Monday, July 18, 2011

Gates Foundation launching new CMS PR blitz

To those of you concerned about big-money foundations and their influence on local schools, hold onto your hats: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today is announcing a new public relations campaign on behalf of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Given all the uproar over expanded testing, performance-pay and other initiatives critics see as being driven by foundations like Gates and Broad, this one is sure to attract a lot of attention. You can read some of what we've written about the influence of foundations on school reform here.

The news release that landed in my in-box says the effort's called "Educating Change," and aims to teach the general public about the broad palette of reforms CMS has launched within Strategic Plan 2014, the school system's overall school reform blueprint. There will be TV, radio and internet ads, printed and digital materials, and a web site at You can get a sense of what the TV stuff will look like here:

It's all funded by a grant from the Gates Foundation, and will be overseen by the Charlotte Chamber and a local committee of parents, business owners, clergy and civic leaders, the news release says. A local PR firm, Carolina PR, is on the case, and the campaign is to be completed this fall. The timing raises some obvious questions: Will the campaign impact the school board elections and the hunt for a new superintendent? Is it aimed at countering the groundswell of opposition that cropped up this spring in reaction against the reform-related expansion of testing?

I'll be seeking answers to those and other questions during a conference call with the organizers this afternoon. I'll update you with what I find out.

UPDATE: The Chamber folks say the PR campaign costs $200,000, but no money will go toward the school board election campaigns. They say it's not specifically aimed at countering the groundswell against expanded testing, but rather is aimed at getting people educated about school reform generally in Charlotte. Natalie English, an official with the chamber, said she wrote the grant for it after Gates folks called her asking how the chamber's managed to be so successful at helping get bond campaigns passed. She said the PR campaign will teach people the various components of Strategic Plan 2014.

School board chair Eric Davis told me the school system's PR staff has been decimated by cuts, and CMS needs the kind of help Gates is offering: "This is nothing more than trying to get factual information out to the community about our efforts to try to improve student learning."


Anonymous said...

Have these two ever been actual classroom teachers? If not then how would they know anything about teaching.

Susan B. Harden said...

Instead of paying PR consultants, imagine alternative uses for those funds that would really improve education: pre-kindergarten, professional development for teachers, and student scholarships to college. How is paying PR consultants charitable? How does this improve public education? What a waste of philanthropy in a misguided attempt to advance a failing reform agenda.

Susan B. Harden

Shark Attack said...

These two have dedicated their lives and money towards improving the education system in the US. I think it is worth paying them attention.

Anonymous said...

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding a lot of education based programs around the country. This is one of the few foundations deciated to education. What is needed is for ALL parents to get onboard and start demanding excellence in the schools, beginning at home. Time to turn-off the TV, take control of cell phones, store away video games, and get back to hands-on parenting - which includes setting an example for your children.

Anonymous said...

They funded a lot of small schools promotions also, and those didn't work well. What looks good on paper does not always work in reality. I'm just glad it's their money and not mine being thrown down a well.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little disturbed by the video. It says "educate yourself" and in the middle of the video it essentially says get on board with THESE changes because they are coming. It wants support for the program -- no questions asked! Basically the Gates want to make sure that the new board and superintendent stay on task.

Change is definitely needed as well as a more educated community. However, should change be driven from National Foundations or the local community? That's the question.

Anonymous said...

Folks before we start assuming Bill Gates himself has a mission to fix Charlotte's education system, remember this is funded by a Foundation. A foundation run by people that were hired by people that were hired by people that were hired by Bill & Melinda Gates. Furthermore, these foundations are typically solicited by those asking for the money. B&G Foundation says 'We have money, who wants to use it and why? Build your case!' and these Charlotte citizens have amassed and gotten a PR firm involved, and solicited the B&G Foundation with their best 10 page essay. They were approved for an undisclosed amount, and are moving forward as long as the B&G name is reflected on materials.
Bottom line, Bill Gates is not meddling in Charlotte's school system like some evil villain out for self-gain. Frankly I have admiration for those who were so moved that they put in the effort to put this process in motion. If you want change, maybe you could take a lesson? Why not write your own essay?

Anonymous said...

Gates thinks that since he is a billionaire businessman he knows how to succeed in other areas too. Wasn't he a dropout? He has no more business trying to push his philosophies on education that anyone on the street without money. If massive testing is his mantra, then he needs to think back to when he was a student and what made him click. Not mindless, endless multiple choice tests. It is dangerous that a billionaire can push his agenda around the county. Everyone, vote against Tim Morgan. He went step in step with Gorman's testing machine.

Anonymous said...

Since I have actually been in a meeting with Bill Gates and seen his work firsthand at Microsoft, I can assure you is highly qualified. He excels at thinking "outside the box" to resolve issues, and his skills are not limited to computers. I know a lot of people are not a fan of Microsoft, but I can assure you I have no concerns with Bill working to solve education. It's one of the biggest problems he wanted to solve when he left Microsoft.

He has the brain to do it, he has the money to do it, let him do it. If he fails, who cares, it's a better effort that most people put out to solve this problem.

Shane said...

We need the federal government and all of these outside foundations to get out of our business! Education is a local issue whose problems and successes should be shared by LOCALS! I wish they would take their money elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I don't have any problem with individuals that want to try and improve education. However, when someone who has no educational background wants to throw large sums of money around and expect us to fall at his feet and do what he says, I will (and do)take issue with that. Bill Gates has made it clear in recent months that he does not see the changes HE wants in education on the local levels because he has gotten so much flack from the people on the front lines - classroom educators & parents. He is now focused on making changes by forcing himself further into Washington and makeing changes through national legislation. Hold on to your hats, because it's going to be a bumpy ride. Yes, the Gates seem to be committed to education, but they continue to compare apples to oranges. Bill Gates has fussed over how our students are so far behind other nations, but remember, we attempt to educate EVERY child. China, Japan, etc. do not. They take the best of the best and the rest of their students are in factory jobs, agriculture, etc. If you make equal comparisons, our kids stack up pretty well against the competition. I'd love to hear some kudos now and again instead of all the gloom and doom about our educational system. Is it perfect, no. Can we continue to improve, yes. However, the people on the front lines are getting beaten up at every turn and we're worn out!

Anonymous said...

