Friday, February 25, 2011

NAACP chief to talk on school resegregation

Officials from the National Education Association are headed to Charlotte this week, and they want to talk about school resegregation, a dynamic they see as one of the most troubling trends on the American education scene. As part of the CIAA tournament, the NEA's minority community outreach office is sponsoring a "Salute to Educators" lunch on Friday. Keynote speaker? the Rev. William Barber, the N.C. NAACP chief who has been railing against resegregation in Wake County.

"We thought it was important to have someone from the local area who has been working on the resegregation issues we're concerned about," said Becky Pringle, the NEA's secretary-treasurer. "Our vision is great public schools for every student...We acknowledge that achievement gaps exist, and resegregating public schools only exacerbate that."

Given all the debate over issues of race and class swirling through Wake and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools these days, it's a timely topic. Unfortunately, NEA officials say the lunch isn't open to the general public. (Some teachers have been invited, though).

Pringle said the NEA wants to make sure what's happening in Raleigh doesn't spread across the country.

What do you think? Are should we be concerned today if schools are resegregating? Or have we reached the point where such concerns are outdated?

Insulting e-mail and vanishing comments

Updated 2:45 p.m.
School board member Rhonda Lennon apparently forgot a basic playground rule: When you insult someone's family, you've crossed a line.

Lynne Sanders, a parent concerned about the likely elimination of middle-school sports in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools next year, recently e-mailed Lennon urging her to preserve the program. Sanders noted that her seventh-grade daughter had made the honor roll at Bradley Middle because of the motivation sports provide, and added that "When Megan hung her report card on the refrigerator last night, she noted that next year she probably would get all C’s because there wouldn’t be any basketball. That saddened me….How many other kids are thinking the same way?"

Lennon's response: "Find me $1.2MM and I will be happy to, but I cannot cut teacher positions to pay for MS sports. Its sad that your daughter isn’t self motivated enough to want better than C’s on her own and not because of sports."

Sanders took offense and has been circulating Lennon's e-mail to officials and media.

Some of you asked for the full content of Sanders e-mail. Jeff Taylor's Meck Deck blog has the exchange I'd been copied on, plus a follow-up from Lennon that I hadn't seen. Short version: Sanders told Lennon she would have understood a reply calling on her as a concerned parent to do more, but found it "insensitive and inappropriate" to focus the response on her daughter. Lennon, in a response that was not copied to others (but that Sanders posted on Meck Deck), defends her work on trying to protect middle-school sports and her decision that "the current model is not self sustaining and is draining the HS program so another model must be developed or MS sports will not continue."

Update at 5 p.m.
Well, this is embarrassing. Seeing Cedar Posts' comment about ways to delete items without leaving anything, I started clicking around to see what I'd missed. It turns out the comments section has a spam filter with 26 posts piled up. About half are true spam -- for instance, various "write your dissertation" services that post generic comments in hopes of steering people to that site. The rest are (blush) real comments from readers, including Trent Merchant and Wiley Coyote, that for some reason bounced there.

I've restored all the real ones going back through January. So if you're curious to know what Trent had to say (hint: He encourages a frequent blog commenter to run for school board), go back to the "Time to shake up CMS board?" post.

The moral: If you have to guess at whether I'm guilty of censorship or technological boneheadedness, the latter is a smart bet!

Meanwhile, school board member Trent Merchant joined "Wiley Coyote" and other blog readers in the frustration of having their comments eaten by alligators in the Internet.

Over the last few months, I've gotten intermittent reports of readers posting comments, seeing them appear briefly and then vanish. Some have suggested (tongue in cheek, I think) that we've set the blog to vaporize comments with certain phrases or viewpoints.

Nope. Eric Frazier and I can delete comments, but we almost never do. And that leaves a notation that a comment was removed by a blog administrator. These are disappearing without a trace.

While I was flailing about for a better explanation than invisible gators, a colleague asked if I'd checked the help forum of

Oh, yeah ... there's a thought.

So, I still can't explain this phenomenon, but I've learned it's happening to lots of people on lots of blogs. Go here to get some tips on avoiding it, and if it happens, to log your issue along with the 800-plus other users who have posted since this thread opened in July.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Smart Start next on the chopping block?

