Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Big voice for CMS magnets

Only about 1 in 8 students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools attend magnets. But from the turnout at four public forums on student assignment, you might think it was the other way around.

The discussion group on magnets was so consistently in demand that officials joked about charging admission. Last night at Hopewell High, a neighborhood school in Huntersville, 90 of approximately 200 people squeezed into the room where magnets were discussed. That compares with 22 who gathered to talk about schools close to home. (Read CMS summaries of the first three forums here; the Hopewell notes will be posted soon).

Magnet families have a reputation for being passionate and organized. They've already prepared spreadsheets for the school board to argue their case that the cost of magnets is relatively low, and the benefits great.

There's another factor at work: Nothing mobilizes a crowd like anger. And magnet families got a big poke in the eye this spring, with a cost-cutting move that eliminates neighborhood bus stops for 11 popular magnets in the coming year. CMS heard plenty of complaints about that at the forums.

But officials have also heard from people who worry that the success of magnets comes at the expense of neighborhood schools. For instance: Magnets with admission requirements have seen test scores rise, while the weaker students land in neighborhood schools.

I saw both sides of that coin when I recently spent time at Bishop Spaugh Academy, a low-performing neighborhood middle school on Charlotte's west side. Teachers there used magnet admission to motivate kids to work for success. Pass your eighth-grade exams, they told students, and you can get into Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology or Harding's IB and math/science programs.

This year Spaugh saw gains in students passing reading, math and science exams -- clearly a good result for a neighborhood school.

But the eighth-grade promotion program indicated that virtually every student who passed all exams was also admitted to a magnet. That means the roughly three-quarters who failed one or more subject will head to West Meck or West Charlotte, neighborhood high schools also working hard to boost performance.

That's the challenge, as the board goes into this afternoon's four-hour meeting to set priorities. There's strong agreement that all student assignment policies should boost academic success. Figuring out how to make that work for all schools won't be easy.

(Note if you're going: It's from 1-5 p.m. today at the Education Center, 701 E. Martin Luther King Blvd., not at the Government Center where previous sessions have been.)


Anonymous said...


Maybe there should be no more neighborhood schools and everything should be specialized instruction.

Maybe that would satisfy both sides of our increasingly contentious debate.

Anonymous said...

One of the real questions is why Magnets are not more successful when all kids enter in on grade level. Berry only got decent numbers when they stopped taking kids who weren't getting at least three's.

At the same time, the small schools at Olympic have increased test scores 70%, and receive no love from CMS. When the Coalition for Essential Schools, a nationally known foundation backing small schools, held its international conference in Charlotte, no one from CMS even showed up.

What these sessions will ultimately show, is that once again, Dr. Gorman is only interested in his ideas, regardless of whether they will actually work. Pay for Performance, an idea the research shows has failed time and time again, is just one of those.

Anonymous said...

...actually...the 8th graders that fail won't necessarily head on to West Meck/Char... 8th grade is a Gateway year... students must pass EOG exams in order to move on...bottom line...

Ann Doss Helms said...

The gateway requirements are more theoretical than reality. Many fail an eighth-grade EOG. Very few are retained.

Anonymous said...

Ann is correct. Many students that fail an EOG will move on to high school, but will be required to get intervention in that school to fill that gap. That is why high schools offer remedial classes. Students whom receive below grade level are not ready for the Algebra course so they are placed in Introduction to Algebra and other remedial classes.

Anonymous said...

Ann is indeed correct. Middle Schools have a matrix for retention, and I frequently see kids who have failed both English and Math EOC's promoted, even if they failed epically.
CMS is not big on retention, and research tends to show that it hurts more than it helps. However the problem is holding high schools responsible for kids who are completely unprepared.

Anonymous said...

Only 1 in 8 students in CMS attend magnets, and there is something wrong with the lottery process. Out of those who are selected, my two daughters have not received any of their choices for the past three years. Magnet schools are an avenue for families to receive a private education on public dollars. There is something wrong with the process, and it needs to be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

"Magnet schools are an avenue for families to receive a private education on public dollars. There is something wrong with the process, and it needs to be eliminated."


IF I can't have it then no one should. Bet your comments would be the opposite if your kids got in.

Bet they have had a nice, bitter upbringing from a parent who disparages that which they can't have.

Anonymous said...

One of the REAL questions is why middle class whites continue to push "neighborhood schools" as the option. The reason is simple:

Black children

When whites in Charlotte finally admit their racism and fear of their precious little snowflakes attending school with...gasp...darker types, they we can move forward.

Until then, "neighborhood school" is just another term for "keep your black kids away".

Well you can't white wash over us any more. We are here and we pay just like you do and WE WILL have something from this life before you take everything from us after we built every single thing you have!

First the slaves...

Then the illegals...

