Saturday, August 23, 2014

Beacon school turnaround initiative faces early test

There's a reason Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has been careful to call the University of Virginia its intended partner for the initiative it unveiled earlier this month to turn around 14 struggling schools: The university still might decide it doesn't think the project is worthwhile.

Superintendent Heath Morrison laid out the concept for the Beacon initiative at a school board meeting two weeks ago. It calls on a partner to work with CMS to do a deep analysis of the needs of the 14 underperforming schools, and then lay the groundwork for a lasting recovery. The district said they planned to work with UVa., but said the contract was not finalized. The next day, CMS said it will cost $600,000 a year over three years.

It didn't quite add up for me until I talked about it with Denise Watts, the zone superintendent for Project LIFT. In that role, she has some experience with UVa. Principals at Project LIFT schools get leadership training through the university, and were up there just a few weeks ago. Their school turnaround program is a combination of resources from the business school and college of education, and has worked with districts in 16 states since 2003.

But Watts said that the university won't commit to helping a school district until it's convinced that doing so would be worth their while.

"They want to see some willingness to change," Watts said.

Leaders of the UVa. program are expected to be in Charlotte in early September to interview CMS administrators to make sure they'll be a good fit. They'll quickly make their decision, and then set to work.

It's unclear what the fall-back plan is should the UVa. partnership not go through, which is probably unlikely. Beacon is dependent on having an outside partner, but CMS did cast a pretty wide net when it started looking for one earlier this year.


Wiley Coyote said...

...meaning we're not going to do this unless we come out looking good....reallll good.

No matter what we have to do to achieve that.

Anonymous said...

14 Struggling schools.
Everyone makes an 84 because 50 wasn't
Principals are disappearing as fast as veteran
$600k isn't enough bacon for the Beacon to
sully the UVa brand?
CMS must be Division IIA?
Yet CMS can waste part of a Thursday down-
town for a glorified selfie employee T-shirt
Tweet party to dispense some happy drivel?

Anonymous said...

"Fall Back Plan" ?

What about the $55 million spent from Project Lift? This program is going on for a couple of years now. Where and what are the measurable results? The results should come from an independent outside auditor and not Denise Watts.

Anonymous said...

Again, why is this huge cash outlay necessary? Teachers at any CMS school could provide a detailed needs analysis anytime you like for the price of a decent breakfast (and no, not the Froot Loops and chocolate milk which are part of the much-vaunted free breakfast program for students).

Anonymous said...

Scientific American magazine (8/19/14) says science is on the side of later high school start times.

School Starts Too Early -

The later high school classes start in the morning, the more academic performance improves.
Parents, students and teachers often argue, with little evidence, about whether U.S. high schools begin too early in the morning. In the past three years, however, scientific studies have piled up, and they all lead to the same conclusion: a later start time improves learning. And the later the start, the better for students.

Time to wake up CMS.

Anonymous said...

Personalized Learning: is an oxymoron. More like impersonalized learning, because students will be staring at personal technology gadgets all day. This is just the latest trend and is still an unproven teaching methodology.

We are still waiting to learn from our school principal what this really means for our child.

Our child will more than likely be yet another laboratory rat in CMS' effort to gain national attention by raising student test scores at the expense of truly educating their students.

Take back our schools said...

School starts too early...

I will be very surprised if CMS considers this again with what happened at 2 high schools they tried it at years ago. Of course, most of that management is long gone.

But of course CMS did not learn their lesson when they tried the extended day at one elementary school that led too high exodus of teachers and administrators and just forced all of the elementary schools into it and of course could not prove the budget savings afterwards. Now they have artificially boosted all the bus drivers pay (living wages) and whine how much it would cost to return to a norman schedule for such young children.

I have no sympathy and no hope for CMS. It is one bungled decision after another. Based solely on race and "white guilt" of the CO editorial staff, the uptown crowd, and political correctness.

Susan Plaza said...

12:09 - The Bell Schedule Task Force includes later start times for high schools in the recommendation we are presenting to Dr. Morrison and his senior leadership team September 2.

Lake Lure said...

to Susan Plaza:
That is the best news we have heard all day. I'll let my 9th and 11th graders know that there is hope yet.

Bolyn McClung said...

To: Susan


I have no idea how a committee to recommend instructional hours came to expect the Superintendent to make the binding decision. According to GS. 115C-84.2…

“The number of instructional hours in an instructional day may vary according to local board policy and does not have to be uniform among the schools in the administrative unit. Local boards may approve school improvement plans that include days with varying amounts of instructional time.”

