Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Project LIFT teachers: Absent more than students

Teachers in Project LIFT schools averaged 9.9 absences last year  --  a higher rate than the student average of 9.1 absences.

That was one of the most shocking bits of data in the first-year report on the $55 million five-year project  presented at Tuesday's board meeting.  But you won't find it in the presentation posted online,  and you didn't hear it discussed if you watched the meeting.  Instead,  you might have caught a quick reference to a paper handout distributed to board members.

I got a copy from Denise Watts, the Project LIFT Zone superintendent, after the meeting. It contains the actual data that's available so far to measure the results of the first year.  Many of the items are blank,  to be completed when 2013 test results are released or new parent surveys are completed.

The 71 percent graduation rate at West Charlotte High exceeded the 2013 goal of 66 percent.  This year's target is 78 percent.  And last year's students overwhelmingly topped the goal to earn a total of 100 recovered credits  (essentially makeup courses, often taken online).  They earned 301.

But teacher absences at the nine LIFT schools came in well above the 2012-13 target, which was to average six missed days per teacher.  Apparently based on last year's reality,  the 2013-14 goal has been bumped up to 7.9.  For students,  the goal is to bring the average down to 8.1 days this year.

Another bleak spot:  Students in the nine schools, which include the elementary and middle schools that feed into West Charlotte,  averaged 1.7 out-of-school suspension days per student.  That would equate to 170 per 100 students, using the calculation for  N.C. school report cards. That's similar to the rate reported for West Charlotte High in 2011-12  (176 per 100) and well above the rates reported that year for the  schools with younger students.  This year's goal is to bring the zone average down to one suspension per student.  (That doesn't mean each student gets suspended;  some students earn multiple suspensions and run up the total.)


Anonymous said...

More money for less work !

All of the staff will be administrators or "market adjustment" workers within 3 years.

Great motiviation Watts !

Anonymous said...

What is the district average for teacher absence? For student absence?

Anonymous said...

Well, they can lower the suspension rates the same way they get rid of all their other "problems".

Just lower the standards.

Yep. That'll work. Just as it always has.

And yet we still wonder why the "bright" folks are leaving...

Anonymous said...

Apparently, the world won't be "equal" enough for some folks until every child is issued a Birth Certificate and a High School Diploma at birth.

Nameless said...

Project LIFT is trying to fix 25 years of mistakes made by CMS and State education. It will fail because the rest of CMS continues to follow the same trends to 'dumb down' teachers and ignore those who speak out that cause West Charlotte and others to be in their current position. Go back in time to see what made West Charlotte and others great schools...integration. The end of busing due to a frivolous lawsuit and fear of other lawsuits killed CMS. State government should dump the Fed grants and do its own thing and ignore national trends, legally support your teachers and districts from outsider parents who threaten lawsuits then leave when they win.

Wiley Coyote said...

The biggest thing I got from the report is they want to replicate parts of LIFT in other schools.

~L.I.F.T. pilot could serve as a prototype for other CMS schools with temporary complex needs

Ssssuuuuurrrrrre. Instead of wasting millions of philanthropy money, let's waste more tax dollars.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Excellent questions, 7:44. If they'd discussed this publicly, I think board members would have asked that. I'll try to find out.

Anonymous said...

Doesnt integration just obscure the data? Lets say 200 students drop out of West Charlotte each year (made up numbers) Do those same 200 drop out anyways regardless of the school they are going to? That number would look more like 25 at west charlotte, 35 at east meck, 15 at providence etc.

Anonymous said...


As a CMS Alumni from the days of integration - it sucked. Did I get to go to nearby schools no. I was bused from South Charlotte to First Ward, and West Charlotte. Why should anyone have to take a hour and half long bus ride so that the ##'s look better at all schools? You punish students for no reason.

Anonymous said...

@8:33-AMEN! Can you imagine if they started busing again? I know I'd pull my kids out so fast.
Project LIFT is just smoke and mirrors.

Anonymous said...

When CMS instituted Neighborhood Schools, what did you think was going to happen? I attended WC in the late 90's and everything was great.

Anonymous said...

They must have majored in African-American studies at UNC

Shamash said...

Ironically, the whole Brown V. case was brought because a little black girl was denied admission to her "local" school which was white.

