Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Worst schools in America

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is in the running to be named America's best urban district by the Broad Foundation. But who's the worst?
The Wall Street Journal's national education reporter, Stephanie Banchero, posed that question to the Education Writers Association listserve this afternoon (old-timers may remember Banchero as an Observer reporter in the early 1990s).
The inbox immediately lit up with an overwhelming consensus: Detroit. After all, how can you beat a school district where the board president resigned after fondling himself in a meeting with the female superintendent? As one reporter said, "If soap operas took place in school districts, the story lines would be based on Detroit."
Leadership isn't the only problem: On the "nation's report card" math and reading exams, Detroit's students land dead last among large urban districts.
For a more in-depth take on Detroit's educational woes, Education Week's Dakarai Aarons offers this "district dossier."
While no one took issue with Detroit's dubious distinction, Milwaukee, Chicago and Los Angeles also got some dishonorable mentions.


Anonymous said...

Guess they got their information from Dr. Gorman and not from student test scores or faculty and staff.

Anonymous said...

So much for us folks in the Suburbs seeing all this hope and change...

Anonymous said...

The good news is we have one heckuva Public Relations Lead Person, the bad news is the rest of the Country is having bigger problems and failures than we are!

Anonymous said...

Hope and change was not for us in the suburbs who worked hard to build our own successful lives.

CMS only comes out on top because it has a higher portion of suburban and middle class families still in its system over the other school systems. If you look at the actual timeline of yearly results, you see CMS has not been improving while others have.

Unknown said...

CMS is full of hot air.. they have bought the judging off.. Because how can we have budget cuts and lay offs every year and still be labeled a good urban school? A few inner city schools does not make us urban diversified .. Our children are suffering because We do Not have enough teachers to teach our children. But his wife and Peter Gorman can get a bonus but will not Take a pay cut. If we must so MUST HE!!

Ann Doss Helms said...

Kimmee, Peter Gorman is well compensated, but he hasn't taken a bonus for the last two years. Despite persistent rumors, his wife has never been on the payroll. She's the volunteer head of the Parent University advisory board.

Anonymous said...

Ann, I would rather read your blog and post comments here than to dialogue with my on-line classmates. I am in a principal's certification program and the postings are far from reality...all theoretical junk. No wonder so many principals are ill prepared for their jobs...

It does not matter who says CMS is a great urban school district. Dr. Gorman is doing a marginal job at best and most of his principals are fairing even worse. Most rich and poor parents alike are frustrated with CMS and its indecisiveness.

By the way, I will not continue in this line of study. I would like to ameliorate the dire educational situation, not become a part of the problem!

Ann Doss Helms said...

That's very intriguing! What do you plan to do instead? My sense is that there are some great principals who make a huge difference for kids and teachers, even if they can't change the whole system. But I don't think it's easy by any stretch.

Anonymous said...

I'm also in a Principal program (I teach in CMS) and we're lucky. Most of our instructors are from Unuion County. It seems like a much better world there, with fewer of our problems perhaps, but also less of the political and institutional sabotage as well.

Anonymous said...

"CMS only comes out on top because it has a higher portion of suburban and middle class families still in its system over the other school systems. If you look at the actual timeline of yearly results, you see CMS has not been improving while others have."

A) Where do you get your data? B/C Broad's says otherwise... and for the record, this data DOES come from test scores, not from Dr. Gorman.

B) "In the 2010 Broad Prize finalist districts, a higher percentage of African-American, Hispanic and low-income students performed at the highest achievement level on state assessments in reading and math than did their statewide counterparts in 2009. The districts also made progress in closing academic achievement gaps among minority and low-income students. Additionally, all five
districts made notable gains in preparing students academically for college, as shown, for example,
by increased participation rates by minority students on SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement
exams." - Broad website; seems that the suburban/middle class families would actually not help a lot (or rather at all) on that achievement gap piece.