2:17 pm - two words: windows vista. Enough said about outside the box thinking...

Anonymous said...

It's time that somebody pointed out the benefits of what has been happening at CMS. This is good news.

If you hate change, you'll hate to see organizations like the Gates Foundation getting involved. Many of the people posting here simply hate change.

Anonymous said...

s anyway going to ask Peter Gorman about his new job with scandal ridden News Corp

therestofthestory said...

12:30 PM Sorry but B&G Foundation is not running down that road. They believe you have to fix the classroom and that is all.

B&G Foundation is not transparent enough about actual costs for their projects. Much like the Harlem Achievement Zone is not transparent about its cost per recepient.

You tell me you solved the achievement gap issue with 10 kids or 100 kids. Fine, can it scale up? What was the cost per student then? How does that scale up? $50k per student is not acceptable. Estimates are that Dr. Canada's system in full production will cost between $50k and $100k per child per year. Luckily, he has his own financial backers and no government money, except the charter school apportionment, involved.

The problem is we have no one from Missouri on the school board.

Anonymous said...

Please pay attention to what 1:17 is saying. They are absolutely right. The Gates Foundation may be providing the funding but that money was solicited by local folks, applying for a grant. Eric says that the Gates Foundation is "announcing the public relations campaign on behalf of CMS".
Eric, did the Gates Foundation really announce this campaign on "behalf of CMS" or was the campaign announced by the local group while stating it was funded by a Gates Foundation grant? It appears to me that the locals are running the campaign, using the grant from Gates.

Anonymous said...

Will teachers be allowed to participate on this committee? The education systems in the United States are deeply flawed, as a current classroom teacher I am completely comfortable in saying that. But whenever these committees are formed, they NEVER include current teachers. People who sit in offices and boardrooms that make sweeping decisions about change often have never darkened the doors of the institutions they wish to change. There cannot be a one size fits all solution when you have such diversity in your system. The hands of classroom teachers have been tied for years. For example, when I have a child that refuses to do work, not because they can't, but because they don't feel like it, I cannot keep the child from recess or a special area class to complete it. It's NC law that children have a certain amount of physical activity per week and it's "not fair" if they miss art, music, etc. There are no consequences and students know it. Our students in CMS are a lot smarter than they are given credit for, but many of them lack a work ethic and a sense of pride in academic accomplishment. How does this committee expect to help with that? I apologize for the soapbox, but it's extremely frustrating when so many people think they have an easy fix for a solution that they only have surface knowledge of.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

@3:37 It looks like this group will be providing info, not making policies or decisions. If you want to join the committee, ask them if you can get involved.

Anonymous said...

They are providing information only and are made up of parents and community leaders. Sadly, no teachers, though.

Anonymous said...

UH, OH!!!! Are the posters in this blog who are FOR the PR campaign PART OF the PR campaign??? Is that part of the "blitz"?

Pamela Grundy said...

The youtube promo urges citizens to visit the website and "take a closer look at the facts." It will be interesting to see if the "facts" they cover include an accurate accounting of the amount of time that CMS's expanded testing program took from learning this past year, or an account of the research studies that chart the many cases in which high-stakes testing and/or pay-for-performance failed to improve actual student achievement.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps those not critical of the PR campaign are tired of the continuous negativity, "gotcha" headlines, and misinformation that unfortunately have been part of this blog (not all participants of course). CMS is dealing with a very large complex community and the issues facing educators today are extremely difficult. The constant assault on CMS and the overall lack of positive reporting on successful schools and students has skewed the community's view of its schools. Perhaps that's why it needs a PR campaign.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:51

The views are not all that skewed. The community is, just like in many other aspects of the community, in denial about the real state of public schooling in Mecklenburg County.

Anonymous said...



Larry said...

Hey since we have agenda going every which away here let me post mine.

Every parent needs to sit down with their child and do this test tonight.

I promise you it will make a difference.

therestofthestory said...

Ha, Strategic Plan 2014, I supplied numerous comments and facts to suport my position but all were ignored. It was all PC stuff. You can see easily the strategy is to crowd out, run out, overcrowd classrooms and such to cut down the top end to close the gap. There is no interest in culling out the 1 to 2% that would save another 10-15% just like in the Morgan Freeman movie "Lean on Me".

There are no concrete actions with parents to deal with their anti-civil, anti-social b=children. Just a bunch of abstract fluff.

Anonymous said...

CMS is mandated by NC law to provide public education for all students, good and bad. They can't "cull out", or pick and choose, kids to save money. If you have problems with that, talk to the NC General Assembly and ask them for a constitutional rewrite.

therestfothestory said...

State law does allow kids who are a danger to other students and staff to be "dismissed".

therestofthestory said...

Went through the whole website. pretty much as I expected. Go ahead and throw the accolades like they are doing at the White House today for Project LIFT.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 4:51..

Do you really believe spending one dime on a CMS PR campaign will have any effect?

Touchy-Feely does nothing to ensure kids are being educated nor does it do anything to alleviate this God forsaken testing that is being dumped on teachers and their students.

OR get the thousands of students currently attending alternate education venues BACK into CMS?

If you believe that, I have some prime bottom land I'd love to sell ya....

Larry said...

6:20 That argument is outdated.

They are just letting the students who do not keep up, fall behind and drop out, or even worst just give them a Diploma they do not deserve.

In fact in NY the Students who the system had already given up on, and said would never learn, were taken by and these students over these years have excelled over the suburban students.

So smaller classes focused on the students and with Teachers who love their work as they are valued seems to be the key. Oh and the funding is a lot less than the public system, around sixty cents on the dollar.

Anonymous said...

Watch the video on At about 1:23, it states "Be Educated. Get Involved... because These Changes Are Going Forward." Too bad they're removing any possibility of continuing to discuss the effectiveness of these initiatives. Guess the time for talking about them is over.

Tim Morgan is a current Board Member. But he's running for an at-large seat, so he can hold the current majority and continue pushing the reforms (standardized testing and PfP) of Dr. Gorman. And when he helps "appoint" a new District 6 Board member, it will be a person that will help Tim, Rhonda and Eric continue these initiatives.

Does it bother anyone that Tim Morgan's brother, Bob Morgan, is the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President? The same Chamber that is providing management and logistical support to this campaign. Can anyone say "conflict of interest????"

