Saturday, October 25, 2014

Are low-performing schools 'bad' schools?

Are low-performing schools always "bad" schools? And what do you do when a part of the community all but abandons that school?

They're certainly not new questions for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. But they've been renewed this month as the district plots its new student assignment plan -- and parent groups line up to support or oppose it.

On Tuesday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board meets at Garinger High for a public hearing on the assignment plan unveiled last month. It primarily deals with adjusting boundaries for four new elementary schools opening next fall, and impacts a small percentage of the district's students.

One of the new schools, Oakhurst Elementary, has generated quite a bit of interest from parents. The area is currently districted to Billingsville Elementary, a historically low-performing school when it comes to proficiency levels.

For weeks, parent after parent from the area petitioned the school board to be sent to the new Oakhurst STEM Academy instead of Billingsville. They said that parents there feel like they have to get into a charter school, private school or move away.

This discussion has been going on for years around Billingsville. As recently as 2012, some parents in Commonwealth Morningside were rallying to get families to send their children to Billingsville. This year, you'll recall, the same neighborhood pushed the school board to send them to the new Oakhurst school. The CMS proposal would grant that wish.

But not without Superintendent Heath Morrison making a plea for Billingsville.

"It hurts my heart when I hear conversations around Billingsville," Morrison said at the most recent school board meeting. He said the school has continued to meet or exceed growth standards even though the proficiency level remains low. "I just would ask anybody to rethink what is a school that is not successful."

I talked to Morrison about the issue a few days later. He drew a little chart that he says he shows people who ask about how he views school performance. In effect, the message is this: Is a school that brings students who are well below grade level up to where they should be really worse than a school that takes kids who perform at a high level and keeps them there?

He also said that the numbers at elementary schools like Billingsville, which has about 600 students, could change overnight if upper-income families decide to send their kids there. With an influx of high-scoring students, suddenly Billingsville doesn't look so low-performing.

But how do you convince parents to make that leap? Morrison admitted his chart might not be persuasive. He said CMS should look at putting a new program at schools like Billingsville to make them a more appealing option.

The approach has some precedent of being a success. Shamrock Gardens Elementary near Plaza Midwood, for example, had long been stuck with the stigma of being a "bad school." It ranked near the bottom of the state in the rankings, and No Child Left Behind let parents opt out.

In 2006, CMS put a magnet for gifted kids there, and community members (especially Pamela Grundy) aggressively advocated for the school. Affluent parents started sending their children there, and in a few years, it was off "failing" lists and test scores rose.

Years ago, Billingsville had a popular Montessori program. It was moved in the early 2000s. Board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart asked at the school board meeting if there has been discussion of bringing it back.

Not this year, but it sounds like it might one day be in the cards.

95 comments:

Anonymous said...

Okay, so this article seems to be arguing that if affluent people moved into the Billingsville area and sent their kids to the school, the school would be more popular and perform better. The article holds up Shamrock Elementary as a school that did this and made a drastic turnaround.

However, the article doesn't cite evidence to show that Shamrock Elementary made a turnaround. How many affluent or highly educated people have actually started sending their kids to Shamrock? The article doesn't say. Also, a quick look at Great Schools shows that Shamrock's test scores are nearly the same as Billingsville's. Great Schools rates both schools as a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. What evidence is there of the success of the Shamrock model?

I'm not saying I have an answer to the problem of low performing inner city schools. But a search for answers should start with honest, critical reporting from the local media. Instead, Andrew is repeating politicians' dubious talking points.

Wiley Coyote said...

I had to double-check my calendar after reading this story to see if I was sent back to the seventies or at any point since then.

...Is a school that brings students who are well below grade level up to where they should be really worse than a school that takes kids who perform at a high level and keeps them there?

He also said that the numbers at elementary schools like Billingsville, which has about 600 students, could change overnight if upper-income families decide to send their kids there. With an influx of high-scoring students, suddenly Billingsville doesn't look so low-performing.


Those two ridiculous paragraphs sum up the educrat mindset for the past 40 plus years.

That's like saying "hey, let's invite Donald Trump to buy a house in the worst neighborhood in Detroit and all of a sudden the household income in our area will greatly increase"... Doesn't do a damn thing about poverty, crime or property values. Same thing with adding higher performing students to low performing schools. You either get it or you don't.

Perhaps Morrison should go take a math class so he can understand that if you take high performing students and put them in classes with low performing students the average grades do rise - on paper. And this is our superintendent? God what a joke.

This is the same superintendent that argues a zip code shouldn't dictate what kind of education you get, then turns around and puts a program in Hopewell students outside that zone can't attend.

I do agree with you Morrison on the zip code argument except I see it in a different light; that two plus two equals four in every zip code in Mecklenburg County. So yes, where you live SHOULDN'T matter. The answer to the questions will always be the same - everywhere.

No one ever talks about how you educate a child that is a high performing student in classes where the vast majority of students are not on grade level or don't perform well.

In the mid-70's during forced busing in Columbia, my brother was sent to a previously all Black high school. He was taking some classes that he already had the year before and in eighth grade. Of course he was making A's but by the time he graduated, he at best had an eleventh grade education because he was forced to essentially sit there while others caught up or were given more attention.

The sad thing in all this is that twenty years from now, another educrat superintendent will be bringing up this same, lame status quo issue.

Anonymous said...

Billingsville Elementary is across the street from Eastover subdivision, but for some magical reason Billingsville is right on Randolph Rd. and only pulls from one side of the road... The Grier Heights side - and no one from the other side in Eastover is included in the map.
CMS doesn't really have to beg high performing students to go to low performing schools, they just need to move the boundary so it isn't intentionally separating the two.

Anonymous said...

Two premises of this commentary are misleading.

#1 "One of the new schools, Oakhurst Elementary, has generated quite a bit of interest from parents."

It was not mentioned (and should have been) that Oakhurst is a very old school and it was recently shut down for budget cuts. The Oakhurst neighborhood traditionally attended that school. Moreover that neighborhood was assigned to Billingsville elementary when their low-performing neighborhood school was closed.
The students from Oakhurst are being reassigned to their old low-performing school closer to their homes.

#2" The area is currently districted to Billingsville Elementary, a historically low-performing school when it comes to proficiency levels."