I'm no expert, but read these forums frequently and grow weary of unfounded, incorrect rantings that seem ignorant at best, hateful at worst. Read some actual academic research to understand what downtown and the Board are trying to do and give these people who work tremendously hard (for way less than their skill, degrees, and track record would command in another sector) the benefit of the doubt that they are doing what is best for ALL students. Particularly those whose parents are not fortunate enough to have free time to blog.

Anonymous said...

I concur with Anon 7:05, and wish that Dr. Gorman would pay similar attention to research (such as the fact that Pay For Performance does not work).

Ann Doss Helms said...

I became disillusioned with the Broad process when CMS was nominated in 2005. As y'all may recall, not only was a political implosion going on, but CMS looked dismal in some data analyses being done by me, Judge Howard Manning and others. I suspect the nomination was based on a previous superintendent's successful self-promotion.

Having said that, I think this year is different. I've talked at some length with the people doing the screening and judging. They're asking smart questions and doing sophisticated comparisons. They understand the urban/suburban dynamic in CMS and they're not just giving CMS credit for having more white and middle-class kids than other urban districts.

I've sliced and diced the test scores six ways from Sunday, as the Broad panel is doing. As I've reported, there are signs of real progress, especially among low-income and black students. There are also plenty of troubling indicators remaining. Whoever wins the prize will do it not for having solved the big problems of urban education, but for having taken promising steps.

Anonymous said...

To July 13, 2010 7:05 PM, I thought I still had that report I was mentioned bookmarked on this computer but apparently it is on my other one. I will find it and mark it here tomorrow. It was interesting if you will recall it showed the different systems with math/english EOG scores and you could step through the years and see who was going up the scale, who was sitting still and who was going down.

Yep I would believe the achievement gap is going down because the suburban schools are being strangled with less than $4k per pupil spending and th urban schools are getting over $8k per pupil. The bottom school was $3.5k and the highest school was $10k.

Anonymous said...

I think that sometimes bloggers cannot see the forest through the trees and I believe this applies in this case. Clearly, the author is so embedded in CMS that she cannot see the great aspects as they compare to other school districts. She cited a study that labeled Detroit as terrrible, OK, but how does that compare with CMS? The study makes no comparison (at least without further research, which I am not about to do). I am a former CMS teacher now residing in another state. I thought CMS was doing things right and, as a former teacher at Eastway Middle School (now businessman) I can speak anecdotally to the system as I am actively counseling students for college that I taught in middle school. I think that bodes well for the school district.

Cassandra Harris Tydings said...

Anon at 3:12 PM -

"Hope and change was not for us in the suburbs who worked hard to build our own successful lives."

Where is the data that confirms that the only people that work hard to build successful lives live in the suburbs? My husband and I live less than one mile from the center city. The only debt that we have is our mortgage and it is less than one third of a conservative estimate of the value of our home. We have not conducted a study of the number of foreclosures or bankruptcies in our neighborhood or those nearby; however, we are, because of our personal interst and professional obligations, fairly well informed about the number of foreclosures in the several neighborhoods surrounding ours. Even without having copies of the financial statements of our neighbors and the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, I am reasonably confident that most of us are working hard to build successful lives.

Next -
"CMS only comes out on top because it has a higher portion of suburban and middle class families still in its system over the other school systems. If you look at the actual timeline of yearly results, you see CMS has not been improving while others have."

The information in the Nation's Report Card, as provided by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), is not a simple average of scores within a district. The scores are broken out by gender, race, and socio economic groups. According to the NAEP's report, "Among the five districts where overall scores were higher than the score for large cities at both grades 4 and 8, only Charlotte and Houston also had higher scores for White, Black, and Hispanic students and for lower-income students in both grades." CMS Students across the board, not just those living in suburban neighborhoods, performed better than those in the other urban districts measured.

