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.


wiley coyote said...

it only stands to reason that no data has been posted on Bright Beginnings since about 2002.

What's troubling is that tens of millions of dollars has been spent on this program since the late 90's and the state launched a program statewide based on Bright Beginnings to the tune of $196 million.

Does this mean the state's program doesn't work either?

Gorman deflects the issue stating the program is neither a success or a failure because there isn't enough data to decide one way or the other.

Hey Gorman? Do you have a big glass of milk to wash down that huge piece of cake you're having?

Put the cake down, walk away and cut the program.

Anonymous said...

the only reason people want to keep it is because for them it's free day care. Just like at the rest of the levels, some use it as a place to get a free breakfast and lunch, and not an education

Anonymous said...

Why would any BOE believe this pair of educrats on any possible data? The upcoming pay for performance and continual self-serving resume enhancement software and vendor upgrades are continual distractions with little or no training provided to teachers and staff. The general population has a better sense of these distractions than the Pandering Dunderheads, while the soon to be laid off are wasting more time and resources on redundant programs.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Wiley, read the Gorman/Avossa report all the way to the bottom and you'll see that yes, they ARE saying there's no conclusive evidence on the state's More At Four program, either. I didn't delve back into that this time around, but when I looked at pre-K research two or three years ago, I found even less tracking of More At Four than of BB.

It does seem like this raises some profound questions about educational research in general. As Brett Loftis of the Council for Children's Rights put it, "There's more research on Bright Beginnings than 90 percent of what the district does."

Anonymous said...

This is par for the course and is playing out in similar fashion for every initiative that the current regime embraces.
When the research comes in favor, it's trumpeted to the heights. When it opposes what they want (as it does in Pay for Performance) they minimize or ignore it. Dr. Gorman has about as honest a relationship with research as the Tobacco Industry did.

wiley coyote said...


Here's my problem with this issue and others that rear their ugly heads from time to time with programs in public education.

I'm willing to bet the farm that if the economy had not gone south and CMS was not facing a $100 million dollar deficit, that not one word about Bright Beginnings being cut simply because it doesn't work would have ever been brought forward.

Here is the summary from a report by the Institute of Education Sciences on Bright Beginnings back in 2009:


The WWC reviewed five studies of Bright Beginnings. One of these studies meets WWC evidence standards with reservations; the remaining four studies do not meet either WWC evidence standards or eligibility screens. Based on the one study, the WWC found potentially positive effects on print knowledge and no discernible effects on oral language, phonological processing, and math. The conclusions presented in this report may change as new research emerges.

So there were groups out there looking at the data a few years ago stating pretty much what Gorman said.

It seems as if no one had the courage to step up when times were good and do the right thing to cut Bright Beginnings and redirect funds to the classroom or other proven programs.

Anonymous said...

More feel-good BS on a program that every bleeding-heart leech just "knows" helps.

They don't need no steenkin data...

Anonymous said...

"It does seem like this raises some profound questions about educational research in general".

By George, Ann, you've got it!

Anonymous said...

To continue...

Whole Language
New Math
Open Classrooms
Pass/Fail college course options
Afro-Centric Education
Differentiated teaching methodology
Learning Communities
No Child Left Behind

And my lateral-entry (OMG) teaching license only expired about 15 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Gorman declaring research no good is such a joke. The man is a master manipulator who constantly twists and turns research results to support his ends. Two good examples, the value-added research which no studies thus far indicates has good validity for the uses proposed (standard error of measurements are astronomical when used at the classroom level)-- and the research presented to the board earlier this year regarding advanced degrees and teacher effectiveness that was based SOLEY on 4th-8th grade MATH scores. (the research cited also looked at reading scores, but they didn't support the conclusion, so they were basically ignored). Charlotte and CMS BOE - please WAKE UP. Peter Gorman always has an agenda and "transparent" must not mean the same thing as truthful. He is a snake oil salesman.

Anonymous said...

If one wanted to promote the benefits of BB, the statistics are there. There's increasing evidence that children gain a lot from going to preschool," says Parents advisor Kathleen McCartney, PhD, dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not," says NIEER director W. Steven Barnett, PhD.
It has been said “The reason people want to stop you now is because they see the potential you have”. This is nothing new. Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King. (also known as “The slaughter of the innocent”).
I am confident that parents and students who need additional help, that need that extra boost in life will get it. I also have compassion for many of the posters who are afraid because they think that for others to have means there will not be enough for them.

wiley coyote said...

Anon 12:04..

Spare the Bible study and quoting some person with a PhD. After all, it was another "Dr. of Education", Eric Smith who developed Bright Beginnings.

I don't believe there is anyone out there who would disagree that children who know what the color red is or how to stand quietly in a line or what the answer to 2+2 is, are better prepared to enter kindergarden.

