Thursday, November 21, 2013

How did Meck middle schools fare on exams?

Middle school performance on the 2013 N.C. exams shows some stark differences among schools, but the numbers provide few easy answers about what's working. (To see at-a-glance 2013 exam results for Charlotte-Mecklenburg middle schools and charter schools in the county, go to this map.)

Twelve of 51 middle schools had overall pass rates below 25 percent, while four topped 75 percent.

The new exams, which are designed to give a more realistic picture of college and career readiness than the old ones,  brought dramatic drops across the state. The patterns are predictable, with the biggest setbacks at the schools serving large numbers of low-income and minority students,  but still tough to see.

Last year I made regular visits to Ashley Park, a preK-8 school that's part of Project LIFT,  for a series on the eighth-graders and the faculty who were trying to get them ready for high school.  According to the new exams,  about 31 percent of those eighth graders ended the year proficient in math and just under 16 percent in reading.  The school's overall proficiency rating,  for all grades and subjects,  was 26.5 percent.

Ashley Park students at year's end

And that was far from the worst.  Most of the preK-8 schools created when CMS closed troubled high-poverty middle schools landed at the bottom of the pack as they finished their second year in the new structure.  Berryhill was the highest performing of the eight neighborhood preK-8 schools created in that move, with a 40.9 percent proficiency rate and a top growth rating. Reid Park Academy was the lowest, at 11.1 percent proficiency --  and an eighth-grade math pass rate below 5 percent.

Of course,  it's impossible to know how students would have fared if the old middle schools had remained.  And K-8 magnet schools such as Collinswood Language Academy (69.5 percent overall proficiency),  Waddell Language Academy (66.2 percent) and Morehead STEM (63.6 percent) performed much better.

Comparing CMS and charter middle schools provides a mixed bag as well.  Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy,  a K-8 charter,  topped the list with a 94.6 percent overall proficiency rate  --  hardly surprising since it serves highly gifted students.  CMS results for gifted students were also very high.  Kennedy School,  a K-12 charter for at-risk students,  was near the bottom.

In the south/southeast suburbs,  CMS neighborhood schools such as Robinson (82.7 percent),  South Charlotte (78.1 percent) and Community House (77.4 percent)  outscored nearby charters such as Socrates Academy (74.3 percent)  and Queens Grant (50.5 percent).  In the northern burbs that was reversed,  with Community School of Davidson (74.6 percent)  and Lake Norman Charter (73 percent)  topping CMS' Bailey (67.8 percent),  Bradley (55.2 percent) and Alexander (47.2 percent).

KIPP and Sugar Creek,  both charter schools known for success with disadvantaged students,  logged overall proficiency rates of 36.1 percent and 39.7 percent,  respectively.  Those aren't the kind of scores that will look good when the state starts issuing letter grades, but they're well above the nearest CMS middle schools,  Cochrane (17.6 percent) and Martin Luther King (22.8 percent). CarolinaCAN,  a new reform advocacy group, recently profiled Sugar Creek Charter as part of its video series on successful charters.

I'm working my way through the data, which was released earlier this month.  Mecklenburg high schools are already mapped,  and I'll get to the elementary schools as soon as possible.  If you'd like an Excel version of the middle and/or high school results, email me at


Anonymous said...

Ann, if you change the testing methods every year or so then your NEVER going to have a point to compare. Of course if you looked at these numbers you would question the graduation estimated results CMS released this year. So really a jumble of results on new test just establishes a new standard until the method is changed. I would say less than 2 years their will be a new method of testing so don't bother saving this years data. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

Shocking and disappointing!!!! Makes you question CMS's own data around graduation rates and previous EOG/EOC scores. Visit W. Charlotte any day and you will be appalled. Where is all the Project Lift money going?? Definitely not making any positive change that's for sure. Enough praising of CMS -- everyone should be appalled with these results!!

Wiley Coyote said...

Arne Duncan is on Morning Joe as I write this explaining his "white suburban Moms" comment and why he is pushing higher standards in schools.

He just stated that when you raise the hurdle from one foot to two feet, it's a much bigger challenge to get over but parents and students need to understand that's what it is going to take in order to compete with the rest of the world.

I found his comments to be refreshing.

It's about time public education finally gets a big dose of reality and that what has been happening in schools in the past has been an epic fail.

Bolyn McClung said...


Kennedy is as close to a failed school as exists in North Carolina. It will be interesting to see if the new association with Johnson C. Smith University has the same impact as the placing of CMS schools at CPCC and UNCC.