Regarding the comment that the suburban schools are being "strangled" because of lower per pupil spending, Eastover Elementary at $5,740 per student and 17% economically disadvantaged (ED) and Huntingtown Farms Elementary at $5,981 per student and 72% ED cost less per student than McAlpine Elementary at $6,025 per student and 22% ED. Are there suburban schools that are paying less per pupil than Eastover or Huntingtown Farms? Yes. Are there suburban schools that are paying more per pupil than those two schools? Yes.

When the statement that, "suburban schools are being strangled with less than $4k per pupil spending and the urban schools are getting over $8k per pupil" is made is writer taking into consideration the fact that there are some suburban schools that are paying more per pupil that urban schools, or that when there is a higher percentage of ED students attending a school, the cost per pupil is paid not only from the CMS budget, but also from state and federal funds? I don't know. Does the writer know that the state and federal funds are not in addition to the amount reported by CMS, but are included in that amount? I don't know that either.

There are many things that I don't know about the costs and quality of education in Mecklenburg County, whether that education is occurring in an urban or a suburban area. What I do know is that we all benefit when all of our children are well educated. I also know that my brother and I went to a school that had a population of approximately 65% ED students, he was a National Merit Finalist, I have two law degrees and that we are better people for having learned outside the classroom from people who are different from us.

None of this is easy. Some people, regardless of where they live, their income, their race or any other factor you want to include, are more willing to make that effort than others. I hope, for the sake of our community, that the people that are willing to make the effort outnumber those that aren’t.

Anonymous said...

If I've read the data correctly, an urban school system with more than 14% white students has never won the "top prize". A finalist gets around 12-15 scholarships, and the top prize about 50 scholarships, awarded to students who apply and can show academic progress from the winning URBAN school, and show financial need. The Broad Foundation ultimately wants to reward URBAN schools that show progress in closing the education blacks between minorities and whites.

Given these perimeters the Board scholarships, through Scholarship America, likely go to kids of color only. Neither Broad or Scholarship America will release demographics of recipients--although they will often release names of the recipients--go figure.

CMS is not awarded the scholarship money and has nothing to do with the selection of those who might receive them. It simply wins the title, being the best of perhaps a lot of margin school systems. dj

Anonymous said...

If this is the case the bar is obv not set very high but there are some good CMS schools in the south and one of two in the north.

Yet Obama is trying to protect and legalize 40 mill illegals in a nation that has drowned 10 times over in red ink debt and spending three times what big spender Bush was spending?

And for all the liberal dummie Obama defenders whining that "he took over the problems from Bush ..." this is total BS lame as hell. He wanted the job. He ran for the job. He got the job. He could resign anytime. Stop with the lame excuses. McCain would have taken it.

Erskine Bowles now says America can NEVER recover from this massive debt problem even if the economy grew big for decades.
Things have gone from terrible to catatrophic and obama cannot keep spending on 2 damn useless wars and protect illegals sucking up freebies for 50 yrs now.


Anonymous said...

Oh boy. Too bad really good systems didn't make the cut due to the poverty level that mandates urban. A farce award.

Anonymous said...

My frustration is that every kid doesn't want to take the SAT and ACT to go to college. Where are the trade schools CMS?

CMS also lacks focus on teaching and challenging the high performers. Should those students wait for the others to catch up? NO!

It is great to raise the performance level of low achievers, but why forget everyone else? Too, Dr. Gorman has kept NUMEROUS under-performing administrators in their jobs on the west side of town, but pulled one principal out of her position when she was actually making progress....great leadership.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Cassandra, for pointing out that the per-pupil funding picture is far more complicated than some posters suggest. You could look, for example, at Albermarle Road Middle (18 percent paid lunch, $6,681 per pupil)and Davidson IB Middle, 88 percent paid lunch, $7,128 per pupil). The CMS numbers do include most state and federal funds. It's all the money spent at the school level.

Adrian DeVore said...

CMS as a cost cutting measure should drop Sue Gorman's laughable Parent University program. I understand that parent accountability is very paramount in student success but a personal vanity program is a bit overboard. CMS could have spent money reserved for Parent University towards improving educational standards while saving teacher positions.