Thursday, April 7, 2011

Results still patchy on CMS school turnaround plan

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has completed its second study of the Strategic Staffing school turnaround plan, and the results aren't any rosier than they were when I reported on the program in December.

Strategic staffing is Superintendent Peter Gorman's effort to improve student success at low-performing, high-poverty schools by enticing top principals with bonuses and giving them money and freedom to bring in teams of teachers with a track record of success. He describes it as a three-year process. The first batch of schools -- Briarwood, Bruns, Devonshire, Reid Park, Sterling and Westerly Hills elementaries and Ranson Middle -- are in their third year now.

The latest report looks at test scores, student attendance and discipline, teacher surveys and other measures of progress for the two complete years that those schools have been in the program, along with the first year's results for a second group: Allenbrook, Ashley Park, Druid Hills, Paw Creek and Thomasboro elementaries and Albemarle Road and Spaugh middle schools.

Bottom line: There aren't a lot of clear-cut victories so far, though there are bright spots. In many cases, a comparison group of struggling high-poverty schools outperformed strategic staffing schools.

I give Gorman, Chief Accountability Officer Robert Avossa and the staff credit for being willing to scrutinize a pet project and release results, even when they're not glowing. Those who care about the schools in question or the strategic staffing plan in general may find it worth working through 78 pages of detailed analysis.


Anonymous said...

I've scanned the report pretty carefully. It seems to me that the focus of the report is not so much on overall academic results but more an analysis of what can be learned from progress (or lack of) so far at these schools. There is lots of discussion of what the principals have learned and what techniques they value the most. The report emphasizes the difficulty of changing a failing school's culture and the length of time it may take to do so. I would hate to see this report used as a condemnation of SS.

therestofthestory said...

Sad to say that there are a number of schools with similar demographics have have shown better academic progress than these have without the extra money through SS. Sorry 10:44 but while I will not condemn SS, this extra funding must stop without comparable improvements in academics and discipline.

therestofthestory said...

Let me add this. What we are learning through WSS and SS is that the "schoolhouse" can not overcome what handicaps these kids. Give it some real thought folks. Return all schoolhouse funding to +/- 10% of average, take the "rules of engagement" off the teachers and strictly enforce the discipline policy.

Put in a curriculum that integrates history with literature, geography, the arts, the scoial sciences, humanities and math. Give up federal funding that ties us to NCLB and lets at least give these kids a well rounded education.

Wiley Coyote said...

I thought I heard an echo that sounded a lot like Bright Beginnings...

Anonymous said...


There isn't much difference between Pay-for-Performance and WSS or SS. These results predict a rocky road for PfP.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bolyn here. If these teachers were handpicked because of their success in other schools and the results still don't show a substantial difference, how can we justify upsetting our entire pay structure based on the same (disproven) hypothesis?

therestofthestory said...

Bolyn and all, here is what I think is under the covers for PfP. Pete has had the feeling this was coming, these other programs showing questionable results. With the talk of PfP and stirring up everyone on this ridiculous series of testing all these students are having to go through, the slight of hand will be played and SS and WSS will probably be expanded. Additionally, PfP will give a "difficulty factor", like in gymnastics and skating, so non FOCUS school teachers will probably have to show 1 1/2 years of academic advancement to be deemed highly effective and FOCUS school teachers will probably need 1/2 to 3/4 years academic advancement to be rated highly effective. This then will show all teachers that if you want any raise the rest of your CMS career, you will have to move to a FOCUS school. However, as you see how our population is changing, 80% of CMS schools will probably be FOCUS schools in 5 years.

Anonymous said...
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therestofthestory said...

6:49 PM What do you attribute to the success?

Anonymous said...

You need to examine closely what success means at the Olympics. You need to look at the development of certain classes that were set up for remediation so the students who were deficient as incoming or repeating students did not have to test. Quite a few of these students are hidden in these classes. That said, the right thing to do with a student who needs remediation is to provide remediation.

The success at the Olympics has more to do with relationships. The teachers know their kids and the kids work for people who know them. The other thing to look at at the Olympics is a dramatic decrease in behavioral issues. Again, this has to do with relationships and the sense of ownership the student have.

You are right....Anon 6:46, the district could give a crap about the Olympics. The reason that is is it wasn't their idea. It was Pam Espinosa's courage and leadership that started that ball rolling.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 8:30.

You're right. Granted I haven't been there in years, but it's weird we never hear anything about it except when Placement had them on their list of closings last year.

Anon 6:46

Anonymous said...

Ann PLEASE look into this. I can keep silent no longer. For several years I have seen Athletic Directors teaching one (or sometimes none)class.With the budet cuts they may now teach two classes. Many head coaches also only teach two classes. This means the county is paying for TWO salaries for the teaching of ONE.. Why would an Athletic Director receive 3 planning periods for a day.That is 25 hours per week for planning time.This is waste and robbery of taxpayer money at the highest level.Many school districts have an AP doing the job of the Athletic Director.This waste has to stop.The county should not be paying two salaries to get the production of one teacher.Please try to find out how this is justified.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Pete Gorman fan, but I feel that he had good intentions when he planned for SS. However, It fell apart when he could not either identify what was a quality effective Principal, or when he could not lure effective Principals into these positions. He also has difficulties understanding the importance of human relations. Gorman replaced Principals at many of these schools that had a connection with the families of these students and had established relationships with some of the stronger staff members. Some of his replaced SS administrators brought with them friends, not people who could get the job done. They alienated the previous strong teachers and replaced them with inexperienced ones. This is why the results continue to look the same or lower.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it does appear that Gorman undervalues the importance of creating and maintaining strong relationships and connections within a school/community.

Schools and churches are social places. These places are where families make connections and grow....together.

By placing an inexperienced principal at Coulwood Middle School, he basically gutted the school climate, culture, and relationships that took decades to build.

This is the struggle with TFAs in schools. The turnover is so rapid that it's difficult for teachers to gain traction to create and maintain effective academic programs for students. AS soon as veteran teachers pour their blood, sweat, and tears into supporting a TFA, all of that effort will go down the drain in two years or less.

Anonymous said...

What veteran teachers are pouring blood, sweat and tears into TFA recruits? All I got was a few crossword puzzles and a shoulder shrug when I asked questions.

Anonymous said...

This is how you go on an elephant hunt when the elephant is the biggest thing in the room.

Let's see if we can figure out
what makes some of these schools better than the others, just making the most obvious wild-asped guess..

Step A (from Table 2):

Check for lowest percentage of black kids:

Briarwood - 54.6%
Devonshire - 51.1%
Sterling - 52.9%
Paw Creek - 54.1%
Albemarle - 52.6%

Step B:

Which schools are doing the best?

H'mmm. Pretty much the same list and definitely in the top tier.

None of these schools are in the bottom of the rankings.

Looks like a BIG CLUE here.

This just may be our elephant.

Funny that they don't break down performance by race within the schools, though, with race being such a good predictor between schools.

I guess they're afraid what they'd find

Or rather what they'd have to report.

Man, I'd hate to have MY pay based on their "research".

Anonymous said...

A.D. teaching 0/2 classes

Head Coaches teaching 0/2 classes

TWO salaries for teaching ONE job

How can this be justified? Many districts across the country have the Athletic Director responcibilites performed by the AP.This is waste and robbery of taxpayer money at the highest level.I support sports,but this is not acceptable.An Athletic Director and Head coach do not need to receive a combined 40 hours of planning per week.Please,someone look into this before more teachers who receive 7.5 hours of planning per week(at most)are let go !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

7:29 a.m. That's funny. Thanks for the tips!