There's been a lot of debate locally about whether the Bright Beginnings pre-K program should be scaled back as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools tries to close a $100 million budget gap. But over in Raleigh, a pitched battle is brewing over another treasured early childhood education program: Smart Start. Smart Start is a statewide network of 77 local groups focused on improving childcare, parenting and children's health. Spending targets Republican leaders in the General Assembly unveiled yesterday include possible consolidation or elimination of Smart Start and the More at Four preschool program.

Rep. Beverly Earle called me the other day voicing indignation about what she called a "witch hunt" by the conservative Civitas Institute. One of its policy analysts, Andrew Henson, has been requesting reams of data from Smart Start offices across the state. On Tuesday, Henson revealed his findings to about a dozen House representatives at a meeting where Smart Smart backers were not invited to speak. News accounts said his analysis found concerns over "excessive bureaucracy and the potential for a lack of oversight."

Rubbish, say Smart Start backers. They packed the hearing to show their support for the program. Regular, state-mandated audits have turned up few problems, they contend. Jane Meyer of Mecklenburg's Smart Start says her group hasn't had any audits turn up major problems in her 9 years at the helm. "This is nothing but harassment," Earle says. "It's nothing but a witch hunt. Like if they keep looking they'll find something to justify taking" money from the program. Henson and Civitas appear undeterred. A Civitas blog post Wednesday questioned why so many Smart Start officials could turn up for a legislative hearing when they ostensibly should have been working.

Stay tuned. I suspect we'll be hearing lots more about all this before the state budget is adopted later this year.

Time to shake up CMS board?

Woo hoo! After nine years covering the cyclical news of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, I just encountered something new: The quest to draw new lines for school-board electoral districts.

With 2010 Census data landing in April, the board has to even out the population of its voting districts. The northern District 1, a sprawling zone that was clearly drawn before the suburban boom, now has about 30 percent more residents than the central District 4, CMS planner Mike Raible told the board Tuesday.

But this also poses an opportunity for the board to make bigger decisions, including whether it's time to revise the six district, three at-large makeup of the board, Raible said. They'll also face such thorny questions as how much emphasis to put on drawing districts that promote minority representation and whether to draw lines that give political parties "safe" districts (read the staff presentation, which includes a map of the current districts,  here).

The board plans to start making decisions in March. Any changes would take effect after this year's election for three at-large members.

In their preliminary discussion Tuesday night, members disagreed on pretty much everything.

Kaye McGarry, citing the recommendations of a 2005 CMS reform task force created by business and political leaders, suggested cutting the board to seven members, all elected at-large.

"I would guess that Dr. Gorman wouldn't mind having to deal with less members," she said.

Superintendent Peter Gorman grinned: "Can I pick the seven?"

Rhonda Lennon countered that she remembered the time, prior to 1995, when all members were elected at large. "It was all one giant district and everyone lived on Providence Road," she said. "I would never support that."

Lennon talked about keeping Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson in one district. Joyce Waddell, Richard McElrath and Tom Tate talked about protecting or enhancing minority representation on the board (currently, the only two African American members come from the two "minority majority" districts, though blacks have won at-large seats in the past). Tate added that ideally, CMS might adopt a "pie slice" approach to ensure that all districts include high- and low-poverty schools.

Members swapped opinions on whether to do the work themselves, appoint an advisory group, hire a consultant or ask CMS staff to provide recommendations. They disagreed over the importance of keeping school-board voting districts the same as those for county commissioner (political junkies, add "co-terminus districts" to your vocabulary).

Trent Merchant called county commissioners' redistricting advisory board "disingenuous at best and a sham at worst" and lectured his colleagues on the need to avoid wasting time. "This is the least important thing that we have on our plate right now," he said.

Given the budget cuts, layoffs and school closings that are lurking, he's probably right. But political boundaries certainly make for fine political theater (watch the discussion here; the redistricting talk starts at the 2:33 mark of the Feb. 22 video).

And when all the rhetoric clears, this board's choices will shape decision-making about public education for years to come.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Online petition for Bright Beginnings

Will e-mails from around the country crank up pressure for Mecklenburg County commissioners to save Bright Beginnings prekindergarten seats next year?

Michelle O'Reilly of Charlotte hopes so. Early this morning, she created an online petition at asking people to lobby commissioners in favor of the spending plan proposed by Commissioner Vilma Leake. As you may recall, Superintendent Peter Gorman has proposed cutting just over $10 million from the Bright Beginnings budget, which would reduce participation by more than half next year, because of projected budget shortfalls. Leake has proposed a "grant" that would provide county money to cover that gap and specify that it must be used for pre-K.