Not true. The area that will be assigned to Oakhurst also includes part of Winterfield Elementary, which is also a low-performing school. And again the students who live in Oakhurst used to send their kids to Oakhurst elementary which was also low-performing and closer to those students homes

Anonymous said...

Affluent people already live a block from Billingsville Elementary. CMS just needs to assign them there. But they don't. Maybe Dr. Morrison would like to discuss why.

par said...

The issue is, that within the cities, states and country there is no continuity with school curriculum.

Anonymous said...

A “high performing” school is directly related to the amount of time a teacher spends increasing the skills and knowledge of their students. The “low performance” of a school is directly related to the amount of time a teacher spends; redirecting, disciplining, resolving conflicts, feeding, cleaning, organizing, counseling, emotionally repairing, healing and clothing students with little time left over for teaching cognitive skills.

No one on this earth can blame a parent who responsibly provides all of the above physical and emotional NEEDS for their own child to want to send their child into a school to receive a “Formal Education” where their son/daughter may thrive intellectually from the expertise of a teacher who is trained in specific disciplines.
Oh yes it is true that in previous eras teachers ALWAYS “assisted” the FEW “needy “children who showed up on their classroom doorstep. BUT these children are no longer the exception but the rule. This new status upsets the balance of a conducive teaching environment.

I challenge CMS to take 2 schools: the lowest performing elementary school and the highest performing elementary school (the same can be done for middle and high) and flip-flop the entire student population to the opposite school. My prediction: the students will have the same performance results. NOT due to the fantastic teachers that we have at BOTH schools but because of the lack of successful parenting skills at one of those schools. Kudos to those parents who want the BEST for your children. Shame on those parents who do not and bystanders who would criticize.

Anonymous said...

I graduated from a "low performing" school in high school Mississippi. However, I went on to graduate from college and I am now working in the banking industry. My classmates have degrees from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Columbia, Howard, Jackson State, Emory, Northwestern, George Mason, Penn State, and Georgetown in their back pockets. That is pretty good considering we graduated from a low performing school in the inner city. However, the key to our success was the IB program and parental involvement. Parental involvement was key because our parents expected nothing less than the best for us. Teachers can teach until they are blue in the face, but parental involvement must come into play once those students come home. That is the problem. Low performing schools are not bad schools. They are just missing the other side of the equation which is the parents.

Anonymous said...

I agree Wiley. When does the school thinking shift from "what do we do with low performing" to "what can we do for the high performing". So sick of it. Low performing school=teaching to the lowest denominator. I don't not want my child part of that at all. I want the class to teach to the highest denominator and if my kid can't hack it, he and she will just have to hack at it some more.

Oh and you can throw in there the new school that is supposed to help crowding from Highland Creek in the same boat as the rest of the redistricting, except the parents have already left CMS for all the charters in North Mecklenburg. Everyone is so tired and the flock took place years ago. CMS can try to add gifted children to Mallard Creek, put in a Montessori at Trillium Springs, but what was done is done, CMS continues to teach to the lowest denominator and parents are SICK OF IT! Why do you think parents from Highland Creek fought for the new school to be k-8, because they want to take back Ridge Road Middle, which is an armpit of a school. They don't want to alleviate from Ridge Road they want the lowest denominator to go to the new k-8. Then maybe folks from Highland Creek will start going to Ridge Road.

CMS if fighting for the wrong group of people!

Charlotte Neighbors for Education said...

The real question is this...When families move into neighborhoods that are zoned to a low performing school, how do you get parents/children to GO to the low performing school which would increase the performance?

Charlotte Neighbors for Education (CNE) group was formed in October 2010. We were the 3rd group of parents to try to find a community school solution. Our neighborhood efforts originally started in 2003. CNE, on our own, has logged in HOURS on this school and process. Nothing has happen overnight or easily without the support and work of MANY.

Charlotte Neighbors for Education has never been against Billingsville or attending it. Our group tried a ‘grassroots community effort’ to get parents to consider sending their child to Billingsville. We toured the school several time in hopes to get a large number of parents to go. The number 1 response was, “I don’t want to be the first to send my child”. Nobody wanted to a pioneer with their child’s education, especially at the kinder level, which meant missing the boat on the CMS lottery to get into a magnet. It is very hard to get a seat in a program after kinder if you changed your mind later.

Since 2010, the largest number of rising ‘kinder’ class from Chantilly, Commonwealth Park, and Commonwealth Morningside has been about 20, which would have NEVER tipped the scales at Billingsville from low performing.

For example: Using 2011 scores, Billingsville had 89 kids take the 3rd grade reading test. 29 passed, 60 failed. Billingsville would have needed 100 more kids to have tested ‘at or above’ grade level to simply get a 68% average in reading for 3rd grade. Even if all 20 from the 3 neighborhood mentioned above would have gone to the school and passed the test that would have meant 80 more kids needed to get a better score….80 more than the neighborhoods had/has.

We asked to have the partial magnet added to Billingsville. The response from CMS was that ‘there isn’t enough room’. CMS was right. A partial magnet adds about 150+ seats to a school 25+ per grade level. When the Oakhurst community was rezoned to Billingsville (when their neighborhood school was decided to be closed in 2010 under Dr. Gorman) there wasn’t space to add a program. The enrollment increased at Billingsville to 532. Adding an additional 150+ seats for a partial magnet would have put the school over capacity.

A partial magnet was NEVER going to happen at Billingsville with those numbers.

With the shifting of boundaries of Oakhurst, Commonwealth Morningside and Commonwealth Park Neighborhoods back to Oakhurst Elementary, there will be space at Billingsville. There is a grand opportunity here to add the partial magnet school that would strengthen the school, encourage the community and attract people outside the school boundary to attend. Billingsville location is GREAT. It sits on Randolph Rd, in front of the Mint Museum. This school HAS great teachers and is doing good work.

Regardless of who their parents are, how much money they make or where they live, if a child is performing at a certain level academically they should have those needs addressed with a neighborhood school option as a school of choice.

What comes first? The school or the neighborhood? Neither. Both CMS and communities need to work together to find solutions for their schools that have ‘flipping/changing’ neighborhoods zoned to them.

Signed – Charlotte Neighbors for Education Founders – Michelle Estrada Abels & Brian Green

Take back our schools said...