She was forced to walk past the white school to attend a black school.

And the brilliant result of that was to deny millions of kids access to their "local" schools through busing, making them ride in buses past their local schools to achieve some racially-mixed nirvana in another school.

And it didn't work.

Because so many people just moved away.

Anonymous said...

Surely you can see Plessyvv Ferguson redux? The world isn't homogenous so why is this learning environment homogenous? Check out the video on the positive impact on integration for WCHS and all schools before you say it doesn't work. It's desperately needed !! The disparity in the schools is too huge to overlook. Why am I paying my tax dollars for all these wonderful schools in Myers Park Ardrey Kell Hough and my child receives no benefits! But does suffer from the vitriolic ignorance of people and govt

Wiley Coyote said...


141,171 students in CMS.

59,292 African American students

25,411 Hispanic students

7,058 Asian students

4,235 American Indian/multi-racial students
95,996 Total minority students

45,175 White students

Since 68% of CMS is minority, how do you propose to integrate the schools?

What are the disparities? Since the reported number of students in poverty in CMS is 76,232 and they get more funding per pupil plus other incentives the remaining 64, 939 students do not get and have to pay more for their education, what are the disparities?

Shamash said...

The world isn't homogeneous for sure.

It's definitely stratified.

Everyone doesn't have a home in Beverly Hills, do they?

So why shouldn't schools be stratified?

(See, that argument goes both ways.)

I can say "integration" doesn't work simply because when left to their own, people quite often re-segregate.

They do this among lines of class, sex, race, income, education, etc., etc.

You can see this just about everywhere you go.

(Even churches on Sunday during "the most segregated hour of the week".)

It's a world-wide phenomenon as well.

Also, when you mix folks for the benefit of the "disadvantaged" it is often to the detriment of the "advantaged" (which usually goes unmeasured and unsaid).

Which is why, when given a choice and a chance, the "advantaged" often leave, especially if they are being mixed by force.

After all, they didn't get to be "advantaged" by being chumps.

And you ask why are YOU paying for Ardrey Kell?

Don't you think the parents of kids at Ardrey Kell pay more than their share?

And probably get less per tax dollar input into the schools.

(Except for the RESULTS of the education which are largely due to the efforts of the students and parents, not the infrastructure.)

Why should the Ardrey Kell parents pay for the smaller class sizes the urban crowd gets today?

Besides, if you moved ALL the "disadvantaged" kids to Ardrey Kell, it would become a "disadvantaged" school, too.

Because it's the people (mostly students and parents) that make the difference.

And you don't change them much by simply moving them around to make the underachievers look and feel better about themselves.

At best, you just annoy those who are already doing well, so they leave.

And failure continues to spread.

Shamash said...

As long as there is still inequality among the Amish there isn't much hope for the rest of the world...

Anonymous said...

Well said. I'm alumni and staff at WC. I preach this all the time.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:12 do your homework. You mention MPHS and complain about inadequacies??? How about the fact that your blind assumptions about the student population their has MORE DISADVANTAGED or whatever you have called them than schools like WCHS. .and I QUOTE......... In high schools, the most money per student went to Midwood High, an alternative school for high-risk students. The district spent $10,086 per student at Midwood, compared to $4,538 at Hopewell High in Huntersville. Myers Park High ranked second for the least funding per student with $4,584. The district average was $5,310........... Yet MPHS continues to do MORE with less and in many cases 3,000 and 4,000 less PER KID!!!

Anonymous said...

Sham ash the whole Brown v. BOE was part of a series of Cases brought before the SC in hopes of planting the seeds for the actual Federal Enforcement of the 14th amendment and the dismantling of Jim Crow laws in the Deep South. Hundreds of cases were presented but this one had the most teeth. The plan was to guarantee a 9-0 ruling which would thankfully pave the way for equal rights throughout the entire country. It just so happened that school houses were the plaintiff chosen by the SC.

bobby mcgee said...

Your child will get lost and fall through the cracks in an Ardrey kell classroom, most low performing to mediocre students do.

Anonymous said...

The data they cooked to give your is more loaded than a PR release from CMS PR staff. Of course Ms. Watts would never support the numbers with factual data so don't bother asking. Keith W. Hurley
We already have empty schools.