Commissioner Bill James isn't impressed. He warned his colleagues to expect "e-mails by the bushel full" and put his own spin on things: "Why someone from Boulder, Co or some other place would know the details of BB’s failure I can’t say."

As of 2:30 p.m., the online petition had 17 signatures, including two from Charlotte and others from around the country, including Boulder.

If you're new to this issue, search this blog for previous, more detailed posts about the Bright Beginnings debate. And if you're trying to read the petition, here's a tech tip: I couldn't get to do much on Internet Explorer, but it responded well on Mozilla Firefox.

Teach For America: It isn't simple

Veteran education reporter John Merrow posted an intriguing blog item marking the 20th anniversary of Teach For America. He stakes himself out as neither fan nor foe, but a member of "the lonely middle" who sees both inspiration and failure in the program that sends bright young recruits into needy schools.

What caught my eye was his account of trying to sell a documentary to funders who invariably asked if his report was positive or negative. His answer: No.

"We had captured reality, and reality is full of small victories and defeats. A couple of the TFA teachers were splendid, seemingly born to teach. Two were flops. One got a raw deal from his principal and never hit his stride. It was life, but no potential funders were interested in that story."

Every reporter can relate. Miracles and gotchas make great headlines. Complexity doesn't. It can be tempting to pick a side and tell a simple story, but the truth of public education and the lives of real people are complicated.

John's conclusion is a good one: Even if an honest look at complexity doesn't hand you an answer, it can help you ask a better question.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Perdue on teacher pay, flexibility and Gorman

Gov. Bev Perdue wants North Carolina to do a better job of paying good teachers, getting rid of bad ones and protecting teacher jobs from budget cuts, she told a group of Observer editorial writers and reporters this morning.

Here's what she had to say:

On teacher pay: Perdue voiced enthusiastic support for converting from a pay scale based on experience and credentials to one based on student achievement and other measures of teacher performance.

"I believe in the 21st century you've got to look at a whole different model," she said. "The way we're paying teachers now doesn't work."

Perdue said the top of the pay scale needs to be much higher than it is now, and districts need a better way to "get rid of low-performing teachers and principals." She didn't offer any specifics when I asked where money might come from to boost top pay levels. Instead, she noted that "there has to be a restart for the whole pay system."

Perdue also said she supports National Board Certification of teachers and thinks it's a mistake to let them leave classrooms for administrative jobs. I didn't get a chance to press for details on whether that translates to protecting the extra pay for certification.

On flexibility: Perdue says she won't yield state control over allocating teachers and assistants because she doesn't want local districts to have the opportunity to cut those jobs to close budget gaps. "Teachers and teacher assistants are really critical to me."

But she said Superintendent Peter Gorman, whom she described as "a great leader," has sold her on the notion that districts need more control over other spending -- for instance, the chance to decide that money for a state-funded administrator should be used for another position.

And she said local districts should get "some calendar flexibility" beyond what the current state law provides. Again, no specifics (large-group interviews aren't ideal for follow-ups).

On Gorman's worst-case budget approach: Perdue said she wishes more superintendents would roll out early projections on how budget cuts could play out, because it alerts the public and cranks up pressure on county commissioners to do right by school spending. "I admire what he's doing. I think the approach is direct with people and they need to know what's at stake."

You can read Perdue's budget plan here. Or try your hand at crafting a better version here. (I've heard there's a version of this in the works for the CMS budget, which would be even more complicated. I'm hoping the folks who are working on it can pull it off.)

And thanks for the questions some of you sent yesterday. We didn't get to touch on all of them, but I've sent some of the rest -- such as overtesting and lunch-subsidy audits -- to her press folks in hopes of getting answers.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kudos to Eric

Ann here, taking a moment to brag about Eric Frazier. Today he's receiving The Thomas Wolfe Award, given by the Associated Press for the single best newspaper story in North Carolina from Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010.

The award is for his Aug. 30 piece on Danquirs Franklin and Juwon Lewis, two young men who started with very similar lives and ended up on opposite academic paths. It's well deserved; Eric stuck with what started out as a simple article on CMS's school for at-risk ninth-graders and turned it into an amazing piece of storytelling. At a time when politics, policy and arguing adults tend to dominate the education scene, Eric's story was a poignant reminder of what it's all about.