You used and used and when your economy goes in the tank, you turn around and want to throw those out who built your homes and mow your yards out. There is no end to your hatred.

Well if there is a God in heaven, those who are darker than you will infiltrate your schools and take what their ancestors have worked so hard for...their RIGHT to an education for their children!

And YOU will pay!

Donna said...

For the record, I am a middle-class white person, and the reasons I send my kids to a magnet school instead of to my (really white!) neighborhood school are 1) the curriculum they have access to at the magnet (it's a TD magnet), and 2) that there are kids of all colors and backgrounds at that school. Diversity is a virtue. It does result in a better education. I see it with my own eyes.

mom of 4 said...

I had 4 go to Magnets-It was not easy either, but worth all the driving and hassle.I will soon have 4 college graduates.They were expose to different cultures-different religions and a world that I know made a difference.Their High School is still in the top 100 in the country.
Crews Mom

Anonymous said...

Like Donna, I see everyday parents that choose our school (I work at a TD magnet) because of the curriculum and extensive diversity (not just black/white but many cultures and income levels).

Anonymous said...

Always rooting for the underdog. That's what sucks about newspapers.

If there's a minority (not talking skin color here) voice, the Observer will jump on that bandwagon as fast as it can.

There's a very small faction of CMS parents that want magnet schools.

So now, because they are passionate people who are well-organized as a group, the magnet school advocates make things appear as though they are large in number.

It's summer. You want an accurate read on feelings regarding student placement, ask people one week after school starts. Then, the magnet school fans will be drowned out by the overwhelming majority that realizes what a sham magnets are.

Elementary school kids want to be teachers, doctors, policemen(women) or firemen(women). Maybe some want to be professional athletes. They are dreamers, which is a good thing. Where are the magnet programs for those professions.

To suggest we spend extra in transportation and instruction to have a specialized elementary magnet is as stupid as busing kids across town to go to school.

A large faction of people will always hate the school district until you let kids go to school where they live. People move into neighborhoods because of schools. CMS has had a negative effect on neighborhoods, schools and just about everything else it comes into contact with because nobody will take ownership of anything. It's easy to say 'If it sucks, it's not ours.'

The irony is that the political causes the Observer champions are the exact reasons why CMS fails.

Fancy that, the CO advocating something that leads to poor academic performance (and many, many more stories)

Diversity and magnet schools are the two biggest reasons for academic inferiority in CMS.

Anonymous said...

Response to:
"IF I can't have it then no one should. Bet your comments would be the opposite if your kids got in.
Bet they have had a nice, bitter upbringing from a parent who disparages that which they can't have."

No, when we can't get in, I do what most do - private school because I seek the best. Definitely, not bitter; sounds like your problem?

Anonymous said...

"One of the REAL questions is why middle class whites continue to push "neighborhood schools" as the option. The reason is simple:

Black children"

I am in favor of neighborhood schools and I am black.

I understand your lack of trust in the school system, because separate has not always meant equal for black people. It appears that your assumption is that white is synonomous with better. This is not true.

What I have observed in CMS is that lousy administrators are allowed to stay in poor schools while wealthier schools enjoy the benefits of having competent administrators and teachers!

Case in point, why would Dr. Gorman allow Denise Watts to leave Spaugh Middle School (a poor performing school)before her 3 year contract was up? She was just beginning to realize gains in that school.

Your understood frustration should not be towards white people. Demand better principals, teachers, guidance counselors, PERFORMANCE at YOUR neighborhood school. Get involved to make your neighborhood school better! It is hard work, but it can be done.

Anonymous said...

Thumbs up for the July 1 comment. One of the problems is that poor performing schools expect less from students and teachers. Students are disrespectful, and it's OK to allow this because they come from troubled homes. Right? At least, that is what some CMS officials believe. Regardless to what's going on at home, demand respect and higher expectations at school. I recently substituted at a CMS school, and couldn't believe the lack of respect by students - including seniors graduating with honors.

The school board did not approve a dress code years ago because they believed that minority students would suffer from the disciplinary actions. They should. We are producing students who are graduating with the mentality that it's OK to be disrespectful, go to class 30 minutes late, and cut class anytime they want to. The true lessons of life are going to kick those students in the ???. CMS needs to step up and stop expecting less from students at poor performing schools. It's creating more harm to these students.

Another problem is that we don't address the issues. When one person commented on the unfairness of the magnet lottery process, another responded making ignorant judgements on how the person raised their kids. Typical CMS...avoid the issues and focus on an unrelated problem.

Where is the research behind CMS decisions? Someone else commented that private schools have it figured out. Catholic schools with families from all socio-economic backgrounds have it figured out. What can't CMS? CMS makes decisions without research. As long as the problems persist, the six figured administrators still have a job.