We moved to this community in 1985 into one of the new middle class neighborhoods of University City. Every student reassignment our neighborhood was moved to another elementary school or middle school to keep it from looking too bad for too long for the sake of the numbers. But every time we'd leave the school, the numbers returned to reflect the "local" population.

Luckily CMS is unable to bus anymore to "fool the public" about the scores. And I am not talking just about the court order type busing. I am talking about the lack of demographics to make a difference.

So you see Heath running the decades old playbook and not worrying about the signal that sends as more companies relocate here, give their upper management private school tuition money for their kids or the rank and file workers learn quickly to not move into Mecklenburg County.

I've largely ignored the CMS BOE and the CMS ivory tower after someone got to Dr. Gorman near the end of his first year and told him to ignore the plight of the suburban students in Mecklenburg County.

Anonymous said...

Andrew

Are you drunk on all that BROAD kool aide coming out of the CMS PR Department. Did you get a free cookie as well ?

Anonymous said...

A “high performing” school is directly related to the amount of time a teacher spends increasing the skills and knowledge of their students. The “low performance” of a school is directly related to the amount of time a teacher spends; redirecting, disciplining, resolving conflicts, feeding, cleaning, organizing, counseling, emotionally repairing, healing and clothing students with little time left over for teaching cognitive skills.
No one on this earth can blame a parent who responsibly provides all of the above physical and emotional NEEDS for their own child to want to send their child into a school to receive a “Formal Education” where their son/daughter may thrive intellectually from the expertise of a teacher who is trained in specific disciplines. Oh yes it is true that in previous eras teachers ALWAYS “assisted” the FEW “needy “children who showed up on their classroom doorstep. BUT these children are no longer the exception but the rule. This new status upsets the balance of a conducive teaching environment.
I challenge CMS to take 2 schools: the lowest performing elementary school and the highest performing elementary school (the same can be done for middle and high) and flip-flop the entire student population to the opposite school. My prediction: the students will have the same performance results. NOT due to the fantastic teachers that we have at BOTH schools but because of the lack of successful parenting skills at one of those schools. Kudos to those parents who want the BEST for your children. Shame on those parents who do not and bystanders who would criticize.

Pamela Grundy said...

Some comments about Shamrock.

You can find more specific information in the following study. I believe you will find that it confirms what Andrew has to say: http://ui.uncc.edu/story/cms-school-turnaround-harvard-educational-press

Regarding neighborhood parents: in the past 10 years the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch has dropped almost 20 points, as a direct result of middle-class families from Plaza-Midwood and Country Club Heights choosing to send their children to the school.

This middle-class influx is not yet reflected in the test scores available on the Web, because the first large group of middle-class children did not take the tests until the 2013-14 school year (when they reached third grade), and those scores have not yet become widely available.

Shamrock also went from being among the lowest scoring schools in the state to scoring above the average for its economic status, before the middle-class influx took place. We made a lot of progress (it can be complicated to see, because the tests keep changing and with that the proficiency scores).

Test scores tell only one story about a school, which is why the greatschools ratings are largely worthless. Other things parents look for are excitement and advanced work in the classroom, quality extracurricular activities, and an energetic, positive school climate.

Part of the success in attracting middle-class families to Shamrock was in putting in an advanced program that ensured that advanced work was available to all the children who were ready for it (which includes many of the children from lower income families). The program attracted middle-class families, helped to stabilize the staff, and created new opportunities for the children who were already at the school. It took effort from community, staff and CMS. CMS needs to step up for Billingsville, and put in a program that will provide that kind of opportunity.

I have a lot of problems with Dr. Morrison's graph. It does tell what a school is doing with the students that it has. In that way "growth" is a better measure for high-poverty schools than overall proficiency. However, it doesn't tell parents of a high-achieving child whether their child will thrive at a school. If a child enters a school above grade level, and the staff does a fantastic job in bringing students from well below grade level to grade level, what is the above-grade-level child going to be doing while this is happening?

CMS needs to spend less time lecturing academically ambitious families assigned to high-poverty schools about where they should send their children, and more time focusing on how families and CMS can work together to make neighborhood schools into the kinds of places that offer the kind of rich, ambitious education that middle-class families expect, and all children deserve. It isn't easy, and it isn't cheap (the Shamrock effort certainly wasn't) but it's tremendously important.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a 'low performing school' is a 'bad school'. No amount of PC pandering by CMS will change that. Parents that care about their children's education don't have the luxury of using their kids as pawns in a social experiment that has proven to fail. You have one chance to educate your child - sending your child to a 'bad' school is just throwing away your child's educational chances and their future.

Anonymous said...

Why do realtors gloss over school zoning when people are looking for a Mecklenburg house? The assigned school might change, change again, or it might be a poor-performing school.

If my house could pick up and move to another CMS zone, it would be work alot more money. As it is here, no one wants to buy it.

We all want the high-performing schools. Poor-performing schools are a blight on the educational landscape: more than principal turnover, teacher turnover, jammed classes and weirdly early start times.

Ideally, if Mecklenburg property values are to remain reasonably high the suburbs need to sub-divide into separate school zones.

Realistically, some schools will be superior schools and these school should serve as shining stars not be socially engineered.

There need to be retention so teachers do not have to teach the basics, more alternative schools, smaller schools, more security and make it happen soon because the charter school train is here.

Anonymous said...

10:02 AM

My unscientific observation based on two CMS elementary schools and one middle school I sent my children to - while we're pointing fingers at "parents" and suggesting boundary line changes.

There appears to be a direct correlation between the quality of a school and the number of CMS administrators, teachers, staff members and board members that have children at a school. My children attended a very large CMS elementary school that literally had no teachers or administrators with children at the school. In fact, one teacher had her children at Charlotte Country Day - no kidding. Our next elementary school had a fairly high percentage of teachers in addition to school board members with their own children at the school. Guess which school performed significantly better?

How many CMS teachers, administrators, staff members, etc. have children at Billingsville? Would Dr. Morrison send his children to Billingsville? How many LIFT teachers have children at LIFT schools?

This is why my 5th year in operation charter school will succeed despite having some of the same challenges low-income schools have. We have the benefit of full community by-in without the politically charged nightmare, uncertainty and stranglehold of school boundary line changes. I'm one of the few teachers at my school who doesn't have a child there (my children are in college). The school director and even the custodial staff have children at the school. Ditto for school board members, former and present mayors, etc.