A hat-tip is also due his editors, Mike Gordon and Cheryl Carpenter. I was close enough to this one to see the long process leading up to publication. Eric wrote several very good versions of this story, all of which I'd have been proud to publish. The editors kept kicking it back and demanding more. As you might guess, that is not something reporters particularly enjoy. But the result is the great story that finally saw print. Congratulations to all.

Questions for Perdue?

Gov. Bev Perdue is visiting the Observer tomorrow to talk with reporters and editorial writers. This blog's readers pose smart, pointed questions, so I'm outsourcing a bit: What would you ask the governor?

I'll try to get as many answers as possible, bearing in mind that I'll be one of many journalists in the room and time will be limited.

The obvious one for me is how she plans to protect teachers and assistants while cutting taxes. Others?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Advanced Placement test fees due

If you've got a high school student taking the Advanced Placement tests, you've probably already paid your $87 per course fee. If not, consider this your last-minute reminder, because the fees must be paid no later than tomorrow. Students must turn in complete payment or a fee waiver by then, according to CMS. Waivers can be granted for low-income students.

CMS used to pay the fees for parents, but due to the budget cuts this year, parents are on their own. CMS says in this FAQ that it's saving $1.4 million by cutting money for AP and International Baccalaureate fees from its budget. Fees for students taking more than one of these college-credit courses can really add up, causing headaches for families already struggling with layoffs and pay cuts. One student wrote the paper to say his family's paying $621 for five IB exams this year. He said he was considering sitting out his two AP exams to save money.

As a parent who just shelled out about $188 (plus online "convenience fees") for two AP tests for my daughter, I must say I was a little miffed to think parents in previous budget years didn't fork over the same amount. On the other hand, I don't even want to imagine how much the same classes cost in the UNC system. So, I suppose it's still a bargain.

Have you paid your fees yet? What do you think of CMS' policy of not paying them?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Politics, data and other CMS updates

Let's see ... CMS has scrapped some of its most cherished data, politics are getting personal and there's more good information popping up online than I can keep up with. Yes, folks, it's time to mop up after another week on the education beat.

On political elbow-throwing ...
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, a Republican, has been e-mailing the suggestion that school board Chair Eric Davis's vote to delay a decision on Bright Beginnings prekindergarten cuts was influenced by his connections to the Babb family. Julie Babb is CMS's director of prekindergarten services. James claims that "her mommy"  is "a big time Democrat and Eric’s campaign manager so instead of taking the heat themselves the School Board wants to punt and throw the heat to the County Commission for the next several weeks."

Actually, Davis's campaign manager in 2007 was Nancy Babb Falls, a Democrat who is Julie Babb's sister. "I'm not ashamed one bit that she helped me run," said Davis, who is an unaffiliated voter. He says his vote was based on following Superintendent Peter Gorman's recommendation.

"I think Mr. James might be feeling the pressure from the community," Davis said. "When you feel the pressure, you reach out and attack through some personal issues."

On data wars ...
Superintendent Pete Gorman says there isn't any Bright Beginnings data good enough to use in decision-making.

Brett Loftis of the Council for Children's Rights says there's more data on BB than 90 percent of what CMS does.

What does Gorman say to that? "He's probably right."

In other words, there's little to no solid data to show that any of CMS's reform efforts, from strategic staffing to teacher effectiveness ratings, makes a difference.

With a research and evaluation staff of 3.5 people, Gorman said this week it's not realistic to expect rigorous academic evaluations of everything the district does (and I'd add that such results never come quickly).

Instead, he says local officials use national research on what works -- for instance, the value of effective teachers -- and figure out strategies they hope will translate to gains for CMS kids.

One of the things that had puzzled me was that Gorman and Chief Accountability Officer Robert Avossa were rejecting an ERS study on Bright Beginnings while continuing to use ERS as a consultant. Turns out they're different ERSs: Virginia-based Educational Research Service did the 2003 BB report; while  Education Resource Strategies of Watertown, Mass., is working with CMS now.

On Web info ...
CMS has posted answers to a long list of budget questions the staff has been getting.

The district has also posted a new batch of School Quality Reviews. These in-depth reports can be a great source of insight into what's working and what's not. Check the dates; some reviews are recent, some older. A few schools still haven't been reviewed, but CMS expects to have them all done by the end of this year.

As one of you noticed, I've taken down the Observer's School House collection of data on CMS schools because I wasn't able to keep it fresh while meeting other demands on my time. CMS keeps a lot of info at its "data dashboard." I've never found that particularly easy to use, but it's probably your best bet for now.

