Monday, October 31, 2011

Gorman trashing CMS? Not really

Updated 6:30 p.m. -- first of all, here's a link to the transcript that's easier to scan than hours of video.

A report on WBT radio about former Superintendent Peter Gorman's comments at an education conference got some buzz over the weekend,  as people circulated the audio clip with their own commentary.  By the time it was filtered through County Commissioner Bill James,  Gorman was calling board members crazy and describing Bright Beginnings prekindergarten as  "the worst."

Neither is true.  Jeff Sonier,  the reporter who did the WBT report,  was kind enough to forward me the full video links to a Sept.  27 Hamilton Project conference on  "Promoting K-12 Education to Advance Student Achievement,"  which featured Gorman as a panelist.  What I saw was hardly Gorman Gone Wild.  Instead,  it was a long,  nuanced discussion of education reform,  most of which will sound familiar to anyone who heard Gorman speak during his five-year stint in Charlotte.

There is one surprise,  which Sonier correctly reported:  Gorman tells the panel that CMS research found that  "the worst after-school program you could be involved with in Charlotte was the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools after-school program;  the quality was just so poor."  (It's at about the one-hour mark in the video of the first session,  on "The Power and Pitfalls of Incentives in Education.")

That was news to me. On June 28, shortly after Gorman resigned, the staff gave a routine update on the after-school enrichment program to the board; the PowerPoint gives no hint of quality problems. I know where to look for some research reports that don't get much public airing,  but I found nothing evaluating after-school.  CMS spokeswoman LaTarzja Henry said this morning that officials have been looking for such a report since WBT asked last week:  "We have been unable to locate any research that suggests that."  I emailed a public-relations staffer at News Corp.,  Gorman's new employer,  asking that Gorman point me to the research and/or clarify his comments.  I got nothing but a prompt  "no comment."

New: At day's end, spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte says CMS officials believe Gorman was talking about a report on after-school tutoring, not the after-school program. But she said Gorman himself has not made that clear to CMS, and neither the report nor anyone who can talk about it will be available until tomorrow. Here's a story on the after-school question.

The after-school program serves school-age students.  Gorman did not discuss the quality of Bright Beginnings,  which provides full-day education to 4-year-olds whose skills put them at risk of falling behind in kindergarten.  The cost of that program has been controversial,  and James has been critical of spending county money on pre-K.

As for school board "craziness,"  it's no secret to CMS-watchers that Gorman had his clashes and frustrations with board members.  But the video doesn't show him  "poking fun at his former bosses,"  as Sonier's WBT clip indicates.  Gorman introduces the after-school comment by praising the board for being willing to spend money on research and evaluation,  even during a budget crunch.  During the second session,  on start times, grade configurations and teacher assignments,  Gorman does make the quoted remark that "there's a huge disconnect with what goes on at a school board meeting and what goes on in a school,"  and that  "I often viewed my job ... as to protect our staff from the craziness that goes on at a board meeting"  (all this is at about the 35-minute mark).  But he prefaces that comment by saying  "I enjoyed the board I worked for,"  and follows up by talking about the unlimited number of public comments that open many meetings.  "You might as well say,  'Why don't we try to get as many people to come and try to take us off target as possible,' "  he says.

In a third panel on "New Assessments for Improved Accountability,"  Gorman talks about how the current teacher evaluation system overstates the number who are successful  --  a theme he sounded for at least a couple of years in CMS, as he pushed to change the way teachers are evaluated and paid.

Sonier and WBT are right about one big point:  Gorman has refused to speak to local media about CMS since the June day he handed in his resignation,  and that does lead people to wonder what was on his mind when he left.  For those with time,   the Hamilton Project discussion provides some intriguing insights on what he thinks about incentives for students and teachers,  starting schools later and making performance pay work.  But it's hardly throwing CMS under the bus, as the Pundit House blog labeled it.

With the exception of the after-school comment  (I'll report more on that if and when I can find the research he's talking about), Gorman struck me as positive about CMS.  If anything,  he erred on the side of optimism.  For instance,  he talks about closing  "large, low-performing middle schools"  and sending the students to K-8 schools.  "We didn't then put the children in low-performing elementary schools,"  he says.  I suppose that depends on how you define "low-performing,"  but some of the elementaries that added grades 6-8 logged among the district's lowest scores in reading, math and science in 2011.  When I asked Gorman about that issue before he left,  he said was pinning his hopes on principals' plans to reverse that kind of performance.


Anonymous said...

So we'd rather defend the good Dr. Pete than write about Tim Morgan's campaign manager willfully throwing away campaign cards for other endorsed republicans?

Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

The Observer just endorsed Tim Morgan. I'm glad they did! Just because you don't like Tim Morgan, don't expect the Observer or anybody else to agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the After School Program, decided to look for something else this year. I personally didn't care for my 6-year old's swiveling hips and head bobbing that he gave me after a few months in the "enrichment" program.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the After School Program, decided to look for something else this year. I personally didn't care for my 6-year old's swiveling hips and attitude that he gave me after a few months in the "enrichment" program.

Wiley Coyote said...

After school - status quo.

Bright Beginnings - status quo.

Let's keep funding and wasting money for these two programs.

Why? Because we have no data to support either postion so why eliminate them?

Status quo. alive and well at CMS...

Gotta love it.

therestofthestory said...

After school program? If your expectations for this are anything other than daycare, you need to reset your expectations.

Additionally, outside of the "special needs" kids that the federal dollars support, bright beginnings is the same way. While a case can be made for identifying the benefits for the kids the end of that year and the next year, the benefit is gone by the thrid grade. And we know why and will not do anything to protect that investment but rather let it wilt.

