Friday, December 3, 2010

Newspapers and the view from Amay James

If you get angry when a blog item isn't full of hard-hitting news and analysis, please click away now. I figure I've spent enough time with spreadsheets and officials to bask in an occasional feel-good moment.

And if "community helper day" at Amay James Prekindergarten Center doesn't make you smile, there may be no hope for you. A parade of 4- and 5-year-olds came through dressed as doctors, construction workers, soldiers and scientists (you'd think one kid could have put on a trench coat and a hat with a press card in it, but no). My favorite: A boy in military camouflage who told me he wants to be a veterinarian, but he'd also like to be Spiderman.

My props were pretty feeble next to the uniformed pilot with a model plane, the landscapers who were potting pansies and the police who pulled their squad cars into the parking lot. Just for fun, I brought an American Girl miniature version of a manual typewriter. It brought nostalgic smiles from several teachers, but none of the kids could identify it. A camera? A cash register? A robot?

Several knew what my laptop computer was. The really depressing part? They had a harder time identifying a newspaper. Most gave me blank looks, though a few said they'd seen their parents reading one of those.

"My daddy does," one girl said eagerly. "In the bathroom!"

Any cynics who kept reading may be wondering: With the roughly $22 million Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spends on Bright Beginnings prekindergarten facing scrutiny in 2011, was this a CMS plot to win me over?

I'll admit to being a sap for cute kids. Further, I'll admit to this bias: I'd like to see every one of those children have the best possible shot at becoming doctors, pilots or Spiderman (by 2023, that may be a better career path than newspaper reporter).

Maybe I've still got my rosy shades on, but I think most of us agree on that. Caring about kids doesn't preclude differences of opinion about the best way to reach them with the money that's available. A robust debate about that is coming, and I'll be right in there trying to tease out the facts.


therestofthestory said...

Yes cute kids. No problem though havng them do this one year later. If they are in need of the remedial intent of BB, then they can do 2 years of kindergarten once they are of age to qualify from the state. Thereby the state bears most of the cost. I know Dr. Gorman did a slight of hand this year with BB funding having come from stimulus dollars but I know he is on a campaign to save this "sacred cow" program. I wonder if the $25 miilion from the feds he is holding in his back pocket is his insurance. Anyway, any extra money coming from the feds will no doubt target only these kids and not used for relief of overcrowded classes of high performing kids. Who by the way with fewer in a class and such advantages could be the ones creating opportunities to help the US climb back up in the "educated" ranking of the world and create more businesses in the US.

wiley coyote said...

If you can't quantify it, delete it.

From what I have read, there is no data to tell us what, if any success, BB has achieved.

From Ann Doss Helms awhile back:

Does Bright Beginnings really work?

Data are sketchy, despite CMS’s pledge to track progress

By Ann Doss Helms
Posted: Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010

Bright Beginnings, the innovative pre-kindergarten program of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, debuted a decade ago with the hope of transforming the lives of at-risk kids - and the pledge of keeping close tabs on their performance to help them succeed.

That promise to families and taxpayers has not been kept.

Today, the program costs $23 million a year. It helped launch a similar $196 million statewide program. And while teachers say it clearly better prepares children for kindergarten, CMS can't say whether it has had any academic impact on later school years.

Read more:

Anonymous said...


Dear Ann,

I read your Amay James story and you got to know I’m a sucker for kids too. Mrs. Claus has been complaining for years about it. It got so bad one year I just packed up everything in an old sled and went out to visit a few of the needy ones. Been doing it ever since.

At first I had this idea that just showing up with good cheer would be fun. But the next year a couple of the snotty children starting asking what I had brought them. Like I was their fat loud uncle.

Mrs Claus was the first to say I should do the presents. What she really wanted was to get my retired hind-end out of the house. So I did. That whole year I made toys. You should have seen them stacked to the roof. I don’t know what I was thinking. My sled was one of the one-horse things in the song. I wasn’t about to “go o’re the hills” in that contraption. I sprung for a big used red sleigh from Fred’s used car lot, bought nine very tinny but sturdy reindeer, loaded up and took the fastest trip yet known to man. The only complaint was when I returned and Mrs. Claus said she had hoped I’d be gone for more than a day.

Ann, I’m with you on the 2023 thing. I delivered 5,000 toy stethoscopes, 10,000 hammers and enough Camo for everyone. For those future lawyers I left a lump of coal.

Keep at it Ann. It ain’t about the data. Kids aren’t numbers.


North Pole 28134

Anonymous said...

Ann, thanks for the cute story. It really made me smile! It's hard to believe that some of your posters hate on children, old people,and puppies because they feel ugly,dumb,and broke.

wiley coyote said...

Dear Santa,

Kids ARE numbers when the government attaches one to them.

The problem is, most of the time the numbers are faulty.

Then comes the question - Are we really helping these kids with programs that cannot be quantified to show they work?

Can we redirect funds in a better way to actually do some good?

When kids don't graduate, they are a number added to the statistics.

Anonymous said...

To: Wiley

May you have the good fortune of waking one morning from a frightful dream to a bright sky and light snow. You’ll lean out your lonely second floor window and yell to the scruffy lad below, “…go to the butcher and fetch the biggest turkey.”


wiley coyote said...


A big part of the problem with education is the emotion that is allowed to trample common sense.

Sometimes it takes people who can separate emotion from fact to make the hard decisions and ensure things happen for the greater good.

I have given money over the years to students in my son's classes who could not afford to go on field trips and would have had to stay at school with other students while their class went.

If quoting Dicken's and Santa helps you understand what goes on in your fantasy world, then by all means continue to do so.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Wiley, evidently your generosity proved there must be emotion and a spirit of giving under the bluster and curmudgeonism. You have now indicated to the world a heart beats within. Now get back to work on Pete, Cesena, and the Keystone Cops. Thanks for the levity in this sacred season of layoffs, firings and Bristol Palin.