What one parent was able to accomplish at Shamrock Gardens is really quite incredible. Another highly contentious boundary line change isn't the answer.

Alicia

Anonymous said...

Alicia, I know several CMS teachers who send their kids to Trinity Middle, Covenant Day, Char Christian and Union county schools. That is nothing new. They want their kids in smaller, nurturing environment where the kids are not a number and do not fall through the cracks. Who can blame them?

Anonymous said...

My rule of thumb has worked well for our family since the 1960's.

When the lowlife (however you choose to define them) creeps much above 20% of a school's population, then move.

Because it's all downhill after that.

You will not change other people's behavior, so it's best to just associate with a better group of people.

That way you avoid all the hassles and wasted energy caused by the underperformers and troublemakers (usually the same people).

Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

So, the apparent "solution" for CMS's problems is to CLONE PAMELA GRUNDY.

And maybe Charles Barkley can be hired to have some "courageous conversations".

Shamash said...

I don't think a "low performing" school is NECESSARILY bad.

A lot of the performance is due to the parents and students.

That is NOT the fault of the school.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I raised the "average" scores at the urban HS I attended decades ago.

But the fact that my History class STILL had four illiterate basketball team members more than offset my influence.

Even when I read them the dumbed down, multiple choice tests the teacher specifically designed for them to pass, they couldn't pass.

And it sure was a good use of my time, too...

Anonymous said...

I have said this time and time again, schools are a reflection of the community in which they serve, period. Bad or non-existent parents create bad students! Those unfortunate low performing schools are full of them!

anon 12:06 has it right, with one of the best posts I have read on this blog. A simple experiment to demonstrate my theory would be to switch the students from a low performing school with students from a high performing school. The once high performing school goes in the toilet while the once low performing school shoots to the moon. In essence this is what Morrison is saying, which most of the readers seemed to have missed. The reality is simple, there isn't a substitute for good parenting!

I would be remiss without saying how truly sorry I am to learn of the passing of Mr. Mo Collins. He wanted nothing more than to help young boys become responsible young men, football was the mechanism he used to do so. He saw his former school struggling and wanted to do something about it, God Bless him and his family.

Anonymous said...

to anon 9:04,
the great schools website should only be used for entertainment purposes, which is why I visit that website on occasion, to be amused. Most of the information provided by Great schools is almost worthless when evaluating a school and parental feedback is not reliable either.

Anonymous said...

Wiley wrote...

" He was taking some classes that he already had the year before and in eighth grade. Of course he was making A's but by the time he graduated, he at best had an eleventh grade education because he was forced to essentially sit there while others caught up or were given more attention."

Well, they could have made him read tests to the illiterates like I did.

That was a REAL eye-opener.

Your brothere experience sounds a lot like my experience FOR ONE YEAR at a similar time, until we left for greener pastures.

And I don't see that things have changed much in over 40 years.

I have relatives in the same general area experiencing the same problems we had.

Only there are no longer "suburbs" to run to.

All the schools are bad.

They have to leave the city.

People may laugh, but it could just as easily happen here.

The school we moved to didn't have all the "enhanced" curriculum the "urban" school, had, but it didn't have as many illiterates and criminals, either.

Sometimes you have to choose between an "education" and survival.

You can always make up the slack in college. It's tough for a year, but many kids can do it.


Pamela Grundy said...

Just to be clear, it takes far more than one person to transform a school. Shamrock was able to improve through focused, cooperative effort from parents, staff and CMS. Principal Duane Wilson, assistant principal Tangela Williams and the marvelous staff they nurtured did most of the heavy lifting. It was a joy to support them, to work with Shamrock's marvelous students, and to share with the community what was happening at the school.

It also helped that the school staff did not look on struggling students and families as "illiterates" and "criminals" but as people dealing with hard times who could do better with the right support. That proved true time and time again.

The idea of switching staffs is an interesting one, but fails to take into account the importance of stability and relationship-building required at a school. If such an experiment were done, the answer to the question would come not after the first year, but after the third or fourth year. One of the largest problems at high-poverty schools is staff turnover, which often prevents that kind of stability and relationship-building from taking hold. Stopping that revolving door was one of Mr. Wilson's key accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

Are Low performing schools "bad" schools? Yes

Are high performing schools "bad" schools? Yes

How many of our Providence, s.meck and audry Kell students have to attend remediation? How many barely pass their classes and are pushed through the system to graduate? Many, too many to count.

don't be fooled by the title of high performing school in CMS. I would never consider those "good" schools either, just as many disrespectful thugs and students (and parents) who don't do their job, or take their education seriously.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:42pm

My son attends Charlotte Catholic HS. There are several of his classmates whose parents work for CMS.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, I thought the low performing schools were getting all the money.

Anonymous said...

would you consider a south charlotte, suburban high school with alcohol and drug problems, disrespectful students, too many new teachers, grades being artificially inflated for athletes, students sitting on the floors playing on cell phones, sexting and bullying, teachers blowing off half of the 90 minute block time, teachers not knowing students or student names, administration consistently ignoring behavior problems, administration allowing low performing students to continually pass classes (just to name a few items), a high performing "good" school? Apparently CMS does.

Wiley Coyote said...

...The idea of switching staffs is an interesting one, but fails to take into account the importance of stability and relationship-building required at a school.

Interesting comment coming from an ardent supporter of busing.

Anonymous said...

Would you consider UNC chapel hill a high performing school now?

It's all smoke and mirrors folks, doesn't matter what part of town you're in.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how everyone accepts the premise that the suburban schools are good" and the urban schools are "bad", and that by cross pollinating the students the schools will become better.

Sadly, there are issues in the "good" suburban schools that are purposely kept beneath the radar in Charlotte by CMS and the local news outlets regarding substance abuse, etc. that present themselves where kids of privilege with money, and too much unsupervised free time.

The Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, define an epidemic as "The occurrence in a community or regions of cases of an illness, specific health related behavior, or health related events clearly in excess of normal expectancy." Depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse are all hitting kids from comfortable homes at a rate clearly "in excess of normal expectancy." Our most current data suggests that as many as 30 to 40 percent of twelve- to eighteen-year-olds from affluent homes are experiencing troubling psychological symptoms. This epidemic, in addition to causing great suffering for children and their families, also carries a significant risk for premature mortality. Ten to 15 percent of those who suffer from depression eventually commit suicide. The Price of Priviledge, Madeline Levin, Ph.D.