And here's a new one y'all should find interesting: The Center for Education Reform, a group that promotes charters and school choice, has launched The Media Bullpen, an attempt to rate the quality of education coverage across the country. Among education reporters, the early buzz was over how much it would focus on accuracy/fairness/quality vs. simply rating coverage on how well it promotes the center's views. At first very quick glance, I just can't tell. The "bullpen" baseball theme may be more accessible to sports fans; I found it difficult to follow (best I can tell, they haven't "umpired" any Observer articles yet). Some of you may have more time and sports knowledge than I do; if you sort it out, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New CMPD data on school arrests

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have new data out on the number and type of arrests they've made on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools campuses so far this school year. They've also compared those numbers to corresponding figures for the same period in the previous school year.

There's lots of things missing from the data. For instance, full school years aren't covered. Nor are schools in the outlying suburbs, such as Butler High, which don't have Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers on their campuses. It also doesn't include citations, which an officer might issue instead of arresting a student on a minor charge.

Still, the data gives at least some insight into what's happening in most CMS schools this year, as far as violence and arrests are concerned.

Summary of the data.
School-by-school data listing what each arrest involved.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Full results of the raise-my-taxes-for-CMS poll

With the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board slated to vote this evening on a potential $10.4 million cut from the Bright Beginnings pre-K program, a new poll showing strong support for a tax hike is stirring lots of debate. The poll, commissioned by Child Care Resources and the Council for Children's Rights, showed more than three-fourths of Mecklenburg residents surveyed support raising their taxes to help CMS and to pay for preschool for disadvantaged children.

Readers commenting on our online story joined commissioner Bill James in questioning whether the study was skewed by the sponsors and research firm Public Policy Polling to get the desired "raise-my-taxes" outcome. Officials from the two sponsoring groups say the questions were fair. I'm awaiting a response from Public Policy Polling, and will update with that once I get it.

So, here's a link to the full text of the study. What do you think of it?

Monday, February 7, 2011

CMS wish list: Flexibility, please

It's been overshadowed by budget cuts, but the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools legislative agenda is also up for a vote Tuesday.

The five items essentially boil down to "If you can't give us money, give us freedom."

If the board approves the list, members will ask state legislators to loosen spending strings; provide more freedom in evaluating, paying and firing teachers; and allow more leeway in fixing low-performing schools. In what's likely to be the most-agreed-on item, the board added an item asking for freedom to set its own school calendar. And in what's likely to be the most controversial, there's a proposed item seeking the authority for CMS to levy its own taxes.

New House Speaker Thom Tillis, a former CMS PTSA dad, says he supports giving local school board more authority. I suspect agreeing to that notion in theory is going to prove easier than actually cutting through the snarls of state rules and regulations, though.

Cancer research and education

When I'm not writing about CMS budget cuts, I've been reading "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer."

It's far more fascinating than depressing, but it's not good escapist fare. As I read about the long, difficult quest to save lives, I find myself thinking about the quest to save kids from educational failure.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, who bangs out bestselling books while working as a cancer researcher, explains in layman's terms how treatments that initially look successful, even miraculous, can wither under the scrutiny of long-term research. Even the best minds of medicine can be misled by their own hopes and early results, pinning their hopes on costly, invasive treatments that don't stand the test of time.

It's both inspiring and heartbreaking to read about all the children and adults who took part in randomized trials of experimental treatments. Some were destined to be denied a treatment that might have saved, or at least prolonged, their lives. Others got the cutting-edge therapy, knowing they might go through suffering and expense that would ultimately prove fruitless. Year by painful year, scientific knowledge has advanced.

Medicine is not a perfect analogy for education, of course. But I'm struck by how often, in the world of public education, the consensus jumps quickly from "This seems like a great idea" to "This is clearly the best practice and it would be wrong to deny it to any child." Any uptick in test scores can be seen as "proof" that all sorts of reform strategies are working.

Yes, real educational success is hard to measure. Yes, we want to keep intuition and innovation alive in teaching. And no, serious research doesn't yield answers by the next election or budget cycle, let alone by reporters' deadlines.

But if we can do rigorous, long-term research when it's literally a matter of life and death, shouldn't there be a better way to put educators' beliefs and visions to the test?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gorman: CMS data on Bright Beginnings is no good

In the 4 1/2 years Peter Gorman has been superintendent, there's been a smoldering debate over the academic benefits of Bright Beginnings prekindergarten. Looming budget cuts fanned it to a blaze.