Please stay informed throughout this important CMS Board of Education election process.

Anonymous said...

Those who can not, dictate what teachers are to do.

Anonymous said...

With all do respect to the citizens committee that is leading this PR campaign, we (Charlotte residents and CMS parents) understand the new reforms, like the 52 new high-stakes multiple choice tests and PFP, and do not support them. It is not that we are ignorant or unknowledgeable, quite the contrary. We "know the facts", especially how these reforms have dramatically fallen short (ala Atlanta and New York) in other places around the country. These reforms turn our public schools and our teachers into factories - with little knowledge depth and creativity - schools no one would choose to attend. While unintended, this PR campaign feels condescending. Instead of asking us to blindly accept reform, how about we engage in conversation, even debate, around the complexities of the issues?

Anonymous said...

As I was watching the video my stomach started churning. It is more of the same.....test, teach, test more. Please take the time to educate about all the reforms for education. This article (July 9, 2011) is a bit long, but well written and easy to understand. Send the link to others and then ask questions, especially to those who can make changes!!

therestofthestory said...

Thanks 7:57 PM. We as Charlotte are tired of being talked down to like country bunkins. We have had it with these "elitists". They can go back to where they came from. They have messed up the public education system. They buy votes with handout programs demonizing all citics, and have this county, state and country headed on the road of financial insolvency.

They have ripped personal responsibility and accountability away pretending government can take care of all needs. It is just like Detroit and Haiti. Bill Clinton ruined Haiti making deals to have Arkansas supplied by the UN so everyone could move out of the country to the city to be taken care of and see what has happened. No one on Haiti can grow a crop now. Over 75% of the population is under 20. Nothing for them to do but reprooduce. And be taken care of by the UN. All for Bill CLinton's glory as he continues to lobby to be next Secretary General of the UN.

Hey Pam, I went through the website and it is all fluff. No facts.

Anonymous said...

As I was watching the video, all I could do was to think....nothing will change, the BOE will continue to push towards the goals set by NCLB and Peter Gorman. Remember, the goals are that NO CHILD will be BELOW grade level by 2014. It does not matter the ability of the child, but in order to meet this impossible deadline.....

My stomach is churning. Yes, I teach, and yes 95% of my students are on grade level. The others - all have an IEP (individualized education plans)....some try very hard and cannot pass the tests, but it is not because they have not been taught and it is not because they do not try. I do have one child, who does not try as hard. Will these children make the deadline? Some will, but not all. Is their underdeveloped brain the fault of the teacher? the parent? society? Keep shoving testing and maybe the students will test enough to pass a test so someone can claim victory. It certainly won't be the students. So sad.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me?? Did the White Tower folks not learn anything from the last Gates Foundation fiasco?
Oh, I forgot, they don't see all the problems the last big Gates project created. And what was that...just the five little schools of Garinger and Olympic that are being killed as we speak! There was tons upon tons of extra work created and money wasted (that was not from the Gates Foundation) on that project.
Then there was the METS project. Don't know about it? Oh, it was the one to study random teacher assignments. Who did the work? The administrative staffs of the schools ON THEIR OWN TIME and not paid for it.
To me now, Gates Foundation means BIG PR for somebody but lots of work for the lowly CMS employee who is already worked to death.

Anonymous said...

Please educate yourself on school reform.

Read the article published July 2011. The article is long, but worthwhile.

Then ask questions of those who can make a difference and keep asking questions.

Anonymous said...

Yip-ee! A new and improved PR blitz!

Maybe the Bill Gates Foundation can FINALLY take down the giant billboard sign featuring a "Prepare for Greatness" jazz dance student on Highway 77 (I think it's located on highway 77) who's been preparing to become a star on Broadway for years now.

For crying out loud, we've gone through 3 school superintendents since this aging billboard sign was put up. What ever happened to the kid who's featured? Did he make it?

Anonymous said...


Resistance is futile.

Anonymous said...

The Olympic schools were funded by Gates, not I believe the Garringer ones. The Olympic ones are doing quite well.

Not to pile on PfP, but there was that study that came out of NY today.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Pamela.

Anonymous said...

If you truly believe this article and believe that factors of poverty and unstable home life destroy our schools, why don't teachers and administrators stand up for changes? We all know that the purest way to poverty and crime is to grow up in a single parent household. The real crime is that young black men father children and don't take responsibility for them. Why don't we hear more from teacher's groups demanding that young black men stay with and support their families? Why doesn't Anthony Foxx talk about this? Why doesn't Barack Obama talk about this? If it is true that teachers cannot overcome the upbringing/homelife issues, then we all should be standing up and addressing the fact that an uneducated young mother making minimum wage with no father around cannot successfully raise three or four kids. It's futile to try. It hurts me to see the faces of these kids every day in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Sheriff's photos. Let's find ways to teach and love them...or let's stand up and try to correct bad behaviors by discussing and incentivizing good behavior.

Anonymous said...

"The Olympic schools are doing quite well"? Really?

Does this include the "Leadership and Public Service" school that recently handed out diplomas to 11 out of 69 students who were ineligible to receive high school diplomas including the school's Valedictorian?

You can't be serious.

Anonymous said...

I thought that was Garinger.

Anonymous said...

Yep.....Garinger. That's why it's being "put back together" as one school.

Anonymous said...

How about some legislation that states that PARENTS are RESPONSIBLE for ensuring that their children have certain basic skills before they are allowed to enter public Pre-K or Kindergarten....similar to the requirement that they have a medical exam and vaccinations.

Every year teachers and staff spend several days assessing students and determining their skill levels. Maybe if all children arrived at school able to count to 10, recognize the letters of the alphabet, basic colors and shapes, and could write their name, they would at least be starting a little closer to the same level. If they had these basic skills in their bag of tricks, teachers could spend more time building on that prior knowledge teaching reading, writing, and math skills.

Yes, it's PUBLIC education, but parents are really their child's first teacher, and basic skills requirements would add a little accountability and ownership on the parents part too. (I know there are many who already have these skills.)

Jeff Wise said...

It looks like I'm the first School Board candidate to chime in here.

At the 1:13 mark of the video is where the narrator says (paraphrasing), some initiatives of the ongoing strategic plan are complex and often misunderstood.