Why does the Charlotte Observer spend so much time and ink on how the affluent parts of the community must bear the burden of the poorer parts, when the affluent parts of the community have problems of their own that are ignored and puposly swept under the rug???????

Steve W. said...

I think we can all agree that there are good teachers and bad teachers at "bad" schools and the "good" ones too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:59,

The answer is simple! It does not fit the liberal narrative being forwarded by the CO and CMS inner city BOE members that "their" children need all the help the community can offer. Thus, the suburban school children and their families are left to fend for themselves since there is no money in the budget (local, state or federal) left to address their needs. All one needs to do to find clear and direct evidence of this, is the severe overcrowding in the South Charlotte schools, with little or no relief in sight for years to come....

Wiley Coyote said...

How many of you voted for the last two bond referendums?

How many have voted for or plan to vote for the sales tax increase this week?

The only way to send a message to CMS is to stop the madness and stop voting for bonds and tax increases.

Remember 2005? That was the last time Meck residents told CMS they had enough and voted down the bonds.

November 9, 2005. I have the Charlotte Observer sitting right here, headline in BIG BOLD type: SCHOOL BONDS REJECTED; FIRST TIME IN 10 YEARS

...even the most active opponents were blindsided by the size and sweep of the "no" vote, which united center-city voters who feel betrayed by resegregation with suburban voters angry over taxes, school crowding and discipline.

Here it is going on 2015, 10 years later and what has changed?

Not a damn thing which is what I stated in my original comment two days ago.

A side article to the headline: No to $427 million initiative is a sign of frustration with taxes and CMS leadership

Send the message again. Vote NO on the tax increase!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing (not really) at some of the comments about the good schools, as I am getting ready to take my daughter to math tutoring, after she's been at her high school all day. We also have her attend other tutors throughout the year as necessary. It is hard for parents to understand that not all the material is covered in class, or that it is not covered well enough for the student to understand or master the material.

Pamela Grundy said...

In the interest of historical accuracy, once Mecklenburg County residents decided to rally around desegregation, the system saw a significant period of of stability and relationship-building in many schools and neighborhoods. The West Charlotte High School staff, for example, was far more stable than it has been since busing ended.

Anonymous said...

8:01,
Lots of CMS employees have students elsewhere, including South Carolina. I might remind you that Catholic has more than enough associated problems that have been suppressed during the principal financial fiasco. Unfortunately, the local press decided to give you folks a pass. CMS and Union County are too easy to expose and Southlake just imploded. Every school has issues, some more than others, and some better hidden.

Anonymous said...

Are they Catholic?

Anonymous said...

So I guess another Observer writer is ignoring the plight of those in the suburbs. Do a story about the personalized learning school who has pretty much turned this year into a telethon 24/7. How would that go over at Shamrock? I'm sick of hearing about Shamrock. Is that the only school the paper will write about? Who would send their child there if they didn't have to? Funny that they have the closest TD program to the 28277-no thanks. My child deserves more than a 2 hour bus ride to make other think that school is acceptable.

Anonymous said...

That's the constantly changing curriculum

Anonymous said...

Teachers know CMS is crazy.. They don't really have any say or can make any decision. Teachers don't agree with the inflated grades. They don't agree with the discipline procedures. What can they do?

Wiley Coyote said...

CMS was still using race as a factor in student assignment.

Could the "stability" at West Charlotte have anything to do with big bonuses other teachers are not getting?

..in the interest of accuracy of course..

Pamela Grundy said...

5:42

Clearly you have never visited Shamrock Gardens. I would be glad to take you on a tour. I don't expect that you would be so impressed that you would want to put your child on a 2-hour bus ride to attend, but it might give you a better understanding about why parents who care deeply about their children's education are quite happy that they chose Shamrock. Just let me know.

Pamela Grundy said...

Also, if parents believe that there needs to be wider discussion about the "personalized learning" school, which I gather is Hawk Ridge, one of the best ways to do that is for a group of parents to express those concerns in the public comment period at a school board meeting, thus putting them into the public record.

Pamela Grundy said...

To what "stability" do you refer, Mr. Coyote? There were no bonuses at West Charlotte during busing.

Anonymous said...

PG-parents in the 28277 have done this in the past. CMS does not care about the suburbs as long as they continue supplying funds for everyone else.
Imagine if they put personalized learning at Shamrock-well, if they did that I guess CMS would properly fund it rather than asking parents to pay for chairs and chalkboards.

Anonymous said...

And no thanks for a tour of Shamrock. I went to a school like Shamrock-that is why I will do whatever it takes NOT to send my children there.

Wiley Coyote said...

I know there were no bonuses during busing. I was referring to today in which teachers are offered thousands to go teach at West Charlotte.

What happened to that "busing era noble cause"? Where's the stability? Why does it take $55 million dollars to accomplish something that according to you was done 35, 40 years ago without all that money?

Anonymous said...

Pamela 7:10,
I believe the HR school staff and community were hoodwinked into the personalized learning by the school's principal and CMS administration, as we are all still finding out what it actually is. I do not see how it is helping my child prepare for what is to come, but it is certainly a resume builder for a few in the building.

Anonymous said...

The dirty little secret is that CMS teachers charge students $50 per hour (tax free) which is over 3x what they make off their state salary per hour.

The state and CMS has eroded the system into this and parents are paying hand over fist for the instruction. What do you expect from the NON Project Lift Schools that have 40+ students in the classroom compared to 15 on the Westside.

Thanks CMS for your social experiment that costs Southside tax paying residents over $200 per month on tutoring.

There is some investigative reporting for you Dunn after you finish your cookie and kool aide from CMS.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of expensive South Charlotte tutoring...

(only $200 a month? Try $85 a week for my "gifted" child during the height of the recession).

In my perfect world, every South Charlotte parent would be required - by law - to watch "A Race to Nowhere". Having lived and fallen prey to this insanity myself.

Alicia

Anonymous said...

Pamela,

Sometimes you have to call them as you see them.

People who cannot read or write are "illiterates".

People who commit crimes are "criminals".

No matter whether they have fallen upon "hard times" or not.

If you want to be a social worker, then join DSS.

They need ALL the help they can get, too.

As for myself and my family, we'd rather move away from the problem.