Board did exactly that in the original decision to alter hours during the budget crisis years. The Board heard the recommendations from staff and selected one as a part of the budget.

It would seem the Board must vote either on the hours or the policy.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea, how about the Beacon/Project Lift schools be run like the Camden military inst or Hargrave military academy.

No joke. Then maybe these schools would get the results they're looking for and the students would have beneficial, life long skills instilled. Other than that, it's all a waste of everyone's time and money.

Anonymous said...

From today's CO

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools buses began leaving the garages and parking lots around 5 a.m., ready to pick up their first students before 5:30 a.m. in some cases.

Where is this happening? How many pick ups are there before 6am?

The Public

Wiley Coyote said...

Today on

By/ Amy Norton/HealthDay/August 25, 2014, 12:18 PM

Stop starting school days so early, doctors say

U.S. high schools and middle schools should start classes later in the morning to allow kids some much-needed sleep, a leading group of pediatricians is urging.

Ideally, the American Academy of Pediatrics says, the first bell should ring at 8:30 a.m. or later -- which is the case at only 15 percent of U.S. high schools right now.

Anonymous said...

Are US children somehow different from the rest of the worlds children? Did we suddenly have an evolutionary shift in the recent generation which suddenly shifted them later?

For those uninitiated, these school bell studies are observational. If I only observe dysfunctional families then of course my results will reflect the studied group. The few which tried to measure adjusting the teenagers sleep schedule did not last long enough to conclusively prove the teenage body could/could not adapt.

Here's a simple way to call this tripe out. Ever crossed multiple timezones with your teenager? Ever noticed how miraculously they are able to adapt to that timezone eventually? I mean wow it's just amazing how circadian rhythms can be modified in a teenager. No study needed.

Be a parent, cut your children off, settle them down to quiet their minds, and shockingly you'll see a change without a mutli-million dollar boondoggle to find out even suburban parents don't want to parent anymore.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:14pm Thanks for your concern about us "dysfunctional" families. Thankfully most of us (including our teen children) don't have to travel across time zones on a daily basis (5 days per week), just occasionally when traveling. Not sure what your point is.

We have electricity and digital gadgets now so things have changed since the days of early hours working on a farm too.

As "responsible" parents we only allow our high schoolers to have a phone, which the phone company turns off at 10pm every night and back on in the morning at 7am so our children are able to get some sleep before their 5:45am wake up.

Adults can make choices of where and when they work, children cannot make choices of what time school starts. They rely on the adults in charge (CMS?) to make smart choices for them. A 7:15am high school start time is not a beneficial, smart choice for our teenagers. The American Academy of Pediatrics is 100% correct on this one.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, could you please request a copy of the Standardized test schedule for 2014-2015 CMS schools and release this info publicly? It would be eye opening for the parents to see this long list.

The Washington Post just released the list publicly for the Miami Dade school system (14-15 school year) and it is stunning, to say the least. How are teachers actually able to teach?

Anonymous said...

Day 1 of personalized learning and I still have no clue what it means.

Holley E. said...

2:14 I consider myself to be a fairly responsible parent.

Both of my high school children play competitive sports (yes, our choice to have well rounded, healthy, competitive kids). My husband and I both played sports in high school and college.

With their school schedule, church activities, sport practices and homework it is a good night if they get to bed by 11pm. Then it is up at 5:45am again.

So, they are basically getting 6 hours of sleep a night. I know they would be doing better academically if they were getting more sleep. At this point, we are all so tired I just want them to graduate with an above average gpa.

Thankfully college classes do not start at 7:15am, by design.

Please don't assume all parents who feel schools start too early aren't doing their jobs, or that all teenagers are lazy, and they aren't sleep deprived. You would be wrong with that assumption.

Anonymous said...


Can you did up how much has been spent on the Westside schools since the Johnson administration.

Nationally it has been trillions spent with no measurable result improvements. Quite the contrary with a regression in the world rankings globally.

Is true reform ever part of the solution?

Wiley Coyote said...

So, 9:00...

What activites will your kids give up if school starts over an hour later and gets out an hour or more later than they do now?

Anonymous said...


That's the point that so many miss. Unless you cut the school day, these kids will have to give up SOMETHING in the evenings when they START and END school later then before.

And if they can do that when forced by a schedule change, then they can do it now and get extra sleep.

Anonymous said...


What would my kids give up if school started an hour later? Nothing! But they would get extra sleep every week, which they very much need.

