F.T. parents. As a Project L.I.F.T. parent, I never attended any of the events because I felt it conveyed the wrong message - Make no effort to get involved in your child's education and things will be handed to you. As this school year approaches the end, I have taken the steps necessary to get my child out of the Project L.I.F.T. environment. After an entire year in this program, my son knows no more than when he started except this program received 55 million in charitable donations and don't know where the money went. BTW, as an assignment he attempted to write about the donations to Project L.I.F.T. and the schools involved but was told the topic was inappropiate and was instructed to write about something else.

Wiley Coyote said...

It's refreshing to see comments from involved parents who have children in the Project LIFT program and their concerns about its direction and goals.

Keep asking questions or else you'll be spoon-fed only pre-approved talking points.

Anonymous said...

How do I get my child out of the LIFT Zone? There are no great school choices offered in that Zone. My child's home school would have been Hopewell but was changed to West Charlotte instead. The teachers over there are a mess! I suggest they look into rezoning again and give students an opportunity to receive a better education.