We "gave at the office" as they used to say.

Shamash said...

"Would you consider UNC chapel hill a high performing school now?"

Just as with all schools, it is "high performing" for SOME people and isn't for others.

It all depends on what they are studying and how they apply themselves.

No school is magic.

I think you can still get a good education at UNC Chapel Hill.

In fact, I wouldn't mind my kids going there at all.

I just wouldn't want them there on an athletic "scholarship" or hanging out with the low achievers in the remedial classes.

That would be pointless.

There are community colleges that are much cheaper.

Anonymous said...

is it just me, but I am noticing a trend, the so called affluent educated crowd can't help their own kids with their home work, they have to hire tutors. Both ironic and pathetic at the same time. Yet they are the ones slamming the schools.

I would agree with an earlier comment in that the "good schools" have their own set of issues. While mom and dad are too focused on career and lifestyles, young Johnny is shooting up heroin. And before you take up the debate, google heroin and Lake Norman High school!

Anonymous said...

"The idea of switching staffs is an interesting one, but fails to take into account the importance of stability and relationship-building required at a school."

Gosh, then I guess I did my children a horrible disservice by changing schools since they had to deal with a whole new "staff"
at their new school and all their old school "relationships" were dissolved.

Their lives are now doomed to failure.

Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot.

They still have a good relationship with their stable family.

Nevermind.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:17

Please give us your phone number, You could make a lot of money tutoring biology, chemistry and pre-calc. Most parents I know are not proficient enough in those subjects to tutor them, and apparently the teachers aren't proficient enough to teach the subjects effectively either.

As for heroin use, it's at our nice south suburban schools too, but don't say anything, CMS wants to keep that on the down low.

Anonymous said...

11:17 do you tutor a foreign language?

Anonymous said...

The problem with school grades is it is set up to make public schools fail in the public eye. We hold teachers accountable for growth not proficiency in their observations,but the formula for grading schools is 80 percent proficiency and 20 percent growth. So, a school that is moving kids and lowering the achievement gap can look bad in the public eye. That is the problem with our state and we are a laughing stock to the nation because of what has been done and continues to be done to our schools.

Anonymous said...

9:22, NC isn't really a laughing stock more than any other southern state. Actually, it's more accurate to say that the US is the laughing stock of the world, given how much we spend on public school education compared to the results we achieve.

Wiley Coyote said...

If you're tired of the wasteful spending with dismal results, go VOTE NO on the tax increase this week.

Shamash said...

"is it just me, but I am noticing a trend, the so called affluent educated crowd can't help their own kids with their home work, they have to hire tutors. Both ironic and pathetic at the same time. Yet they are the ones slamming the schools."

Where's the irony?

If the schools were doing their jobs, "the affluent educated crowd" wouldn't NEED to hire tutors, so the slamming is warranted.

As for pathetic, I don't know if ANY parent can be expected to tutor advanced classes in HS.

For example, the Chemistry classes at the public HS school I attended were so pathetic that they gave out extra points for bringing in Campbell Soup labels.

The teacher was a complete moron and knew nothing about Chemistry.

She was a religious fanatic, though, and made sure we didn't study ANYTHING that might offend her Creationist beliefs, so we skipped the first few chapters of the Chemistry text because they discussed things like abiogenesis.

So some kids "earned" A's by slurping soup because they missed the "fundamentals".

I read those chapters anyway.

Their A was just as good as my A (which did not depend on my soup cravings).

But, even with a "real" A in that class, I didn't learn very much about Chemistry, just more than anyone else.

The things I learned in that class wouldn't help ANYONE pass a REAL Chemistry class, so I can't tutor my own kids in Chemistry (unlike some other subjects).

But they sure helped me recognize a losing school and teacher when I see one.

You seem to be criticizing folks who know enough to realize when the schools aren't working and are willing to take SOME action to educate their kids.

We probably need MORE parents like them to hold the educrats feet to the fire.

Anonymous said...


Pamela Grundy seems to have a very selective memory. She comments about how stable West Charlotte's faculty was until busing ended. Wrong, wrong, wrong! The faculty stability ended in the early 90's, as a new principal decided there were too many white teachers in the high level classes. You can check test scores and see how quickly things changed from then on. The school was soon in turmoil.

In addition Pamela says "CMS needs to spend less time lecturing academically ambitious families assigned to high-poverty schools about where they should send their children". Coming from someone who spent years self righteously lecturing suburbanites about how selfish they were for not wanting to have their children bused seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy.

She also says "...The idea of switching staffs is an interesting one, but fails to take into account the importance of stability and relationship-building required at a school."
As Wiley says " Interesting comment coming from an ardent supporter of busing."

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone has mentioned that during the 90's Billingsville actually had the highest elementary test scores in the city (outside of gifted magnets). During that time much of far southeast Charlotte and Matthews was bused to Billingsville for fourth through sixth grade. Of course when those scores were broken down (something the Observer never bothered to do during busing) there was quite a gap between Grier Heights students and the suburban students, despite the fact that those Grier Heights students had attended high scoring McKee Road Elementary for K through 3rd. Suburban parents did a lot for Billingsville, providing lots of tutoring, a strong PTA, building a new playground, etc. They even agreed to let their 6th graders stay there for one extra year to maintain stability for the neighborhood 6th graders when the rest of the city converted to 6-8 middle school. What did they get for doing all this? Heaps of criticism from the Observer editorial board and many school board members when they later asked for stability in high school assignment for their own children. Ahhh--those wonderful days of busing!

Anonymous said...

10:08....Independence is a more recent example of what you described about Billingsville. A low performing school until 2010 where CMS shuffled students around. Now it is one of the better public high schools in the area.

Anonymous said...

10:32--I hope that the students and parents who have brought about the change at Independence are treated with more respect than were those at Billngsville.

I also might add that suburban students were bused the 9 miles or so to Billingsville for many many years but as soon as Billingsville returned to being a neighborhood school its fortunes quickly reversed. So what did the neighborhood parents learn from all those years of being part of a high performing school? Sadly, not much apparently. (and I'm quite certain that funding per pupil is now much higher than it was when the suburban kids were there)

Anonymous said...

Where do you find updated per pupil spending? CMS website is a mess with a large amount of old items. It just runs you in circles.

Pamela Grundy said...