With ample pausing I picked out the following phrases:

Compensation Structure; Transform Performance Management; Enhance Parent & Community Relations; Align Investments in Technology; Resources focus on Priorities; Clearly Define & Measure Effective Teaching.

Did I miss any?

I do agree with the message of "be educated and get involved" but I'm not certain I agree with the message content.

I am not anywhere near a level of confidence with what I've seen of the administration’s Pay for Performance plan. It should not continue to go forward at this point. There are too many gaps in the plan still.

It is also my opinion that while great teaching can be identified, measuring it is much more difficult and will almost always be shaded by a fair amount of subjectivity.

Look, as an IT professional for nearly 20 years, I'm big on data and I understand the usefulness of data to make sound decisions.

But precisely because of my understanding of data, I know that trying to measure teacher effectiveness almost solely on data is flawed policy.

I don't fault the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates made his fortune and is trying to affect positive change with it. I applaud his efforts.

Education is not akin to churning out software that functions exactly the same for millions of customers. Students learn differently and teachers teach differently.

We can't all take the same exact path to get there (and to certain degree why would we want to?).


Anonymous said...

Schools across the country are starting to implement "Core Standards." Guess who is behind these "core standards?" You got it - Bill and Melinda Gates. The core standards are part of another one of the Gates attempt to improve education. One way or another Gates will control the world.

Now, with the implementation of the new core standards - all the EOG's and EOC's as well as the 54 new tests will have to be re-written to correspond to the new standards.

Anonymous said...

It's fun to throw rocks at any new plan to improve education, but let's face it, our educational system hasn't improved in 30 years. Drop out rates are rising. School violence is increasing. Scores are flat. Mr. Wise, please explain the innovative ways you would help us move CMS forward...or are you happy with the way things are? It's easy to say what you are against...I'd like to know specifically what you are for.

Larry said...

Jeff: Hi and I am Larry Bumgarner and am on here more than most of the people would like to hear from me.

Anyway folks I like to follow the the hated Walmart Clan in their desire for better education nationwide for funding.

They fund Education by providing Scholarships and Financial Aid for Private Schools, Home Schools and the like. Right now we have over 300 Children benefiting from them in the Charlotte area.

So that is why I see choice in the form of Scholarships/Vouchers, Charter Schools and Choice all making our Public Schools stronger by competition. All leading to an excellent education and future.

But welcome to the race and all the best.

Anonymous said...

Andy Baxter and the other BOOB are bumbling idiots who cannot answer but the most basic questions.Who is paying their salary? WE ARE!How can this be justified.Five teachers salaries for a couple of BOOBS.

Anonymous said...

Is the "New Normal" in discipline a function of the breakdown of the traditional family structure? Are kids more disrespectful and cavalier toward education? The real question we have is how do we teach in a school where almost a third of the students will be suspended? And, the reality is that in many schools, relatively few students are suspended. In some schools, many students are suspended.

Anonymous said...

None of this smoke and mirrors amounts to a hill of beans as long as elected leaders in this state continue to disrespected the most IMPORTANT change agent - the TEACHER.

therestofthestory said...

9:15 AM, you ask the question, Are kids more disrespectful and cavalier toward education?

No, they are more disrespectful and cavalier toward EVERYTHING and ANYONE ELSE especially authority figures.

No the teachers generally do not have the tools to deal with this and the public schools should not. The child and the family unit should so to Social Services and get family counseling and then when the student successfully passes the counseling, they can return on strict probation. Until then, they can go to the library and do virtual school.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wise, You've suggested you'd like to stop things like pay for performance and measuring effective teaching. So are you happy with the the existing CMS compensation system? Do you think we should continue to have a tenure system?

Leadership is all about saying what you're for, not just what you're against.

Anonymous said...

I'm not running for school board, but one suggestion I have is to make the evaluation of teacher effectieness a multi-faceted instrument. I'm not sure what the other items should be, but I'll bet teachers could make suggestions.

Because there are so many variables involved, simply using test data is very unreliable. Those variables may include students who: are angry with parents, teachers, or whomever and decide not to make an effort; don't really believe it matters if they pass the test, have test-anxiety; don't believe they are capable of passing so they don't try; are sick but came to school any way; didn't get a good night's sleep or a good breakfast before the test; or are struggling students who have made a year's worth of academic growth but started out behand and are still below grade level.

This year we tested our older elementary students for five grueling days. Everyone had to sit quietly for the entire test time until the last student was finished. They are not allowed to do anything but look over their test--no reading a book or drawing for fear that they might rush through the test to be able to read or draw. I imagine by day three, they were "tested out." I don't know of a situation where adults are put through the same experience. Even in college, exams are spaced out and there are "reading days"
where students are out of class to study on their own.

Maybe there could be shorter, quarterly tests that would give more data. There could also be other types of evaluations of student work besides just a multiple choice test--products students create, portfolios of their work, essays, oral question-and-answers. All these might be more labor intensive, thus more expensive, but that might be a better use of the Gates' money and provide a clearer picture of student success.

Anonymous said...

1:49, What do you suggest???

Anonymous said...

Thank God my son doesn't want to be a teacher. Blessings to college students who do.

Anonymous said...

I just have a random question because one poster continually talks about Free and Reduced Lunch FRL abuse. Don't you think the Dept. of Agriculture's mission is to expand the total number of folks who use WIC and FRL as possible? One of the things that galls me is that there is no distinction between those who pay and those who access these programs. If one is to use WIC and FRL, why don't we have strict rules on what foods and drinks can be accessed. Like why don't we restrict the food that can be bought to the most nutritious food we can find...fruit, vegetables, grilled food, salads. It's one thing to abuse these food programs, but studies are showing that we are "fattening" up folks in the process. This is wrong. Let's force those who seek assistance to make the healthiest choices.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 9:47...

WIC does stipulate what can be bought and what cannot but it is done by state.

Although Federal regulations specify the minimum nutritional requirements for the WIC foods, State agencies have a considerable amount of latitude in determining which foods to include on State authorized foods lists.

State agencies make such decisions based on participant acceptance, product distribution within a State, cost, and administrative feasibility. Because State agencies are required to identify WIC-eligible foods, which vary from State to State, there is no consolidated list available.