And just a note to anyone wanting to place a new charter school in the south end of the county. The old Kennedy campus, that is just down the street from Quail Hollow Shopping Center, is up for sale or lease. That property is on the light rail, bus route and a major road from affluent neighborhoods to uptown.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

My wife works in one of the poorly-performing Middle Schools and has complained for years of the lack of professionalism and apathy of the administrators and teachers there. There is tolerance for all kinds of unacceptable student behavior, teachers who yell and swear at students, and an overall lack of drive to improve things. The idea that they can just pass these kids through and let high school worry about them is a shameful abdication of their responsibilities, and lazy to boot. I could go on and on about the specific reasons for these failures, but what's the point when there are so few with the energy and talent to make the necessary changes.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anyone acknowledge that perhaps White/Asians are JUST intellectually superior to Blacks/Hispanics/etc for the most part no matter how much money you throw at them? I know that they're exceptions to the rule but, it has been this way forever and no matter how you slice it the results are always seem to be the same.

Shamash said...

Anon 9:43am.

Well, maybe we should just compare OUR Asians, Whites, Hispanics and Blacks to those of the rest of the world.

If we did that, we might see some different strengths and weaknesses in our educational system than when we just focus on ourselves.

Maybe the Asians and Whites do worse in the US than in the rest of the world, while our blacks and Hispanics perform better than those of the rest of the world.

We probably look pretty good next to Mexico or Haiti.

And not so good against Singapore Korea, and Finland.

And maybe those are the "gaps" we should be talking about.

Instead of all this internal navel-gazing.

At least we are looking outside the US for comparison nowadays.

Which is one reason why we are starting to look so bad compared to previous efforts at measuring our school performance which largely ignored the rest of the world.

Not quite our Sputnik moment (though we are slightly behind Russia and a few former Soviet states), but perhaps soon.

Anonymous said...

I vigorously disagree that whites and Asians are intellectually superior to blacks and hispanics. Skin color has nothing to do with it. But the prevailing culture (or attitudes) within each of these groups has a lot to do with educational results. A culture that respects and encourages learning is going to provide far superior results than one that tolerates disrespect, poor behavior, and poor life choices. For some years now the politically correct among us have claimed that outcomes for every child would be the same if only we could provide the perfect school, with the perfect teachers, and of course the perfect diversity quotient. Disparate results could not possibly be caused by anything except "inequity". This, of course, has proven not to be the case. The purveyors of the the "you are not to blame" theory have in my mind caused even more damage to an already struggling population.

Shamash said...


Also, while these "standards" are new, these test results are not.

If you are looking for a thread of continuity in testing, look at NAEP, the so-called "Nations Report Card", which has been warning us for years.

These results are very similar to the NAEP tests which had different levels of "proficiency".

You can easily compare past NAEP scores to current NAEP scores and see that these problems have been with us a while.

They just weren't getting the same attention because the state standards and definitions of proficiency were so much lower in most cases, making most people look better.

And "proficiency" is also a higher standard than "passing" for NAEP and these new tests.

I've posted links to state proficiency mappings to NAEP proficiency standards before, but here they are again:

This report in particular, starting on page 10, shows how state "proficiency" compared to NAEP "proficiency" back in 2010:

I would say this report back in 2010 shows few surprises with current results under the "new" National standards.

So it's not like we didn't already know this...

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:43 It isn't merely a matter of race. There are many factors that account for the discrepancies, one of the main ones is how well off the person is. There was a study released back in August by economists from Harvard and Princeton that shows poverty impedes cognitive functions.

Here is a link to the article

Wiley Coyote said...

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death, this is one thing I remember well:

...But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold.

I'm the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute. [laughter]

However, I think we're going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don't think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. And this will be done in the decade of the sixties. It may be done while some of you are still here at school at this college and university. It will be done during the term of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before the end of this decade.

Kennedy made this speech in 1961 and in 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

That same year, the United States had it highest high school graduation rate at 79%.

We sent men to the moon with as much computing power that we have today in a handheld calculator.

Today we have kids who can barely read and do math.

Shamash said...

Anon 10:18am.

You might find this old book written in 1992 interesting:

WHO PROSPERS: How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success, by Lawrence E. Harrison

Here's a LA Times review...

Anyway, it still makes interesting reading some 20 years after it was written.

If nothing else, just to see how much things remain the same.

Of course, he was denounced at the time he wrote this because it was just as politically incorrect then as it is now.

Shamash said...

Hey Wiley,

Todays vision.

Having a workable healthcare insurance website using known technology by the end of the decade...

And no promises, mind you.

Anonymous said...

To all of those who disagree with anon 9:43. Why is it then that it's always the minority/majority schools as Fannie Flono likes to call them, that always seem to be on the bottom end of the academic spectrum no matter how much money/resources you pump into them or change the testing format?