So here you are, Andrew. The full-blown "Your Schools" busing tiff, with all the usual suspects. Shamrock Gardens! West Charlotte! Billingsville!

Why do we bother rehashing this again and again? There's actually an important issue involved: whether low-income children of color benefit from attending racially and economically mixed schools.

If they don't, then busing was a failed experiment. If they do, then our current system, which produces many schools that are economically and racially isolated, has significant moral problems.

While there are differences from student to student and from school to school, a careful rather than a superficial reading of data shows that low-income children generally do perform better at economically mixed schools than a economically isolated ones (here, if the discussion goes true to form, we may see the Charlotte-Raleigh comparison, but that's a great example of a superficial comparison).

To me, that makes a lot of sense, since middle-class parents bring high expectations to the schools their children attend, as well as deploying their own education, resources and connections to enhance learning at the school (there's research and writing on this too). So those schools offer more. If these efforts are pursued well and thoughtfully, they benefit all the children at the school, and also contribute to staff stability. This is what has been happening at Shamrock Gardens. All the benefits may not show up immediately in test scores, but they are there.

It's not a guarantee - for example, Myers Park Traditional went through a number of years where the scores of their low-income students were an embarrassment, but a principal who was more committed to the well-being of all students turned that around.

Low-income parents want their children to get good educations, but many have not experienced a good education, and thus don't know what to ask for the way that middle-class parents do. They also don't have the same level of resources and connections, so can't contribute in the same ways. So an high-poverty school rarely offers the level of opportunity that a low-poverty school does, even though there are many children who are ready to take advantage of greater opportunities. We saw this quite clearly at Shamrock.

There's also the question of whether middle-class children benefit from racially and economically mixed schools. The research is less clear-cut there in terms of test scores, although previous comments have made clear that low-poverty schools have plenty of their own distinct problems.

I think our community has a responsibility to do what it can to ensure that all children have access to the same level of educational opportunity within the public school system. That isn't the case now. We're not going to go back to full-scale busing. But there are actions that the school system can take with schools such as Oakhurst and Huntingtowne Farms (to get back to the original subject of this blog) that are more likely to create economically and racially mixed schools. From my perspective as a historian and a parent, this community's long history with segregation, desegregation and resegregation shows that such endeavors are indeed worth the effort.

Pamela Grundy said...

One historical point: there was indeed a massive and unfortunate staff shakeup at West Charlotte in the mid-1990s, but that came about because of the problematic approach of an individual principal, not because of busing.

Also, it's important to understand that busing did not suddenly end when the system was declared unitary. In the 1990s, John Murphy shifted many of the system's desegregation efforts away from busing in favor of magnet schools. Many schools began to resegregate at that point, about a decade before the formal end of busing. It's a complicated story.

Anonymous said...

Vote No and vote with your feet folks. Your child will be better off socially and academically by attending one to the local private schools in the area. You would be surprised at the financial aid that is available at some of those schools.

Anonymous said...

Pamela, I agree that the 90's staffing issues at West Charlotte had nothing to do with busing. They had to do with political correctness--principal's staffing changes were encouraged by liberal white education advocates. You did state, though, that "the West Charlotte staff was far more stable (under busing) than it has been since busing ended." Busing days are often portrayed as utopian by those who still mourn the end of busing. They were not for many.1 As you say, it's all very complicated. Perhaps if both sides of the story had been accurately portrayed over the years our community would be much less divided today.

Pamela Grundy said...

I stand by my statement. West Charlotte's staff was far more stable during busing than it has been since busing ended. That's not a utopian statement, it's a fact, even if you take the turmoil of the late 1990s into account. The same is true of most of today's high-poverty schools.

As an aside, our time at Shamrock Gardens wasn't utopian either, but that didn't mean it wasn't enormously satisfying and worthwhile. I'm sorry you don't seem to feel the same way about your time at Billingsville.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why some folks like Ms. Grundy make this such a complicated issue. I am tired of the weight of the education in this county put on the middle class (as usual).

Let me make it simple, I do NOT want my children going to a school where education is on the back burner of the majority of the families there, where education is disrespected, where parents do not "know how" to get educational resources (but know how to fill out a free lunch program slip), where children don't know self control because their parent(s) doesn't know self control, where they are teaching to the lowest denominator, where a 2nd grader doesn't know how to spell their name, where children are given grandiose futures like a NFL star, where most students are a least one grade level behind in reading.

I am TIRED of it. Tired of this weight. A low performing school is bad, because it is a reflection of all the above paragraph.

I didn't go through college, career plan for myself, wait to have children until I found a perfect mate, not have more children then I can afford to send to college, save money for retirement before having children, make sure there is a 8 month money reserve if something happens to me or my husband before having children, send my children to a high level preschool so they are more than prepared for kindergarten, teach my children--- self control, people respect, respect of self, respect of teachers, spend 1 hour a day reading to them, limit TV watching, use a cross walk, give my children as much knowledge of the world as I have seen, always look someone in the eye-- all so they then can go to a public school to balance out the intellectual demographics and be a social experiment for a bunch of bureaucrats in their school towers.


Anonymous said...

to Pamela Grundy,
While I admire you for trying, you are not going to win with this group.


Anonymous said...

If busing was successful, why then are so many low income parents, who are the age to have been students under busing, struggling? And why do they not know how to help their kids? Why do they not know the value of self control? If their education under busing did not provide them with a foundation for a successful life, what exactly was the point of it all?

Barb S. said...

"Student hit by car in East Charlotte"

Why is a middle school student out walking when it's still relatively dark (before 7:15am)? Very unsafe.

Anonymous said...

1:54 You are absolutely correct. But, don't go thinking that anything is different out in the burps. Keep doing what you're doing and raising your kids right. Just think how much better off they'll be than their peer competition.

Anonymous said...

What 3:10 said.....cannot wait to read the response to that one.

Anonymous said...

Shamash,
you surprise me! My point is this, far too many people are just too plain lazy (not you) to take the time to help their own children, but yet they have plenty of energy to judge the teachers?

Here is a novel concept, if you cannot help your child with their school work, figure it out together, teach your child practical problem solving skills, one on one. After all, isn't that what learning is all about anyway?

That is of course, if you can pry yourself away from your facebook page long enough to do so!

Pamela Grundy said...