Due to the large number of locally and regionally available foods, including store brands and generics, and the frequent changes in formulation of foods by manufacturers, it is administratively difficult to maintain a national list of all possible WIC-eligible foods.

Regarding the USDA expansion of programs, they are testing a new school lunch program in Chicago.

See if this rocks your boat:

Some schools will serve free meals to all, thanks to new federal program

Officials in Chicago weighing whether to participate

(Alex Garcia, Chicago Tribune

June 20, 2011|By Monica Eng and Tara Malone, Tribune reporters

Any school in Illinois where at least 40 percent of students are needy will be able to serve free meals to all children, regardless of family income, starting this fall as part of a pilot program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Think about that. If they ran that in CMS, virtually every child would eat for free.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 9:47

Follow up.

I figured I might as well go for the jugular.

Read this, especially down where all of the nutrition programs are listed and how much Obama plans on increasing them.

Here is the last paragraph of the article:

As we have shown, The USDA is rife with waste. At the very least, some questionable expenditures. Any serious conversation about getting the Federal Budget under control needs to include the USDA.

Jeff Wise said...

In reply to 11:01p (July 18) and 1:49p (July 19) - thanks for the comments and a few thoughts in return.

Charlotte schools currently have a number of very successful programs, a few of them get notoriety while others work somewhat under the radar. For example, the magnet school program consistently receives accolades not only locally, but nationally.

The school system is placing more emphasis on distance learning, specifically looking at a blended model that utilizes online learning and classroom interaction to reach more students. Did you know that something like over 90% of students who pass Algebra I in 9th grade will go on to successfully graduate? I learned that today and was taken by the correlation. So how do we get more students to pass Algebra I in 9th grade?

I would like to see an emphasis on individual education over standardized education. Let’s create an IEP for all students, not just a particular segment of students. Let’s start in first and second grade and understand the strengths of a particular student and then teach to those strengths. Let’s get rid of things like pacing guides and stop treating education like a mass-produced commodity and instead focus on teaching to individual students. If we can give more options to students, I believe it will also bring about more parental involvement. And by the time those students hit 9th grade, there’s a good chance they’ve already passed Algebra I.

Regarding performance pay. The current proposals that are being discussed have potential to place good teachers at risk. There are some studies that show the so-called VAM (Value Added Measurements) can be off by as much as 30 percentile points and in many cases the sample size of data is much too small to be statistically significant.

I’m not against the concept of performance pay. I have serious concerns with this particular performance pay plan because I feel it is being based, in part, on bad or incomplete data. So, let’s go collect good data. But that’s more difficult and may be slightly more subjective and might cost a little bit more upfront. It can be done, we’re talking about the livelihood of almost 19,000 school employees, don’t we owe them a pay system that will be fair?

I completely understand that none of this is easy and if elected I will be 11% of the school board, far from a majority. And the other 8 board members will have their ideas and there will never be a shortage of ideas. It will come down to discussing the ideas, figuring out what might work, having the patience to see an idea through, knowing when to say something isn’t working and when something does work, scaling it throughout the system. It can be done, we’re talking about the education of 140,000 students, we owe that to them.

Wiley Coyote said...

20 day enrollment from 9/2010:

Overall, CMS enrollment grew this year by nearly 2,000 students - to 135,638. That was more than school system officials had anticipated.

Minorities in the majority:

African-American students account for the biggest percentage of CMS pupils - 41 percent. There also are 33 percent white, 16 percent Latino, and 5percent Asian-Pacific island populations. The rest of the enrollment amounts to 5 percent.

2010 Census:

White, percent, 2010 55.3%

Black, percent, 2010 30.8%

Hispanic, percent, 2010 12.2%

Whites not only continue to leave CMS, they are leaving the county, down to a little over 55% of the population.

Mudd E. Diction said...

"Public relations" in many cases is code for "spin" or "propaganda" to advocate one side of a political issue. Will the Gates funding promote public debate on the CMS strategic plan to further involve the public in CMS direction...or protect Gates philosophy of which elements are driving CMS policy? Millionaires used to fund candidates. Today billionaires go a step deeper funding issue specific campaigns buying public opinion. They must be worried?

Anonymous said...

Here's an off the grid thought...

Under the premise that MOST teachers want to perform well (assuming this is why they went to college and fulfilled the necessary requirements to earn a degree and a license):

How about taking all the money that's going to be flushed down the toilet on a controversial and unproven pay-for-performance plan and put it towards programs that can provide the necessary tools needed to inspire and help teachers become better at their craft?

One study suggests that simply having teachers share what works for them with other teachers improves everybody's teaching and creates an environment that motivates collaborate teamwork that benefits all students. This approach also puts pressure on the small minority of teachers who might be inclined to slack.

I'm fed-up with the notion that most teachers are underperforming and that somehow a pay-for-performance plan is going to radically improve student achievement. Enough.

Anonymous said...

@ Wiley, I have looked at the same enrollment and census numbers. However, what is not clear with the census numbers is how many of Mecklenburg's citizens of school age are in each racial category. Can you also find median age or some other age distribution measure by racial category?

Wiley Coyote said...

Mecklenburg County Population, 2010 919,628

Under 18 years old, 2009 26.0% 239,103

This is a quick, loose breakdown of under 18 based on the overall County demographics:

White 55.3 132,224
Black 30.8 73,644
Hisp. 12.2 29,171

CMS breakdown:

Total 135,638

White 33.0 44,760
Black 41.0 55,612
Hisp. 16.0 21,702

You can keep extrapolating this out using 8.2% of children are under 5.

Just a quick comparison of the County makeup vs. CMS and you see there is a significant amount of White and Black children not attending CMS schools.

If anyone sees any flaws in my data, by all means point them out to me. I did this very quickly.

Gotta run.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, if you have 10 students and 4 have the chance to be stars, 2 are decent students and 4 have no interest in learning and disrupt the teaching process and even threaten other students, where do you focus. Is it a success just to get the first 6 graduated and to "save" some of the other 4? Or, do you keep order in the school by getting the four out (after a couple of chances) and focus on helping the first 6 soar academically. This is really the Charter School/Private School/Public School debate. Do we teach to the students inclined to learn? Or do we babysit those who threaten and disrupt the learning process in order to get the total numbers of graduates "through the system" higher.My daughter has attended a public school where she was threatened and intimidated by less serious students. Needless to say, she is in a different school. It starts with the principal. In my case, the first principal was just looking to bide time until retirement and never laid the hammer down. The second school laid the hammer down and demanded good behavior and serious academics.