On Friday evening, with a Tuesday vote slated on major pre-K cuts, Gorman and his research chief, Robert Avossa, sent the school board a memo saying they've looked at the data compiled by CMS predecessors and basically declared it worthless. They outline problems with sample sizes, assumptions and techniques used to compare Bright Beginnings children to a comparison group and calculate the cash value of the progam.

"The results of these studies and their limitations do not provide a definitive picture of whether BB is an effective program based on educational outcomes," the report says. "It is the opinion of most educators that Pre-Kindergarten programs can benefit the social, emotional, behavioral, and educational outcomes of a student. However, at this time, there is not sufficient or valid evidence to support a funding decision on research from CMS."

That's a bit of a bombshell to drop as the board faces a decision on whether to cut more than half the current Bright Beginnings program. Gorman has said he believes pre-K is the right thing to do, regardless of whether there's proof it changes long-term outcomes for kids. But he's also said he can't justify protecting pre-K while cutting K-12 classrooms.

The new report could nudge the board toward pulling the trigger on cuts Tuesday, or it could push members toward another delay. Either way, the debate just got a lot more interesting.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Another peek into the CMS crystal ball

I didn't fall on my face forecasting last month's magnet-busing action, so here are my best guesses on some questions that are floating about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools budget:

Will the school board delay voting on Bright Beginnings again?

Could be. The two-week postponement had me scratching my head from the start. The folks we've talked to say no one has worked out a good alternative to the $10.4 million in proposed cuts, but there's still a lot of desire in the community and on the board to avoid them.

If the board pulls the trigger, the only advantage seems to be giving about 100 pre-K teachers notice that they should jump into the transfer pool to seek new jobs. Clearly, those teachers already know their jobs are at risk. If the board delays, members will say they're allowing more time for the community to find a solution. Translate that as more pressure on county commissioners to bump up money for CMS.

Will outsourcing non-academic functions save teacher jobs in 2011?

Superintendent Peter Gorman and his staff won't say, but I'm going to place a bet on "no."

At the Jan. 25 meeting, some board members asked about options for outsourcing or "managed competition," which involves letting staff produce a plan that's competitive with private bids. Gorman talked about the process of legal and procedural review that's just cranking up. This is genuinely complicated stuff, given the snarl of state and federal requirements that come with almost anything a school district does. If there were an easy win at hand, I suspect it would be in the current plans. My prediction: This won't be ready for the 2011-12 budget that will be presented in April, but Gorman & Co. will study options for 2012-13.

Will we be able to watch Tuesday's board meeting live on the web?

LaTarzja Henry says yes. So far CMS is 50/50: Live webstreaming worked Jan. 11 and failed Jan. 25. I've got no great technological insight on this; I'm lucky to get my own netbook working from the Gov Center.

Should we read Sunday's paper?

Why, yes!  There are some interesting developments in the Bright Beginnings data wars that you'll want to catch up on.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Parents mobilize nationwide

Pam Grundy, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools parent activist (and frequent poster to this blog), will be part of next week's launch of Parents Across America, a coalition of parents who support equity, diversity and parent involvement in public education.

She says the idea for a national parents' network emerged as local activists realized that issues they were dealing with often originate on a national level. Big-money donors such as The Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation push their visions of reform. The U.S. Department of Education is using Race to the Top money to shape how states and local districts deal with failing schools.

Grundy says she and parents from Wake and Durham counties are working with activists from Chicago, New York and other districts across the country to sort out the issues and make their voices heard. Diane Ravitch, an author, education professor and former assistant secretary of education, will give the keynote speech at Monday's launch in New York City. Click the link above to learn more about the parents group.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More help on way for high-poverty classrooms

The Leon Levine Foundation, which has committed $10 million toward the $55 million Project LIFT effort to help schools on Charlotte's west side, is putting even more money into those struggling classrooms. The foundation is joining forces with, a website that helps teachers find donors for class projects, to offer $100,000 in matching grants for projects benefitting 11,000 students in more than 400 high-poverty classrooms in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. For each project, the foundation will cover half the cost, and others are asked to supply the rest. To donate, go to the site, then click on "View Projects." Look for "Match Offers" on the right side of the screen. Then click on "Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools."