Friday, March 11, 2011

Will Bill Gates come courting me?

Parent activist Pam Grundy shared this link to a Washington Post education blog about the Gates Foundation's latest quest to "win over the public and the media to its market-driven approach to school reform."

According to Valerie Strauss's blog, a grant proposal outlines plans to build “strong ties to local journalists, opinion elites, and local/state policymakers and their staffs” and ensure "frequent placement ... in local media coverage" of stories about teacher effectiveness, performance pay and value-added ratings.

Well! I had a front-page article about Charlotte-Mecklenburg's push toward performance pay in last Sunday's paper, with another coming out this Sunday looking at value-added ratings. I'm tempted to post an address where the Gates folks can mail a big ol' check.

Seriously, this is just another glimpse of the tangled world of education reform. You've got a billionaire philanthropist not only paying to promote his vision for better schools, but sponsoring a group to drum up "grassroots" support. Meanwhile, a local mom who's moving onto the national stage is keeping an eye on such developments and alerting the local media about the plan to woo us.

I may get confused, but I will never get bored on this beat!


the invisible adjunct said...

I really hope that Pam Grundy can spare a little energy for community college reform. Come on, Pam; we need a champion! We're so underfunded that most instructors are part-time employees. I know Bill Gates vistied CPCC a while back--if you're reading this Bill, how about a donation with the stipulation that the funding must go toward full-time positions. Seriously Pam and Bill, don't you think it'd be great if more community college instructors received fair wages and health insurance?

Pamela Grundy said...

Ann, Ann, Ann . . .. They want to keep it secret! No checks. You need to identify the tree that they can leave the bag of cash behind!

Anonymous said...

So just how does one become a "parent activist"?

Wiley Coyote said...


Evidently when one is classified an "opinion elite" do they become a "parent activist".

Wiley Coyote said...

Bill Gates November 2010: ...(He) suggests they end teacher pay increases based on seniority and on master’s degrees, which he says are unrelated to teachers’ ability to raise student achievement.

Right on Bill!... and as we have seen in recent weeks, states are starting to get the message.

This is nothing new of course. Critics have been attacking teacher tenure for over 20 years as a roadblock to overall education reform.

Anonymous said...

So, now Bill Gates has to start an "astroturf" movement to counter actual grassroots groups of parents advocating for sensible teacher assessment! Please help us show Bill his money won't stop us! Sign the Mecklenburg ACTS petition for Fair and Effective Teacher Assessment at

academic sharecropper said...

If you want to get rid of teacher tenure, make all the teachers adjuncts. Then they can be fired on a whim. It's a great market-driven approach to education, in that it cuts costs and allows flexibility in staffing classes. And no benefits to worry about.

After all, as Paul Krugman wrote recently, education is no longer the answer: "But there are things education can't do. The notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It's no longer true that having a college degree guarantees you a good job."

That's certainly true in higher education, where the students often earn more than their part-time instructors. In fact, students on unemployment often make more than their instructors.

So, if we're following the Wal-Mart market-driven model, where instructors are part-time "associates," why not take that next step and implement it in K-12. Reward the highly effective teachers with full-time jobs.

adjunked said...

I guess Pam doesn't have any empathy for part-time college instructors.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 3:27: A better question is "How do you become the CO's favorite parent activist, with almost daily name or face time in the paper or online?" How about a little "diversity", Ann! I imagine there are some other opinions out there!

Wiley Coyote said...

Perhaps Mecklenburg Acts should post what they believe are the top 5 ways to evaluate teachers.

In detail.

The petition says nothing about their opinion as to how they would do the evaluations, only that they oppose what is currently being done or proposed by others.

Anonymous said...

I think Bill is headed toward something similar to "Microsoft Certification" for teachers.

If you look at what they have done to "standardize" IT "skillsets" (which make outsourcing easier), you will see what I mean.

It used to be that managers had to know enough about IT to judge whether an IT employee was competent, now they can order employees by convenient lists of "certified" skills, much like one orders fast food at a drive-thru.

This is where things are apparently headed.

Don't be surprised if some group in India ends up "certifying" teachers (or, rather, "instructors") via videos of their performance in addition to some standardized test results.

Find out what it takes to become a Microsoft Certified Trainer and you will see the future of teaching according to Bill Gates.

You gotta watch Bill. Everything looks like a nail to him because he wields a very big hammer.

Notice how his "research" all seems to be done.

He already KNOWS what's effective (in his mind)and is ready to go to market.

ghost in the classroom said...

The microsoft certification thing for teachers has already been done--in community colleges. The best way to get a full-time job is not to be an effective educator, but to be an expert in Microsoft office, which you will then teach to the part-timers, who will take the professional-development classes if they desire a full-time job. It still takes, on average, seven years of part-time experience, plus the microsoft certification, before you'll be considered for a full-time job.

My guess is this system will eventually make it into K-12.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Pam got to be dubbed "parent activist" by a.)leading MeckACTS, b.) speaking at a bunch of school board meetings, and c.) helping create a national parent advocacy group. God help me if I have to figure out a label for Bolyn McClung!

Pam is getting a lot of ink, physical and virtual, by virtue of being in the thick of an issue that I'm currently obsessed with(performance pay). It has its downside; ask her how much she loves the photo we ran with Sunday's package.

Ann Doss Helms said...

On another topic, if the person who asked about CMS magnet lottery results happens to be reading, I'm getting ready to post a story on Or you can get the raw data at (look under news items).

Anonymous said...

Community college instructors, the part-time ones anyway, would welcome the chance to be paid for performance.

Here's what a tenured professor wrote about the state of adjunct labor in "Inside Higer Ed" :

"As I got to know my adjunct colleagues better, I began to see these largely invisible, voiceless laborers as a hugely diverse group of amazing teachers. Some are employed at full-time jobs in education or elsewhere, some are retired or supported by wealthier others, but far too many are just barely surviving. While instances of dumpster diving are rare, adjunct shopping is typically limited to thrift stores, and decades-old cars sometimes serve as improvised offices when these "roads scholars" are not driving from campus to campus, all in a frantic attempt to cobble together a livable income. Some adjuncts rely on food stamps or selling blood to supplement their poverty-level wages, which have been declining in real terms for decades. At SUNY New Paltz, for instance, adjuncts’ compensation when adjusted for inflation has plummeted 49 percent since 1970, while the president’s salary and those of other top administrators have increased by 35 percent."

If you don't think this is relevant to the K-12 discussion, then you're not following the news or have blinders on. A system of exploitation of teachers is already in place, and K-12 teachers should count their blessings that they make a living wage and have health insurance.

And for any future teachers out there, DON'T pursue a liberal arts degree(s) unless you get certified to teach K-12. That's where the money is.

Anonymous said...

I find it deeply disturbing that teaching has become so complicated and political.

I am all for getting back to the basics and letting the government know NO MORE BS! Let us run the schools because it has been proven they can't.

Kids are the ones getting a raw deal here...oh wait I forgot, teaching is no longer about the kids, its all about teachers, the ones that are left anyways.

Anonymous said...


I am so proud of you for what you are doing. Keep up the great work! It is appreciated more than you know. I often read your posts about different articles by the CO and I have agreed with all of them so far:)!

Anonymous said...

I was opposed to PfP, but hey why not compensate us for the work we put in?

I will probably receive a 20k pay raise per year. Yippee. But for crying out loud, please don't expect me to play nice and share my plans, thoughts or experience with my colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the focus is seeming to be on the teachers when really, we need reforms of what and how we teach... Many curricula are stale and outdated and have not changed in over 50 years + Those same curricula are the standards that teachers are held to ... antiquated methods for 21st century needs. Why are we not year - round schooling? Because parents would complain that it went against (tradition) and they don't want to have to try to figure out how to handle those 2 weeks off every 8 weeks... and the tourists board lobbyists would complain it would hurt their bottom lines... never mind that year round programs allow for less gaps in knowledge and other positive benefits...Gone are they days when little Susie and Billy need to be home for harvest. Where have all the CTE programs gone? Oh, CUT! We are expected to teach all kids as though they are college-bound and there are few other options out there... No wonder some drop out...they can't see a future for themselves if the only future being parceled out in schools is one of 4 year degrees that they would never be admitted to... Why don't we have a system like in England where, if at 16 the students haven't passed the National Exam with requisite scores they leave the system and move on to a tech/career program---some students opt that route even with passing scores, but it then allows students who are really focused on academia and are university bound to have courses free from the cotton-brains and behavior problems... You can have the most talented teacher on the planet and if the kids aren't really willing to learn... no amount of tap-dancing on the teacher's part (because hey, if the kids aren't having fun they shouldn't be expected to pay attention and learn---right?) is going to change what's going on in our country.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't surprise me, coming from the founder of the company that hired a marketing firm to send letters from dead people when they were facing a major lawsuit.

If our schools would quit drinking the Microsoft flavor-aid, they might actually be able to educate children, instead of training them to be M$ zombies.

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, a local mom who's moving onto the national stage is keeping an eye on such developments and alerting the local media about the plan to woo us."

And you don't think Pam has been wooing you?

Wiley Coyote said...

Pamela Grundy said...
If I really did control the universe, I'd eliminate racial and economic isolation.


It's really as simple as that.

Just 2 + 2.

Read more:

She still believes in busing to achieve those goals....

Pamela Grundy said...

A tip for those aspiring "parent activists" out there: it helps to be willing to attach your name to your opinion, rather than hiding behind a pseudonym. The Observer takes anonymous comments in the Forum, but like most other newspapers it generally won't use them in news stories.

Wiley Coyote said...

The Observer has my email address and my name.

My opinion is the same regardless of whether I attach my name to an online opinion or if I'm standing right in front of you.

It's a choice for a number of valid reasons.

Anonymous said...

The education blog for the Raleigh News Observer (Wake ED) has been ongoing for a long time and seems to have a large audience. Lots of interesting discussions on that blog, especially as Wake has been changing its assignment policy. One thing I have particularly noticed is that the blogger, Keung Hui, has never been "chummy" with any of the blog participants, even the regulars. He does not mention any of them by name in his blog nor does he seem to use the participants as sources of information for blog topics (or at least he doesn't reveal his sources). I've also noticed that most of his bloggers use a pseudonym but no one seems to be clambering for them to reveal their identity.

Anonymous said...

You might find this link interesting (I found it on Parents Across America website):

Notice an agenda?

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 9:09...

Interesting isn't it?

When certain "opinionated elites" here whine about the number of high poverty schools, they fail to mention that prior to 2000, CMS was one big soup bowl of kids stirred together by the government.

During that time and as is today, people lived where they lived. Poverty follws you wherever you go. The designation you're an FRL student is a testament to that fact.

Of course there are more schools with higher concentrations of low income students. Anyone with an IQ of 10 can do the math and understand the main reason pointed out above.

Here is an interesting comment from an NAACP board member back when busing in CMS was stopped: "But the argument for ending busing was probably best summed up by a Charlotte NAACP board member and business executive, who stated, "My daughter does not need to sit beside a white person to learn."

The statement above is what I have been preaching for decades.

You never see any of these "opinionated elites" talk about how the graduation rates for Blacks is still as dismal today as it was prior to the end of busing.

"Years after a Kansas City court implemented busing, black students in integrated magnet schools performed no better than blacks in neighborhood schools. San Francisco spent more than $200 million [on busing] following a 1982 court order to end school segregation, but a 1992 study led by Harvard Professor Gary Orfield, who supports busing, found black and Hispanic students lacked ``even modest overall improvement'' [as a result of intrusive court-ordered busing.] A National Institute of Education report could not even find a single study showing black kids fared appreciably better following a switch to integrated schools.

"...In fact, it is patronizing to think that minority students need to sit next to a white student in order to learn. Many black leaders, from Wisconsin State Rep. Annette Polly Williams, a Milwaukee Democrat, to Cleveland Mayor Michael White have come to that conclusion and led efforts to end busing.

"...Busing teaches our children a terrible lesson. Rather than eliminating racial discrimination, busing promotes it by teaching children that the government should treat them differently on the basis of their race." (Charlotte Observer 08/12/99 by Marc Levin and Ed Blum)

Anonymous said...

Also of interest, in connection with the above link to the Raleigh news broadcast, the following excerpts from the Observer:
From Charlotte Observer, The (NC) - Saturday, August 9, 1997
“Now that the state has targeted two schools each in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties as among the weakest in North Carolina, the rescue effort begins.
The intervention teams are part of the state's plan to help Allenbrook and Shamrock Garden elementary schools in Charlotte, Lingerfeldt and Arlington elementary schools in Gastonia, and 11 other schools designated as the state's lowest-performing schools based on students' scores on state standardized exams.”

Does not exactly square with the description of utopia in Charlotte under busing that we hear about on that news report, does it?

Observer archives are a wonderful thing!

Anonymous said...

Another extraordinarily interesting column from the archives, this one from Mary Newsom, July 8, 1996:

" On the last Saturday in June, some 50 people from 43 center city neighborhoods held the first of what they intend to be annual meetings of the Queen City Congress.*

What they realized.........*

Schools and lost connections

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school assignments send children all over the county, so schools have lost their connections with neighborhoods, said Michael O'Brien, a Third Ward architect. ``They're not part of the social fabric, `` he said, ``even when they're part of the physical fabric.'' And often, he said, they're not part of the physical fabric either. Newer schools, particularly, seem designed to turn their backs, physically, on their surroundings.

``It makes it harder for the school to think of itself as part of a community,'' said Elizabeth neighborhood representative Chris Burns-Fazzi. ``They don't think about parks and recreation because it's not their park, it's the neighborhood's park.''

Passionate comments flew. A Plaza - Midwood resident questioned why her middle-class white child should be bused out of her integrated, economically diverse neighborhood to a middle-class, white neighborhood in Mint Hill. An Earle Village resident wanted to know why her black grandchild was not able to attend First Ward's magnet school, right in the neighborhood. Over and over, people asked why centrally located school buildings were used for offices or management schools while neighborhood children were bused far away.

Those patterns exist all across the community, said Sylvia Bittle of the Cherry neighborhood. Parents can get involved and have a voice, others said. ``Our voice,'' Bittle replied, ``is the Queen City Congress.''

As O'Brien and others pointed out, it would be foolish for the congress to take on the whole thorny, mine-studded issue of busing and school assignments . But it can pick specific school-related issues and go after them."

I find it particularly interesting that Plaza Midwood apparently was bused away from Shamrock Gardens in the 80's. Could that possibly have led to the demise of community support for that school? Also,a lot of us have got a lot of grief for saying exactly what the above group said. I guess the difference is that this was a group from the inner ring neighborhoods rather than the suburbs.

blpadge2 said...

I love how Bill Gates thinks he can bully his way on his wife's pet project of education reform, like he bullied Windows to top of marketplace in PC OS.

This comes from a guy who went to an elite prep school and dropped out of Harvard, while his wife went to Catholic school and Dook. Not a day of public education between them. You want to impress me Gates, enroll your kids in public school and start effecting change there.

Wiley Coyote said...

When I attended the West Meck meeting last year about school closings (Waddell specifically), I was very surprised to hear the vast majority of parents say they DID NOT want to have to send their kids to a school farther away.

The danger in the Observer giving one person a mic with no off switch is that it's the only message we hear.

Most people with a dissenting opinion left the school system long ago and today their kids have their grandkids in private schools.

Anonymous said...

"The danger in the Observer giving one person a mic with no off switch is that it's the only message we hear."
Well said, Wiley. In addition I think that most families are so busy living life that they don't have the time or energy to organize a "think tank" and put out data and sound bites favorable to their opinions. So it may appear that "the people" are rising up in protest when it's really just a small group with a narrow viewpoint.

therestofthestory said...

Well said Wiley and 1:19 PM. You must remember too that this is the left wing agenda that is so mainstream press oriented. It is interesting like Larry found out when he went to Raleigh 2 years ago when they attempted to breakup CMS. Somehow, these people will continue a failing system rather making drastic changes.

This current public school model serves such a small number of students well now. The "powers that be" continue to attempt to "tweak" it with unproven, illogical (mostly political or social engineered approaches) and simply sneer at us "unwashed" folks that we do not understand the bigger picture.

If CMS and its advocates are so gun-ho to celebrate diversity, they should allow the system to change to address the different needs of different students or get out of the way and go away.

therestofthestory said...

I forgot to add too. I am not sure what good talking about busing is anymore. The number of white students in this system has not grown in 10 to 12 years. Their percentage is about half of the county wide percentage. Additionally, the single largest exiting group of students and families now are the middle class blacks.

Also, inner city folks may jump and shout about closing of inner city schools but they have had under capacity for over 10 years and new and rebuilt schools were not needed. For example, Greenville Park Elementary was built after all the public housing was taken down but was done just to satisfy a few loud neighborhood activists. Not done for the good of the system either from financial health or from delivering academic services to students efficiently.

Bottom line, I am not sure why a reasonable person would think of closing an overcrowded suburban school just to be "fair" to closing an inner city school when the only schools left, for the large part to send the students to are already overcrowded. Anyway, there are still another 8 to 10 inside the middle ring schools that are under 50% capacity that could be closed. Minimally, one principal could oversee 2 of these schools till consolidation could take place.

As for my perfect world, I would perfer for the tax money, both federal, state and local, follow the child no matter what school they go to. Maybe the George Dunlap followers would think again about running the "good" students and families out of the school system.

Anonymous said...

Oh, but Restofthestory--Don't you know that if those inner city kids could just go to school with those suburban kids everything would suddenly be just fine (and much more "equitable" to boot).

therestofthestory said...

Well that is an interesting term "equitable". I guess am a dinosaur to believe schools are for education to prepare you for a good job or career. I do not believe schools are for "kumbaya" moments for libs to get their backs slapped on the church steps for their "nobleness" particularly when their private schools and neighborhoods are protected.

I was here in the 80's and 90's and Lousie Woods and I had heated words a number of times as she insisted my neighborhood was needed to "balance" schools. One of my children would have had 3 different middle school assignments if I had not intervened.

The interesting thing about one of the middle schools she was in she heard numerous times in the hallways black girls saying they could not wait to have a baby so they would have someone to love them. That has been a number of years ago and it is only worse now.

therestofthestory said...

I can not resist adding to that I just do not understand people that believe they have to cause other people to live or do their lives as they see fit. Why do they think they are blessed to be the decision maker for the rest of us? Unless you are a "Yalie".

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Louise, in case you missed the following post from anonymous 9:09 am, follow the link and you can see that Louise is still in action.

You might find this link interesting (I found it on Parents Across America website):

therestofthestory said...

Yep already saw it. I have put dinner off for an hour or so (not just Louise but the biasness of the whole story).

therestofthestory said...

I was talking to a black coworker everyday. He went to school in CMS but now lives in Lancaster. He thinks we need a "Joe Clark" type as superintendent and in a lot of schools. A number of folks I have talked to just do not understand about "one bad apple spoiling the barrel".

therestofthestory said...

Sorry meant "the other day" instead of everyday.

Anonymous said...

If you want to put your dinner off a little longer read this (to the very end):

therestofthestory said...

Are you kidding me?!?!?!?!?!

Wiley Coyote said...

I would be interested in a deeper explanation of this statement:

I don't know if this kind of segregation affects the way that Shamrock's students see white people. But I do know that it affects me. Our neighborhood is now full of young white couples, and of light-skinned children perched in strollers, riding bikes, dashing wildly down the streets. As I ride my own bike, or labor in my garden, I see them through the lens of segregation. All I know – or really care to know – about them is that they will never pass the threshold of our school.

"Never pass the threshold of our school"? I suppose we're left to infer that these kids don't go to CMS schools but alternative education venues?

Most of what I read from this person comes across as bitter and angry towards those who don't agree with her position and that's fine. I do see passion for her child's future, just as I have for mine.

We all have our opinions for whatever the reason(s). I have my anger and yes bitterness too.

When she was in the third grade in Arizona, not in the South like many of us, I was in high school, going through busing, fights, riots, not learning anything because teachers were too scared to discipline.

What she fails to understand, because she wasn't here at the time, is that Whites went through desegregation and the Great Social Experience called busing just like the Blacks. We were ALL affected.

Separate but equal was wrong and needed to be eliminated, we all agree on that. The problem is, 40 years later and after busing ended, nothing has changed.

I would also like to tell a brif story about my som when he was about 4 years old.

I picked him up from daycare after work one day and his "teacher" handed me the things he had done for the day. That day, all of the kids were given pictures of Dr. King to color, as it was during Black History month.

As I stood there and looked at the picture, I almost started to cry. My son had colored Dr. King's portrait with probably 6 or 7 different colors, not black, not brown but all different colors.

We have raised our son to respect everyone as equal, no matter what color they are or what their household income is.

As his father, I look at the ills of education today and why we continue the same lame programs that do not work.

I have no problem cutting Bright Beginnings.

I have no problem demanding that our elected officials demand from the USDA that the school lunch program be audited and if in fact 44,000 students don't qualify that are currently on the program, kick them off.

I have no problem firing "quality teachers" that refuse to be assigned to low performing schools if that is where they are needed.

I have no problem kicking kids out of school who habitually disrespect teachers and disrupt classrooms.

I have no problem with the fact some schools have high concentrations of low income students. We already pour more funds into those schools than others. People live where they live and make education choices for THEIR kids as THEY see fit and I don't question them as to why, other than to maybe build on the fact 30% of White and many Blacks don't send their kids to CMS. WHY?

Maybe having the answer(s) to that question might help fix what ails CMS today.

By the way. My wife and I still have that picture of Dr. King.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Concern about overreliance on any one source is valid. But a danger that Pam Grundy (or anyone else) is the only message you hear from the Observer ... seriously?

If you check the seven stories and seven blog posts I produced during the past week, you'll find quotes from students, teachers, principals, volunteers, CMS board members, top administrators, a judge, the NAACP president and a private-school instructor. My inbox is open to all, and this forum provides an "open mic" for all who care to post.

Did Pam Grundy get a disproportionate share of my time and ink during the past week? Yep. So did CMS's performance pay director Andy Baxter and science director Cindy Moss, for the same reason: They were in the thick of stories I was working on.

The old saw about Charlotte's spring weather could just as well apply to a reporter's focus: If you don't like it, wait five minutes and it will change.