Larry said...

The group seems to be the growing powerhouse here in Charlotte as far as our Schools.

Has anyone seen the Donors to this group?

It reads like a whos, who in Charlotte.

Wachovia, Bank of America, Duke, Spangler Foundation, Levine, Belk, Rogers Builders, Carolinas Health Care, Presbyterian, Allan Tate, Time Warner, TIAA CREF hey it goes on supporting Public schools.

The reason I mention it is that Eric Davis is dedicated to using them as the primary source in the search for a new Super, according to a new story in the media. And it seems to be causing a bit of rancor in the board ranks.

Pamela Grundy said...

Hey Wiley,

Two good-sized flaws in your assessment. If you are in fact a statistician, I'm sure you can point them out to us yourself. By my calculation, about 8.3 percent of eligible kids aren't attending CMS, which includes dropouts and recent graduates. There's no way to make anything but the broadest assumption about racial breakdown from the numbers.

Anonymous said...


You still don't know the percentages of the 5-18 year old population. In your numbers you are assuming that the percentages of the population as a whole is the same for the 5-18 year old population.

Wiley Coyote said...


The numbers I posted are correct as related to the questions asked by a poster.

I am aware that 8.2% of the under 18 number are 5 and under. I stated that in my response if they wanted to extrapolate it out.

Taking the 5 and under out, which I should remind you there are many 5 years olds enrolled in CMS, that leaves 219,497 children between 6 and 17 years of age. 19,606 are 5 and under.

Since the census data records UNDER 18 year olds, the graduation argument is a moot point.

That still leaves over 84,000 students in Mecklenburg County attenting alternate channels of learning.

Regarding the "racial assumption", that is no assumption. Those are directly from census data and CMS. I didn't pull them out of the air.

And if we have that many droputs, the problem is bigger than we thought eh?

Anon, 6:52 I think the numbers above answer your question.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Pam could explain how she came up with just 8.3 percent for the percentage of Mecklenburg children who aren't attending CMS.

Pamela Grundy said...

I'd look back at the census data, Wiley, and try your math again. It isn't right. The figure 8.2 percent under 5 (not 5 and under) isn't of the under 18, it's of the total. Also, you can't assume that the overall percentages of racial distribution are the same at every age level, because that isn't how the population works.

Pamela Grundy said...


Take the under 18, subtract the under 5, subtract the number of kids in CMS and do your percentage

Wiley Coyote said...


The population of Mecklenburg County is 919,628 according to the Census.

Of that, 8.2% are and here is the direct paste from the site,

Persons under 5 years old, percent, 2009 8.2% 7.1%

The 7.1% is the percent of NC as a whole.

Here is the paste for the 18yo group,

Persons under 18 years old, percent, 2009 26.0% 24.3%

Also, I DID take the 5yo off the 18yo in my last post. You evidently didn't see it.

Taking the 5 and under out, which I should remind you there are many 5 years olds enrolled in CMS, that leaves 219,497 children between 6 and 17 years of age. 19,606 are 5 and under.

You still haven't explained the "racial distribution" argument you seem to have with what I posted. I have no idea what you're referring to.

The following data is from CMS and the Census, not something made up:

African-American students account for the biggest percentage of CMS pupils - 41 percent. There also are 33 percent white, 16 percent Latino, and 5percent Asian-Pacific island populations. The rest of the enrollment amounts to 5 percent.

2010 Census:

White, percent, 2010 55.3%

Black, percent, 2010 30.8%

Hispanic, percent, 2010 12.2%

Pamela Grundy said...


Actually, as I follow my own advice, I realize I missed a step. In fact the figures show that about 83 percent of eligible kids attend CMS, so that means that about 17 percent don't (I had them turned around and spaced on the decimal place). That's why it always helps to show your work (and be questioned by others!).

Wiley, just because the overall population is 31 percent black doesn't mean that the population under 18 is 31 percent black. There are a lot of factors that can skew different age groups in different directions.

Wiley Coyote said...


As far as the mistake in your calculation, that's why I asked people to check mine.

I think I see what you're referring to:

This is a quick, loose breakdown of under 18 based on the overall County demographics:

White 55.3 132,224
Black 30.8 73,644
Hisp. 12.2 29,171

That's why I used the term "loose" in describing the numbers.

You are correct that the number of AA kids 18 and under could be more than 73,644, or less. I think it's in the ball park. We do know that 55,350 AA kids go to CMS.

Is it reasonable to make the argument that the 18,294 remaining (73,644-55,350) are part of the groups who have dropped out, in the 18 year olds who graduated and the newborn to 4 year olds?

The indisputable fact is the County is a little over 55% white yet CMS is just under 33% white.

Also, regarding the "unaccounted for" 80,000 to 84,000 students, further research on my part shows there are right at 20,000 home schooled and private school students in the County.

The remaining 40,000 either don't go to school, are in the gray area of either 18 and graduated or under 5, even though 3,200 4 year olds are in Bright Beginnings.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, I think Pam is correct about the 17 to 18% of children not attending CMS, (and I checked) because the "8.2 percent of population under 5" does refer to 8.2 percent of the overall population, not just those under 18, which means over 75,000 children are under age 5 and which then leaves us with a population of about 164,000 in the under 18 and over age 4 bracket.

This little exercise that Pam and Wiley have been engaged in illustrates that mistakes can easily be made when dealing with data. Note that Pam initially made a mistake in her calculations (illustrating that no matter how much of an "expert" one considers themselves mistakes and misstatements are sometimes made)--if not questioned would her figures have become "fact" for her followers? And Wiley, unless you can show us otherwise, you also made a mistake concerning the under 5 number and thus the overall number. Of course, maybe I've made a "mistake" also. Please let me know if I have.

therestofthestory said...

Interesting to read the debate from yesterday. I am not sure what point we are trying to get to with it but here is my conclusion.

With the county and CMS demographics so out of similarity, and with a tsunami coming of even more "at risk" children, should not Mecklenburg COunty parents have a viable tax funded alternative education path for their children?