Of course if a child has NO help prior to entering kindergarten they will not be as prepared as a child that has been taught the basics.

The problem is that it is the parent's responsibility to ensure their children know the basics before getting to that point, and not the Nanny State to do it or pay for it.

$11 million dollars a year just within CMS for about 3,000 students to learn what their parents should be teaching them is not justifiable.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:04--Please--We've heard this song and dance before--that the wealthier don't want the poor to have anything because they are afraid the children of the poor will then outpace their children. Several years ago at a program on CMS assignment history at the Levine Museum, the presenter, a UNCC professor, stated that Providence High parents don't want minorities attending school there because they are afraid those students would then be successful and take white children's slots at UNC. When questioned about this statement, she was adamant that this was fact, although she could not cite a reference to prove this.

If Bright Beginnings is cut, that will mean there will be more funds for the education of our K-12 students, rich and poor, all deserving a public school education. I do believe that children who attend pre-school are better prepared for kindergarten than those who do not, especially those from poorer families. And in the best of all possible worlds every child would get that pre-school experience. But we are not in the best of all possible worlds--we're in a crisis (for lots of reasons), so how can we possibly provide pre-school if we can't adequately provide k-12? It doesn't have anything to do with not wanting someone to succeed.

It is not helpful to use the guilt bludgeon on people, especially when you have no proof for the accusations you are making. Of course, it's also not helpful to judge the motivations of parents who have used Bright Beginnings.

Anonymous said...

How do the test for Bright Beginnings? I would like the free daycare for my children-but we are the wrong color and live in the wrong zip code. Where is my share of the pie? I am tired of paying $14K a year in child care costs-but I decided to have a child so that is my responsibility. I can't wait for the elections of these board members.

Anonymous said...

So you do feel quilty, afraid, and slighted!!

Anonymous said...

Yes,I do!

Anonymous said...

Pre-school anxiety? I remember my husband sleeping in his car one night (along with more than two dozen other parents) to get our child a spot at one of Charlotte's more respected private pre-schools. (The sound of Black Hawk helicopters is not in your head).

Fast forward:

I'm thinking about pioneering a 12-step parent support group for those who have survived the college admissions process which is as complex and mind boggling as anything related to CMS. The sound of helicopters in my head is a result of my child not being a gay fundamentalist Christian of Eskimo decent who supports crosstown busing, cross dressers, is an expert at poi ball dancing in addition to being a radical pro-lifer, a member of PETA and Amnesty International in the name of creating a diverse campus environment while demonstrating his superior 17-year-old leadership skills as captain of the lacross team, founder of "Save the Children" and student council president. This is before we even get to standardized test scores and the dreaded creative writing essay.

Anonymous said...

To Gorman... "data is no good" ... to that I say... YOUR FACE!

Anonymous said...

Not sure why anyone would be arguing, with this budget shortfall, about spending the $ for K-4...when the school system's mission is to education K through 12th grade. We can't afford the frills!
Also, why is spending for the K-4 year more important than the next 13 years of that same student's life??

Anonymous said...

Early Childhood Education Program Yields High Economic Returns

For every $1 invested in a Chicago early childhood education program, nearly $11 is projected to return to society over the children's lifetimes --
"Our findings provide strong evidence that sustained high-quality early childhood programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society," said Reynolds, director of the Chicago Longitudinal Study and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota.
"The large-scale CPC program has one of the highest economic returns of any social program for young people. As public institutions are being pressed to cut costs, our findings suggest that increasing access to high-quality programs starting in preschool and continuing into the early grades is an efficient use of public resources."
The CPC resulted in significantly higher rates of attendance at 4-year colleges and employment in higher-skilled jobs and significantly lower rates of felony arrests and symptoms of depression in young adulthood.
The program's economic benefits in 2007 dollars exceeded costs, including increased earnings and tax revenues, averted costs related to crime and savings for child welfare, special education and grade retention. The preschool part showed the strongest economic benefits providing a total return to society of $10.83 per dollar invested -- equivalent to an 18 percent annual return on program investment.
When the researchers included the benefits from reductions in smoking, total returns rose to more than $12 per dollar invested. The school-age program yielded a return of about $4 per dollar invested (annual rate of return of 10 percent) and the combined preschool and school-age program (preschool to third grade) yielded returns of $8.24 per dollar invested (annual rate of return of 18 percent), based on average net benefits per child of $38,000 above and beyond less extensive intervention.
Children at higher levels of risk experienced the highest economic benefits, including males ($17.88 per dollar invested; a 22% annual return), children who had taken part in preschool for a year ($13.58 per dollar invested; a 21% annual return) and children from higher-risk families, including those whose parents had not graduated from high school ($15.88 per dollar invested; a 20% annual return).
Web address:

Anonymous said...