The Union County and Fort Mill, SC school districts start an hour later, and have a balanced schedule for all of their students, so CMS could do it, too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:53,

The students will still g to bed at the same time, and thus will get an extra hour sleep!

Anonymous said...

Our middle school students and HS students in our district get up at 6:30 and love getting home early. They relax, complete homework and do their extra-curricular activity while getting to sleep by 10:00 or 10:30. Eight hours of sleep. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

We keep hearing about "Personalized Learning" and how it's going to revolutionize learning in our public schools.

Why can't CMS institute "Personalized Learning Schedules" and truly revolutionize the learning experience for each student?

If all it takes is a box, or technology device to teach our kids, what difference does it make when they're at school. Let each student come when it suits them. Now that would truly revolutionize learning in the public schools.

Anonymous said...

Just fyi, the new CMS uncc school and Levine middle college both start at 9:15.

Wiley Coyote said...


You missed the point.

There are trade-offs in everything.

I personally don't care when school starts; 7:15 or 8:30. Our son had no problem getting up at 6:30 and being to school by 7:15. He did it for four years.

He played a sport, did homework, etc. and was in bed, lights out by 11:00

CMS should implement the most optimal schedule FOR ALL KIDS based on state requirements of instruction time, cost efficiencies for transportation and what will be the best start times as close to allowing kids to get as much sleep as possible.

A lot of that starts in the home. It's not up to CMS to manage kid's extracurricular activities.

Tamara Sharpe said...

Wiley, agree with you. But if you were school sup, would you say 7:15am was the optimal start time for high school? Probably not because you have more common sense than that.

and I'm impressed your son could wake up at 6:30 and be to school in class by 7:15. Not sure how he did that, not possible for us. Not a bus rider I suppose.

Wiley Coyote said...


No he wasn't a bus rider because it was a waste of time. The school is about 10/15 minutes from the house.

We were fortunate that many kids in the neighborhood didn't want to ride the bus either and there were two parents who didn't work and took the kids to school. We helped at times when we were off or there was an emergency.

Then when kids got older and had their own cars that took the bus off the table.

We made sure he had all his stuff laid out and packed up for the next day so all he pretty much had to do was roll out of bed, brush his teeth, grab a muffin or something (there is a Hardees on the way to school too) and get to school.

What drives me crazy is watching parents sit at the end of a neighborhood for 30+ minutes before and after school waiting on a bus when they could have already driven their kids to school and back.

I wonder how many of them complain about the start time...

Anonymous said...

"The students will still g to bed at the same time, and thus will get an extra hour sleep!"

Meaning that it's NOT really their "busy" schedules keeping them up so late and preventing them from getting sleep.

Kids regularly adjust their "circadian rhythms" all the time, just as adults do.

Simple things like adjusting your lighting can help, too.

We all do things like stay up late on weekends, vacations, travel, etc., etc. and somehow survive.

It just takes a bit of discipline and planning to do so.

In today's world, where travel across time zones is a regular activity for many workers, it's probably not a bad habit or skill to develop.

Again, we aren't farmers anymore.

Anonymous said...


60% of the athletes in CMS pay and the 40% on the Westside dont.

Business as usual. How many decades are we going to keep giving a man a fish. Is there ever any thought about the athletes providing some sort of community service to pay for the fee instead of giving them the fee ?

Nice work Doran getting the egg off of your face. I know you had all that great training from the AD before you.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the school sports programs have become the focus of many local high schools.

And on the topic of later high school start times, I'm all for moving it at least to 8am, 8:15 or 8:30. Some adjustments in the schedule aren't much to ask in exchange for happier, healthier, smarter, more attentive teenage students.

Anonymous said...

Funny story about the athletic fees when no one cares that these personalized learning schools are being asked to BUY FURNITURE.

Anonymous said...

MOrrison and the BofE have ineptly wasted much of the BILLION $ BUDGET. Now it is fee after fee after fundraiser to find a way to ring more money after the taxpayer to cover their mistakes.

Per pupil spending is a joke when you add in the millions more that continue to go down the black hole of misappropriated funds.263

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point about some parents waiting longer for the bus than it would have been to actually take their child to school. We have parents in our neighborhood who did the very same thing, I am not sure if they are just plain lazy or stupid, perhaps a combination of both. Sh wouldn't event take the kid if the bus was running late. The really funny thing to me is they took there kid out of our local school to attend a charter school and now she drives them about 25 minutes each way, go figure.