I say yes.

CMS shows no interest in educating all the children. You can tell it by the $ per pupil distribution. CMS is willing for children to have no desks in a classroom, have no textbooks to use, and have no access for individual help from a teacher, ala newspaper article last year on class sizes over 35 and 50 students and CMS iory tower's lack of interest in even knowing it.

Anonymous said...

Rest of the Story, Your point ties right in with my point about "mistakes" with data or "misspeaks". For years the spin was that the suburban schools and students got so much more than the urban schools--had to be true because of differences in outcomes. After continually hearing this, much of the public (and unfortunately some in the press) began to take this as gospel truth, with little questioning of those who claimed this and with much trashing of anyone who dared say otherwise. So, when the great truth came out about actual funding (one cannot attribute a difference between $5000 per pupil to $11,000 per pupil as simply spinning data) many were shocked by the facts. I do not blame this disparity solely on CMS--they were required to spend certain amounts at high poverty schools and programs and were constantly in danger of being taken to court by various advocacy groups using "data" to suit their purposes. I do blame much of the disparity in funding, or at least the present anger over that disparity, on those who kept their heads in the sand all these years and refused to acknowledge that in many cases it was not lack of resources or even proper instruction that was responsible for the disparity in test scores.

therestotthestory said...

Thanks, I have data from back to 2004 showing the incredible spending per child in these schools and the lack of progress. Mostly what I guess you run into is the continual entry and continual promotion of a set of kids and the lack of being to trace certain kids over time to see if strategies implemented in earlier years have long term sustainable effects.

For example, if you talk to K teachers abouot the kids they have from BB, they will tell you how much difference they can tell from the kids that did not get BB. However now in teh K class, the non BB kids get the extra attention and by 3rd grade, the BB kids have lost that differentiation. But as you might expect, data colection to prove or disprove any program gives you like value for the dollars spent is wholefully inadequate.

Anonymous said...

So, is CMS more interested in "saving" high poverty students to give them some skills and keep them in school or helping those who want to soar academically. Can we do both? If you cater to the lowest common denominator, you get dumbed down results. Middle class families don't want to send their kids to CMS schools that are dumbed down. Larry? Jeff? Buelller?

therestofthestory said...

Yes that explains much of the exodus, white and bright flight. Larry has newer figures of middle class black families leaving CMS. The BOE with pressure from MeckACTS has really been limiting academic opportunity for the higher end students. Examples are shutting down out of area IB at Myers Park, shutting down busing to magnet schools, overcrowding non FOCUS classrooms, running off the teachers who are qualified to teach higher end courses, and I can go on and on with examples.

therestofthestory said...

Forgot to add to that the current strategy for educrats particularly those who want to make a name for themselves of closing the achievement gap is to either run off the higher end students, limit higher end opportunities, or dumbdown the curriculum.

CMS does double speak as they rely on the outlliers they can not touch, Ardrey Kell, Providence, a few programs at South Meck, North Meck, Hopewell, and on and on to publicize how much money in scholarships the graduates earned, or admissions to Ivy League schools to show how bright students are still served. I know how that kind of publicity makes several board members very angry.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 8:13...Pam...

I do see where I made the error, as I took 8.2% of the under 18yo number (239,103) instead of the total population.

I did the 18 and under first to get the 239,103 which is correct but then failed to go back to the total population to get the 8.2% which results in 75,409 under 5.

That gives us the 163,000 5 to 18yo number.

That's why I said in the very first post, check my numbers because I was doing it very quickly going out the door.

My mistake, I own it.

Pamela Grundy said...


As the comment thread indicates, we all make mistakes, myself included. The key, as you note, is being willing to "own" them and make the necessary adjustments, rather than trying to cover them up or explain them away.

8:15 you're absolutely right. That's why folks need to look at the data, do their own math, and question those who seem to have obtained different results.

Wiley Coyote said...


In the spirit of owning up to mistakes, can we all agree CMS needs to own up to the mistakes they have made, as is shown in the dismal report released today on AYP by school?

therestofhtestory said...

Wiley, I think the only interesting thing to say about it now as we saw last year is that CMS may have exhausted those strategies to make scores look better than they were. For example, after some time we finally saw where the number of students taking certain tests dramatically feel from the previous year to last year.

While I full-heartedly agree those students which have missed at least 10 days of school should not have their scores negatively impact the teacher or school evaluations, too many disagree.

Last year, Pam put me onto I quickly lost confidence in it because it misrepresented class sizes at several high schools I had the data for and you could not coorelate the scores they had with what CMS was reporting in the $ per pupil spreadsheets.

Bottom line, the data is created by the school system. Massaged by the state and spit back out without enough data to back check. One other thing, the also inferred that CMS had surpassed Wake County in disadvantaged students' performances. However when I went back to other CMS data, like the $ per pupil spending, those icreases were not apparent. It is almost like someone had played with the data for political purposes.

Wiley Coyote said...


Why do you think CMS and the BOE take a hands-off approach to FRL?

The more on it, the more money CMS gets.

If you look at the latest report just posted in the front page of the online Observer, 5 years worth of data, some are only up 1 or 2 percentage points over FIVE YEARS.

Is that progress?

Smoke and mirrors baby.

The excuses for the next 5 years will be the fact 10 schools were closed and some elementary and middle schools were merged.

Store that away in the back of your mind somewhere because it will come up, just as the lower test scores for this year are being excused away because of all the "new testing".

TROTS said...

Wiley, yes CMS does not want to have FRL audited for the exact reason yo umention. Second, they abuse the EC classification on students becuase of the same reason, more money fro mthe feds. There was an article last year on CMS's cafeteria operations. I think it was written to somewhat paint the picture of unpaid school lunches. However, easily reading between the lines you realized they needed the FRL fraud to maintain anything near breakeven.

In the 1980's and 90's, there was an achievement test CMS used to "score" the schools. Every time scores started dropping, they did district reassignments moving as many middle class white families into struggling schools. That way they couldargued the poibnt you made that now with all these changes, the scores were meaningless. I know because we were in Ransom area then got reassigned to Northridge then got bounced back to Ransom over the course of 3 years.