Shamash said...

Anon 5:11

Yes, but the original Brown V. was about a little schoolgirl who had to walk to take a bus and ride past her local white school to a black school.

And the "solution" meant MILLIONS of kids had to take a bus to ride past their local white school to a black school.

Odd how that wasn't seen as a "problem" until white people started leaving in droves.

You may argue that it was for a "good" cause, but the solution was still a bit ironic.

Anonymous said...

Sham ash.... I don't think IRONIC is the right word. I might argue justified.

Anonymous said...

Shouldnt Ms. Watts evaluation have employee absence as part of her pay for performance?

Oh,she is not overseen or evaluated by anyone. Money well spent indeed!

Anonymous said...

7:44 asks a good question. Ann, I would be willing to bet that the problem you described isn't just at the LIFT schools.

Anonymous said...

Averages hide a lot of information.
With the average of 9.9 absences there are probably quite a few teachers with significantly more than 15 days absent. Are these teachers still employed?
Is this a system wide problem?

Anonymous said...

Sad story: Progressive discipline led to firing a good employee for excessive absenteeism. In the dismissal meeting the employee's response was "I missed more time in HS and it was OK". I really felt sorry for the employee and his family - he probably never will understand.
If CMS is giving diplomas to so many students with high absenteeism it is not preparing students for the real world....apparently unless they are teachers.
Wow - we are in such trouble.

Anonymous said...

In addition to how this compares to absences district-wide, I would be curious to know how they calculated teacher absences. Was it an average of 9.9 absences on instructional days in which teachers called in sick or took personal leave? Does it include leave for professional development? Does it include absences on teacher workdays which are not instructional days? If it includes TWDs then it's not an apples-to-apples comparison from teachers to students.

Wiley Coyote said...

Here is the CMS Employee Leave Policy:

Anonymous said...

would family leave (i.e. maternity) or absences due to medical procedures counted in with the average?

Anonymous said...

Students are allowed to recover their days after school and on Saturdays.

Wiley Coyote said...

Here is a 2007 report by Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy
Duke University, posted on the NCDPI website titled:

Reducing Teacher Absences in North Carolina

A Report for
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

One key paragraph from the report:

Background (pages 4-5)

Teacher absences occur more often in schools with higher percentages of low-income students and higher percentages of students reading below grade level. The leave policy of a district significantly influences teacher usage of leave days. Moreover, incentive programs and good working conditions can play a role in reducing teacher absenteeism. Under current leave policy, teachers earn several types of leave, but the most common type of leave taken by teachers on instructional days is sick leave.

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

Anon 6:47pm.

I guess in your world, you right a wrong with another wrong.

That's what most people call "revenge", not "justice".

Whether "ironic" or "justified", it's still good enough reason for the people adversely affected to find alternatives.

Which they did and still do.

Despite herculean efforts by our government to force people to do what they didn't want to do.

So much for "forced" integration, eh?

Just look where it has left us today with so many wailing about "re-segregation".

A much more sane, simple, and direct solution to the problem back then would have been to simply let the kids go to their local schools, regardless of their race.

But that was too simple for the social engineers of that era.

And apparently even for many of the like-minded today.

And it will fail as usual.

Anonymous said...

As long as this CMS BOE is in power there will be no real improvement.

Anonymous said...


It seems to me that this story should have been about the significant gains that Project LIFT made rather than highlighting an administrative/operational issue that doesn't seem to have had a negative impact on student outcomes. I'm curious why you chose this particular lead-in?

It appear that academic strategy is working and that work still needs to be done on behavior. That could be done with character education.

Ann Doss Helms said...

10:09, I'm not sure what significant academic gains you mean. The grad rate was huge, and I covered that prominently when it was released and mentioned it again in the main story about this report. The test scores are still unknown. This is an early look at data provided to school board but not discussed publicly. I'd be shocked if anyone argued that teacher absences are irrelevant to student achievement -- I think the opposite is true. You not only want to hire great teachers, you want to have them in front of the class, with a minimum of reliance on subs.

Anonymous said...

I am with Ann on this one.
I cannot believe there is even one person who would say an average 9.9 absences doen't have a huge academic effect.