Here is where the arguments start to get superficial. Busing for school desegregation didn't magically solve all of society's problems, so what was the point?

1. The quality of a school can make a big difference in a child's life. As a result, it's important that as a society we provide equally high-quality opportunities for all children. However, just because it can make a large difference doesn't mean that it will make that difference for all children. That kind of expectation is unrealistic.

2. Because of this community's tremendous growth, most CMS students have parents who did not go to school in Charlotte.

3. Busing was not the only thing happening in the community at the time. At the same time that busing started, for example, urban renewal profoundly destabilized communities throughout the central city. Assessing the actual effects of busing requires far broader consideration.

Anonymous said...

anon 1:54 - you are right, and keep doing what you're doing. Our society needs a few responsible, interesting, respectful children to become responsible, interesting and respectful adults. The way things are going, your kids won't have much competition.

Anonymous said...

why are there so few same sex classes, or even schools, within CMS? I am only aware of South Charlotte Middle.

This could have more positive results for our students than worrying about the economic status of students.

Anonymous said...

MORON

I have not had an ALGEBRA class in over 30 years.That is why my family has to hire a tutor at $50 per hour. My daughter goes to AK where they have 30+ in the classrooms.

This goes on constantly in schools in our area. If the class only had 15/20, then the teacher may be able to spend that extra time with her. As it is she does not.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine the outrage if Shamrock (or pick a LIFT school) had 40+ students in a room? Or if their lunch started at 10:10?
Or-heaven forward-kids sitting on the floor?
Welcome to suburbia-the land CMS doesn't want to acknowledge.

Anonymous said...

5:44
With the exception of the unnecessary name calling...

You have a point as far as overcrowded classrooms in the south Charlotte area. My son attended South Charlotte MS. We paid for private tutoring as a result of my son being placed in the highest level 7th grade math class South Charlotte offered - one year Algebra 1. A year later, one year Algebra 1 was disbanded because research concluded that most 7th grade students aren't developmentally ready to tackle high school Algebra 1 in 7th grade before tackling high school Geometry in 8th grade but trying to convince parents in this area of town who have aspirations of sending their children to Harvard is another story. Again, "A Race to Nowhere" is a documentary worth watching.

I teach 5th grade math and social studies at a charter school with 16 and 18 students in each class. My school requires that I offer free tutoring after school at least one day a week. Even with an ideal number of students in each class, the process of trying to differentiate instruction between students who are scoring in the 98th percentile on the EOG's and those scoring in the 5th percentile on the EOG's is the most challenging thing I do on a daily basis. I can't imagine trying to teach math to a class of 30 plus students without relying on outside tutors to help reach the highest and lowest performers. On top of this, most parents have not been exposed to the Singapore math curriculum my school has adopted which is taught differently than the way most parents were taught.

Alicia

Everest said...

Tutoring is a BIG business in south charlotte. All those AK and Providence students lining up to learn the subject matter in the evenings because it's NOT happening in the class room. The students have math for 7.5 hours a week and they still aren't learning the subject matter. What is wrong with this picture? CMS is a joke. if we didn't have one year left we would be outta here.

Anonymous said...

5:44pm

and on that note, pushing all students through the system so we can have higher graduation rates.

Wiley Coyote said...

I knew the gentrification card would be played before the comments hit 100.....can't defend busing or the generations who were supposed to benefit from busing and all those extra tax monies but still don't get it, so blame it on urban renewal.

Again, 2+2=4 in all schools, in all areas, under busing, no busing, this zip code, that zip code, this urban renewal, that high poverty area and so on and so on.

You either get it or you don't.

Shamash said...

Alicia,

"On top of this, most parents have not been exposed to the Singapore math curriculum my school has adopted which is taught differently than the way most parents were taught."

Glad to hear someone is actually using this curriculum. The funny thing is that it is actually based on research done in the US.

Only Singapore was smart enough to turn it into a curriculum.

I used it to teach my son some additional math in addition to what they were teaching him in school (which was really moronic, if you can excuse my namecalling).

But I have a degree in math, so am comfortable going outside the curriculum to do the right thing for our kids.

Of course, I can't do this in Chemistry, but I know a bad Chemistry teacher and a bad Chemistry curriculum when I see one thanks to my own poor "education" in the subject.

I am proof that you don't need to be "educated" in a subject to know when something isn't working.

You just have to pay attention and know enough to know when no one is actually teaching anything.


Anonymous said...

In response to Pamela's last post: Of course busing had nothing to do with the destabilization of urban neighborhoods.

Pamela Grundy said...

Regarding what happened in Charlotte's urban neighborhoods

The school board's decision to accommodate white parents by closing many black schools rather than integrating them did indeed remove some significant community institutions from the central city (Second Ward High School being the most prominent but not the only example).

But the main forces that led to the concentrated poverty we see in many central city areas were urban renewal, which destroyed community ties and sent a wave of refugees into surrounding neighborhoods (aided by block-busting realtors eager to turn privately owned homes into high-profit low-end rentals); public and private decisions to concentrate low-income housing developments in those areas; and the aging out of the existing middle class population, which was not replaced (this same aging out took place in many other neighborhoods as well, including Plaza-Midwood and Country Club Heights).

Busing had very little to do with it, except in providing many black students with better opportunities. Most of the students who took advantage of those opportunities did not move back to their old neighborhoods but instead, like their white counterparts, settled in newer neighborhoods further out.

nameless said...

People, what do you expect for free? Honestly I think that a lot of the staff feels this way towards its "customers".

Anonymous said...

Shamash,

Singapore math is highly scripted. But then again, so is ballet.

What I'm finding is that the average to above average 5th grade math student can "do" math as long as it's highly compartmentalized while having absolutely no clue how to "do" math when a conversion of math skills is required. In other words, the process of actually thinking about how to solve a problem with the knowledge you have without the lazy benefit of being spoon fed compartmentalized information. It's a connecting the dots thing. As far as criticizing 5th grade Singapore math, God help the student how hasn't mastered basic fundamental math skills.

Alicia

Anonymous said...

Paying $50 per hour for tutoring has been a good investment in my children. They do not charge for extra help given at school, only for one-on-one attention given off school property. I like to think that it is helping keep some good teachers who would otherwise leave, by providing them with an additional source of income. I would rather pay teachers directly than create a pool of sales tax money for politicians to plunder for other things.