Old trick they are taught somewhere along the way to the lobotomy as a PhD in Education.

Anonymous said...

We always focus on the minority kid from the broken home with several siblings who is struggling to make it who needs free health care, FRL, Sec. 8, food stamps, etc. We say that that kid has no hope. We ignore the middle class white kid who starts out wanting to learn but has two parents who are working hard and don't give him/her attention. We throw that kid in a bad school and he gets caught up in the culture and never makes it. Again, the question is: do we focus on just the kids who want to learn and push them? Or, do we worry about the lowest common denominator and provide this lovely social experience to keep these folks off the street. I would love for our new superintendent to be dogged in saying that CMS is about learning and if you are not willing to successfully be integrated into this process, you are out. If he did that, how many kids would be on the street?

TROTS said...

6:53 PM

Look at the example in the movie Lean on Me. Cull out the few of real trouble makers and leaders of disruption, you will save an additional 15 to 20% of the students you did not save before. Remember the saying, "a few bad apples will spoil the barrel".

The deal is though with MeckEd involved and more than likely getting a Broad graduate for superintendent, all they are after is making a name for themselves closing the achievement gap in an urban school system.

Jeff Wise said...

@Anonymous, 2:37p, July 20

You make a good point. In a situation like that, the teacher should discuss the class make-up with the principal and/or dean of students and figure out a way to either move some students around or work on getting the stragglers on to an alternate path to get them involved.

This goes back to my concern that there's so much focus on students being pushed through the same standardized education process, that the focus is trying to get all the students to a similar level rather than playing to the strengths of individual students.

Easier said than done, I fully understand that. Never hurts to try though.

Jeff Wise said...

@Anonymous 11:11AM July 21

Definitely do not want to dumb things down, or cater to the lowest common denominator.

I'd like to figure out how we can bring the individual back into education.

When I first took over the IT Group at my job, the mantra was "we treat everyone the same. From the owners to the newly hired drafters."

That just bothered me and I told my folks to stop saying it. We treat everyone individually based on their situation and personality.

At our peak before the recession, we were closing in on 250 users and we knew everybody personally and their personality quirks.

Applying that to Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, we see, for example, that 30 2nd graders are assigned to a teacher and they stick with that teacher all year long (with maybe a few exceptions).

What would happen if some of those students were switched to a teacher with a different teaching style? What if one teacher wanted to take on 35 students so another could take only 20?

In short, what if we looked at education as an individualized process instead of relying on pacing guides and things like that?

If it brought 10% of the trouble students back to the mainstream, is that worthwhile?

Jeff Wise said...


I'd be interested in seeing the data you have going back to 2004. I've poked around with some data sets, but nothing back that far. It sounds like you've got some good comparisons running and I'm curious to see what it looks like, if you'd be willing to share.

therestofthestory said...

Jeff here is the chart that got me started. Of course when this orgainzation first put this cghart out, they were trying to make it look like we were not spending any extra money on thse kids.

They had even left off the spedning per pupil indicator to confuse the public.

I think through the CMS web site, you can print out subsequent years of data. However, I pulled pdf pages and picked off the same data points and put then all into an excel spreadsheet. What I wanted to do was to create an acees database so you could show each school over the course of years. I have not had time to polish it up but you can read across the spreadsheet and get the point.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I really like some of your ideas, especially that we have to look at the individual student, because every child begins their school career at a different place (ability level) and from a variety of backgrounds.

I do have a few thoughts on some of your comments though. If I'm not mistaken, IEP's are legal documents and take a considerable amount of time to prepare. There are observations of the student in their learning environment and one-on-one and meetings with their parents, teachers, support staff, and administrators. They are part of the Response to Intervention process. This approach would not be necessary or appropriate for EVERY student.

Additionally, in CMS struggling students (performing below grade level but not in need of an IEP)have a PEP, which also details what actions are to be done at home and at school to help the child be successful. These are also time intensive and detailed.

As for pacing guides, teachers have to have a "road map" of where they are going so they will know when they get there, but I agree with you that there has to be some flexibility. The NCSCOS (Standard Course of Study) is set by the NC Dept. of Public Instruction. It outlines specific goals and objects to be taught by subject and grade level. I believe DPI is currently in the process of overhauling these standards.

Pacing guides are useful tools and should be just that--guides. Again it's up to the teacher to find ways to cover all the material and meet the needs of their students at the same time. Integration of subject matter is a useful way to do this and mirrors the real world.

One thing teachers must possess is the ability to present the material in a variety of ways that interest and engage studetns. When that happens, behavior tends to improve. Of course their may be behavior problems that are unrelated to the classroom. Just like adults, children don't leave their outside influences at the door.

We need to find ways to support teachers through continuing educational opportunities, mentoring, support in dealing with behavior issues, and seeking their input on future plans if we want our schools to succeed. I would be more impressed with the Gates Foundation if it focused on the classroom instead of PR. If our classrooms are successful, PR will take care of itself.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, You seem to be saying we need to stop focusing on testing and instead concentrate on custom learning for each child's particular needs. However, you don't have any concrete suggestions on how your system could be implemented or the success could be measured.

You appear to be well meaning, but I'm not sure that you would really improve CMS.

Anonymous said...

CMS lays off hundreds.....CMS rehires hundreds.....Déjà vu all over again!!!!!

Anonymous said...

To change a corporate or school culture, you have to be strong and focused. The current culture in many schools is dictated by home life, rap music, a culture of school, proper English and proper dress being totally uncool. We like to think that we can take thugs and turn them into cleancut, clean shaven, law abiding, studious graduates. What happens when you take a group of these folks is that the thugs dictate the overall tone of a school. They help reinforce bad behavior, bad speaking patterns, bad dress, etc. Laying down the law about appropriate behavior and fighting for the students you can save and who care is the only way. Teachers and administrators who kowtow lose this battle. I think CMS must demand high standards and challenge those to reach them. The bad apples have to be escorted out or to an alternative school. Lets test, but test those who are trying. Let's make it a privilege to go to CMS...not a necessary evil. I challenge anyone on this board to go to a CD store and ask for a hard core rap CD and listen to the whole thing. I promise that you will be shocked at the violence and total disrespect toward women. We are in a war for our kids and don't even know it. To many parents don't parent and let rap and the streets educate their children.