Redlight said...

These results are mind-boggling.

Anonymous said...

I believe it ultimately boils down to parental involvement & the overall "microsocietal" emphasis on learning and success. As noted, the higher performing schools are in areas that serve - in general - a more affluent population. This demographic tends to put more emphasis on learning and success than their lower income counterparts. It is as much culture as color in that respect.

Change the culture, teach the parents & perhaps these lower performing schools would find more success. The key to that change is anybody's guess because clearly little has changed in that regard.

Shamash said...

Anon 10:29

That study would be more interesting if it covered some place like South Korea which has academically high performing "poor".

From what I can tell in the summary they only study farmers in India and mall shoppers in New Jersey.

While I don't doubt that the stress of poverty makes it tough to think things through clearly, it seems that some people are STILL more resilient than others.

South Korea is such a place where the poor DO achieve beyond expectations.

(At least as far as the OECD and the administrators of the TIMSS test is concerned.)

Again, culture and other factors could still make a difference.

Here's a link to the article:

Personally, I'm not too impressed with this research.

They could have just as easily found similar results with "busy" vs "nonbusy" people or as they suggested "sleepy" vs. "rested".

The same explanation of a "shortfall of cognitive resources" would still apply.

Therefore, their extrapolation to shaping "policy" to avoid "cognitive taxes" on the "poor" is pretty much a joke.

Anonymous said...

Race and socioeconomic class are absolutely correlated in this country. This is due to the legacy of slavery as well as racism in later years - black people simply found themselves in the lower classes which created a culture not conducive to achievement. So it's not because or race per se. If you look at the high achieving black students in this country, quite a number of them actually have parents recently emigrated from Africa or Haiti - thus they are in the higher classes with a culture that values education.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't you mention Ridge Road Middle School in the northern end of the county (just as close to JMA)? They had excellent growth rates this year as an entire school, not just math or english. They deserve recognition for their hard work as well.

Anonymous said...

I have a question and am seeking some feedback.

As a thirty-something (gainfully employed locally, no kids) with a desire to teach at some point in my life (currently, I just volunteer my time as a Little League coach), I wonder if the public school system is so broken that those that may have such desire should focus their energy elsewhere?

I am publically educated in the south, and my mother was a public school teacher in the south, and I have always felt a similar calling. However, because of the state of public education currently it seems that acting on that calling would be somewhat pyrrhic. On the other hand, is there a place for those that possess a calling to the public education sector, not only as teachers but administrators to serve with a passion that strengthens the next generations of students.

Is the public education institution resigned to its own fate or can it re-build into a positive force of our society's future?

Just curious what others that have interest in the outcome of public education think.

Called it like it is said...

11:43, you need to read the book "Uncle Sam's Plantation".

The ever growing but ever suppressed social sciences' conclusions have been, if you ever wanted to hold down a group of people, there is no better system than America's welfare system.

Also refer to the orginal purpose of Planned Parenthood, to decrease the black population at its beginning.

Lastly, get a hold of the crime study that shows how crime rates changed when the population hit its older years when access to abortion has changed.

And never forget Senator Moynihan's report "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action" which laid out how poverty programs simply created more poverty.

Anonymous said...

Any reason why the school system is delaying the delivery of student's individual results?

Also, I would not put to much stock into these results. From what I understand, this test was not even normed yet. As a parent of a gifted student, I will not have a second thought about his score whether it is high or low. He is learning.

Ann Doss Helms said...

11:44 a.m., you've got a point about Ridge Road's location, and they deserve kudos for exceeding the growth target. But in this context, including Ridge Road's 44.6 percent overall proficiency rate in contrast with the higher-scoring charters felt a bit like piling on CMS. It's on the map, though, which is the idea -- everyone can check stats on the schools they care about.

Ann Doss Helms said...

12:50, CMS isn't delaying the results. The statewide plan was that districts had to wait for the Nov. 7 state Board of Ed vote to approve the scores before they could start generating individual student reports. Those reports are supposed to be sent home within 30 days of that vote, so no one's late ... yet. There's a new computer "tool" to create those reports, so I have my suspicions that they might end up being late. But we'll see after the first week of December.

Ann Doss Helms said...

12:50, your bigger point about not putting too much stock in the numbers is a great one. Even the best testing system is not a perfect measure of a school, let alone an individual student's experience. And this system is so new that it's reasonable to exercise some caution.

Wiley Coyote said...

...then why do we look at numbers in the first place?

What alternative is there?

Why do we look at the "achievement gap"?