From the abstract for this study: (b) duration of participation was significantly associated with school performance, especially for children who participated for five or six years, (c) participation in extended childhood intervention to second and third grade yielded significantly better school performance than participation ending in kindergarten, and (d) longer-term effects of the program were largely explained by cognitive-advantage and family-support factors, both of which are theoretically linked to the program activities.

It sounds like the program yields significant results through intense intervention through 3rd grade--somewhat like the Harlem Children's Zone, which is not what Bright Beginnings does (in fact it sounds more like what the new West Charlotte project may be trying to do). The abstract also notes that this is a state and federally funded program--not funded by the Chicago school system. And it admits that family support factors and "cognitive advantage" "theoretically" linked to the program explain much of the long term success of some students. Sounds like a little bit of hedging on what actually makes some students successful.

Does anyone believe we have the money for such a system-wide program here? Do you see the state or the federal government ponying up for it? Also, I wonder what's happening to the program in Chicago, with tight budgets for all government entities.

wiley coyote said...

There is one big flaw in data bandied about and that is any data associated with the FRL program.

Any numbers driven using FRL associated content is totally useless due to the fact no one has a clue as to how many kids truly meet the requiremnets v. those that don't.

So all this ROII garbage is about as good as Obama claiming to pay for Obamacare AND reducing the deficit in the next 8 years by cutting waste and fraud from Medicare and Medicaid.

The study posted by Anon states 900 children from the control group were compared to only 500 of the other group who went a traditional route.

Reynolds and his colleagues did the cost-benefit analysis of the CPC using information collected on about 900 children enrolled in the 20 centers starting when they were three and first enrolled in a preschool program. The study continued until the children were nine and taking part in a school-age program that featured smaller classes, teacher aides, and instructional and family support. Follow-up interviews were done in early adulthood and information was collected from many sources until age 26. These children were compared to a group of about 500 comparable children who didn't take part in the CPC but participated in the usual educational interventions for disadvantaged youths in Chicago schools.

In 2009/2010, 5 of the Top 10 schools in Illinois (11th grade math and reading) were in Chicago and 4 of those 5 were college prep schools.

Of the 10 worst schools, 9 of those were in Chicago.

Bottom 10 elementary schools, 9 of 10 (3rd grade math & reading) were in Chicago.

Top 10 elementary, 1 out of 10 was in Chicago.

One other note. For the analysis, Reynolds and other researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the Chicago Public Schools' federally funded Child Parent Centers (CPCs) established in 1967.

Numbers are tricky things.....

wiley coyote said...

Do Early Childhood (pre-K) Programs Work?
Author: Delma Blinson | Published: March 31st, 2010

Ms. Smith made an excellent presentation. However, she committed the same sin we have complained about over and over again with regard to such presentations. There was nothing included in terms of providing solid data with which the School Board or the public could assess the effectiveness of these programs.

Probably there is no other program that is more dubious in terms of its effectiveness than are early child care programs. Whether you choose to call them child care or early childhood education, Pre-K or whatever, the fundamental question remains: Other than providing babysitting services (or child care if you prefer) there are serious issues with whether these program make a substantial difference in the long run in these children's success in elementary, middle and high school. Most of the evidence is anecdotal; that is, subjective assessments based on someone's "gut feeling." And of course, the people who have a vested interest in the program always "feel" it does wonders.

But most empirical studies of early childhood programs before age five usually fail to show any substantial difference between students who were in such programs and those who were not. And what differences there are typically are lost by middle school.

Yet spending of taxpayer dollars in early childhood education is one of the fastest growing areas of educational costs. Thus, it raises the question of whether the benefit is worth the cost, which are extraordinarily high for most of these programs. And of course the question arises as to whether than same amount of money spent some other way might produce better results.

Numbers are funny things...

wiley coyote said...

Get Schooled Is Georgia’s pre-k worth the money?
8:41 am June 19, 2009, by Laura Diamond

Parents say they depend on Georgia’s universal pre-kindergarten program. But state auditors have released a report showing Georgia has spent more than $216 million on the program since 1996 without any data showing it works.

Numbers are funny things....

wiley coyote said...

..forgot the link above...

wiley coyote said...

...And still more of the same with no results and MILLIONS thrown into black holes...

The Jury’s Out on Pre-K
Faced with budget turmoil, the state Legislature needs to make hard decisions

By Joe Sullivan
Posted December 31, 2008 at 11:12 a.m.

Indeed, the one study conducted for the state by the Ohio-based Strategy Research Group pedagogically concluded that, “although Pre-K students initially demonstrated an advantage... over peers who did not participate in Pre-K, by the second grade there was no statistically significant difference in these groups attributable to Pre-K participation. Rather, the Pre-K and non-Pre-K groups appear to converge.”