Why do we need to spend extra funding on those who need help if numbers don't mean anything, even though all students are held to the same standard(s) whatever the flavor grading system of the day is?

Why are we then wasting $55 million dollars with Project LIFT?

See Jane. See Jane graduate. See Jane not be able to function in college.

Anonymous said...

"If you change the testing methods every year or so then you're NEVER going to have a point to compare".

And there you have it, Keith. Keep moving the target and we can just keep chasing our tails around in circles another couple of decades.

I'm the last of the bunch taking the Praxis 2 before NC jumps onto the next teacher testing bandwagon called the MTEL. I took the NTE as a lateral-entry specialty area teacher in the late 1980's prior to the new and improved Praxis series and now the latest testing marvel called MTEL. You'd think kids would have gotten smarter by now.


Anonymous said...

About the MTEL

The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) was initiated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 1998 as part of our statewide education reform initiative for educators seeking PreK to grade 12 academic licenses. The MTEL includes a test of communication and literacy skills as well as tests of subject matter knowledge. The tests are designed to help ensure that Massachusetts educators can communicate adequately with students, parents/guardians, and other educators and that they are knowledgeable in the subject matter of the license(s) sought. MTEL includes tests for candidates seeking vocational technical and adult basic education licenses.

Curious if my UMass/Amherst undergraduate degree will make me more "effective" in North Carolina?


Shamash said...


As you may know (or not) Massachusetts is one of the few consistently bright spots in education in this country.

As a state they perform high on whatever test is thrown at them.

Even the international TIMSS tests aren't too tough for those folks.

That makes me think they are doing something right.

(Or perhaps they just have good "genes"...), demographics does play a strong role in performance no matter what people like to think.

They also have tougher standards for teachers, so maybe they're on to something.

Shamash said...

Maybe I should have said the way Massachusetts USED to be.

Seems that Common Core may be dragging them down...

Anonymous said...

there, their, they're

Anonymous said...

Alicia, and when our next gov is elected new test formulas will roll out. The next new CMS Super will roll them out with a spin and wonderful graduation rates will follow. Then the truth will come out and it will be time for a new leadership team. You really cannot make this stuff up , but I am keeping records for a reality show can the 10th grader give change of a 20-. I hate to see children being used as pawns for some paid for program elected officials roll out. Cooking the numbers every two years is not the answer and I am glad we agree on that. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

Only when teachers have higher standards will teachers receive the proper pay and social respect that they deserve.I have been in education for over 20 years. I have seen a true decline in the quality of our younger educators over the past 5 years. The ones that did have skills to be a great educator left for a better job. How can CMS and NC expect to attract and retain the "best and brightest"? They cannot and will not for at least another 5 years and more millions spent on wasted PfP test. The next decade will see an almost collapse of quality educators in Charlotte and our state. Why would anyone with any common sense and student debt work for $35,000 and limited benefits in Charlotte? How does this attract quality prospects and canidates that can do an exceptional job educating our youth. It will erode into an education sytem that has spent TRILLIONS of dollars falling out of the top 50 in the world.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Is anyone here concerned about the corporate education reform movement sweeping the country? Start digging into Common Core and standardized testing. Why are many states that are ahead of NC in the adoption process dumping Common Core, have large amounts of parents refusing to allow their children to take these tests, returning Race to the Top money, and boycotting the corporate giants behind this reform movement.

Called it like it is said...

8:53, this is only the continuation of the federal takeover of K-12. School systems or properly more accurately public education advocates, should start challenging your local school authorities to prove taking federal money is giving your school system any boost at all. Most school systems implement program after program and have no idea if it is effective. Next thing you know, the superintendent moves on to their next glory job and the next superintendent implements a far different strategy and most importantly puts enough change in place that no one can really tell if the students are benefiting. Year to year tracking becomes impossible to the liberals delight. They hid behind kids, claim it is "for the children" and play the R"race card every chance they get. And if other local papers' editorial boards are as incompetent as the CO's, the truth is swept under the rug.

I think this is why the charter school movement is gaining ground. The teachers are more in command of the school.

Teachers however have done themselves no favors over the years. They have failed to police their own profession to weed out those who pull it down.

Somewhat related to the first point, local funders, states and counties recognize the dramatic increase in per pupil spending and yet achievement is elusive at best. Probably been more detrimental top most of the kids especially the average and above average. I believe the top slice of kids get a great education in most school systems, but the kids who have the most potential and best support system are being left out of the public education system. I say detrimental in the same manner the Head Start program review came out last December and said black kids had simply wasted their time and white and Hispanic kids were harmed. Very little of the spending increase has gone to educational programs related to achievement. It has been more surface things to help the liberals feel noble about themselves and enjoy the ego trip on the church steps.

I believe a school system could tell the feds to take a hike, free themselves of the federal strings and provide a true educational system with 60% less administration. There are plenty of laws on the books to cover dealing with students who really need the help. Actually, the true graduation rate of CMS and yearly achievement scores would increase dramatically if 1% or 2% of the troublesome kids were dealt with the justice as they should be and removed form the schools where kids want to learn.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who attempts to make a comment on this board critical of public education is a coward who is simply too afraid to wade in and help. We are all Monday morning quarterbacks and it is quite easy to tell us how you would do it. If the truth be told, many of the commenters on this site could not pass high school again a second time. Those high flyers who did the first time would be bottom of the class this time. Either put up or shut up. Most of you wouldn't know valid statistics or statistical models if it bit you in the rear end. North Carolina will continue to rank toward the bottom of nearly any educational poll because you are a backwards people who do not care a single iota about public education nor the success of others children. You are merely one step above Mississippi and will more than like remain there for quite some time.

Shamash said...

Anon 11:25...

Lawdy, Lawdy, I do declare.

We is just so ignernt down hyeah.

But I'll take your statistics challenge. Go for it, Bubba-Basher.

As for "helping" public education, I prepare my kids for school and they are doing better than the average kids in Lake Wobegon.

So, if you think those who comment on this blog are dummies, you apparently haven't met the rest of the "community"

Also, I take it you didn't read the resignation letter of this former NC teacher:

He was a math teacher, so he probably understands "statistics", too.

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

Anon 8:53.

Did you read my post about the current drop in scores in Massachusetts?

The architect of Massachusett's success is laying blame squarely on Common Core and the new national standards which are replacing Massachusetts older standards (which by ALL counts were HIGHER than Common Core).

Now other states are still gaining, while Massachusetts is dropping.

The former Governor who led Massachusetts education reform and moved them to the top, Bill Weld, blames Common Core.

An excerpt:

The just-released NAEP data confirm this disturbing trend. Massachusetts dropped a whopping 5 points on the 4th grade reading portion of the NAEP, the largest decline in the country.

Weld has been unforgiving on "the Common Core approach," saying that it "looks to me like an apology for muddle-headed mediocrity." As national leaders seek to replicate Massachusetts' success, state policy makers would do well to focus on the recent troubling signs and heed the advice of the governor who succeeded at making high-quality public education "a possession for always."

Shamash said...

What might be interesting on the map is a color coded key for how well the schools did.

Maybe the usual red, yellow, green (or even more colors) with each color representing a band of scores.

Just an idea to show trends by location.

But perhaps we already know or can guess how this will look.

Anonymous said...


Interesting info. on the effects of Common Core in Massachusetts.

No one I've talked to seems to know how NC's replacement of the Praxis with the MTEL will affect teaching license reciprocity agreements across states. Back in my day, New York was notorious for making it nearly impossible to teach with an out-of-state license. I don't know if this is still the case. I can tell you I'd feel better about attending a teacher education program in MA than in NC right now.

Is it possible Massachusetts (and other New England states) typically outperform the rest of the country based on factors that have little to do with standardized testing? For example, I don't recall massive countywide school districts when I lived in CT or MA. New England still reigns in the area of higher education. Does this make a difference? Boston had some of the worst race riots in the country when federally mandated force busing was implemented so it's not like this state was immune from the upheavals associated with this policy. Has the achievement gap in Massachusetts been closed to any greater or lesser extent than elsewhere? As far as teacher pay, I believe teacher salaries in MA rank near the top. NC is ranked 48th in teacher pay with threats to eliminate masters degree incentives. Do teacher salaries make a difference in student achievement outcomes? I'm assuming the tougher standards MTEL will result in far fewer prospective teaching candidates in NC since the idea is to weed out teachers who wouldn't make the cut in Lake Wobegon. So, why would a teacher from NC stay in NC when they can head elsewhere for a lot more money?


Anonymous said...


You get what you pay for. Teachers are not respected nor paid in NC. They will leave or continue to hire those that cannot find a job in the rapidly (out of a recession since March 2009) PRIVATE sector. Only the stuck in the rut "lifers and bottom of the barrel newbies will be left. I know I know all you bleeding heart teachers that are working 70 hours a week are out there BUT they are RARE. Intrinsic rewards to not pay the mortgage or feed the table. I bet you wish you had focused on salary NOW when all those years you only cared about CLASSROOM SIZE. Now you get what you deserve twice as much work for almost 1/3 less pay. Good luck on your next job or standing "in the line".