Wiley Coyote said...


Tell me your opinion on this...

This if from the White House website:


Each year, the federal government wastes billions of American taxpayers’ dollars on improper payments to individuals, organizations, and contractors. These are payments made in the wrong amounts, to the wrong person, or for the wrong reason. In 2009, improper payments totaled $98 billion, with $54 billion stemming from Medicare and Medicaid. We cannot afford nor should we tolerate this waste of taxpayer dollars and in our health care system.

Today, the President is announcing a new effort to improve accountability and cut down on this waste and fraud through the use of payment recapture audits. These are investigations in which specialized private sector auditors use cutting-edge technology and tools to scrutinize government payments and then find and reclaim taxpayer funds made in error or gained through fraud. These auditors can be compensated based on the amount of improper payments they identify and are reclaimed – providing a powerful incentive to find every error. A pilot program run by Medicare in three large states – California, New York, and Texas – from 2005 to 2008 recaptured $900 million for taxpayers.

Several key points here.

1 - The White House and Obama say they want to eliminate waste and fraud from governmet programs ($98 BILLION), showing the majority of fraud coming from Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of $54 BILLION dollars.

2 - The White House wants private auditors to find this fraud and any fraud uncovered, the auditors will receive compensation for uncovering the waste.

Why can't we "uncover" our own waste and fraud and report it, get the compensation and use the reward for other education purposes?

3 - After Medicare and Medicaid fraud, that leaves $44 BILLION in other waste and fraud. Of that $44 BILLION, $1.5 BILLION of that is waste and fraud in the school lunch program.

People think I'm crazy for comstantly pointing this out but since I am a proponent of classroom sizes for K-5 of no more than 10 students per teacher with an aid in every class, think about how far a share of that $1.5 BILLION would go to achieving that goal...

therestofthestory said...

WC, off the top I would say it is about time to get to ALL the fraud in ALL the government programs. However, with various loopholes, exceptions, special considerations, special zones, etc., I fear the only way to end the fraud is to eliminate the programs. (Like the only way to clean up the tax code is to do away with it with a flat tax.) That is not my desire as I know you have also stated in the past. I believe the fraud they are refering to is mostly around the payments and those bills and billing amounts. I would say this is an area that should have been the first strike in the healthcare discussion but was not.

I wonder in the Medicaid part if they will approach the issue of if the person is even supposed to be eligible for Medicaid. Doesn't sound like it on the surface but you never know.

Of course a large concern I have is the use of "private auditors" to do this. Seems to me that within the monstrousity of the federal government computer banks is all the information they need to do this already.

As for the other $44 billion in fraud mentioned, I wonder what other things they are considering. Are they really looking at the welfare programs? Are they looking at the directives from higher ups in county governments (who sign up recepients) who give the wink-wink-nod-nod to bypass rules and regulations like citizen status check?

As for FRL, are they willing to check into those applying for FRL outside of the DSS approved ones, i.e. the full audit they will not let CMS do? Of course all the fed has to do is to tell the USDA not to inhibit local LEA's from doing full audits if their sample audits indicate widespread fraud like CMS's have in the past.

But as to your other point, why hire private auditors, unless they are being paid 10% of recovered payments for example? But what do you do when there are no assets to recover? Do you simply unsignup the person or do you press criminal charges? As we know, the devil is in the details.

Have I hit what you were asking about?

Somehow I think they are leaving out approaching those programs benfit most of Obama's obvious voters. Of course his whole campaign was built on anti-Bush and that of course delighted that group.

As for other fraud, the city of Charlotte government funds some after school programs. The organizations that runs them are paid by the number of kids that attend. I remember one report made at a city council meeting that someone went to one location and the kid count was about 1/3 of what was on the books. Many, many excuses flew about as to why but then discussion ended quickly and never came up again.

Bottom line, if the feds thinks there is $98 billion is fraud they deal with, ther is probably twice that in local governments around section 8, public housing operations, overpayment of government workers compared to private setor, etc. One nasty one recently was the church down at Johnson and Wales had built a new church out somewhere else and they approached the county to buy their old building. Not sure what the county thought they could do with it, it never oame up in public discussion, but the majority of the BOCC, guess why, voted to buy it for 2 to 3 times the appraised value.

There are tons of examples like that in a lot of local governments.

Wiley Coyote said...


It's been shown that many school districts openly bump up their FRL numbers to get the extra Title One funds. It's blatant fraud but they know no one will do anything.

I posted that infor from the White House as an overall assessment of the fraud permeating our society and how that fraud affects programs like after school programs you talked about, Bright Beginnings and the overall waste of money that could be put to better use such as reduced class sizes.

Thanks for responding. Great follow up and points...

Wiley Coyote said...

....and one other thing...most here stick their heads back in the dirt while saying "gimme, gimme, gimme more money".

"Please Mighty Money Tree, bestow more funds upon us so we don't have to account for what we have already spent"...

therestofthestory said...

WC, I think one other point is that budgeting for a body like CMS is a joke. I wonder how many kids get multiple hits from all these "special", "extra", etc. programs? And when the next new one comes around, no one asks about whether we should end one that shows less value and use that money instead of just asking of rmore money.

That is clearly one business principle that needs to be added to this superintendent's public responsibility.

Anonymous said...

When I was in my school years my "after school programs" were baseball, football or something at home. Back then though taxes were not used to raise someone elses kids.

Anonymous said...

Taxes were not used to raise someone else's kid??? That's an absolutely moronic statement. Taxes have always been used to teach someone else's kid, to buidl someone else's road and to help supply water to someone else! Stop being so selfish you arrogant tea party corporate turd.

Larry said...

I only have this this to ask?

Why has CMS been allowed all these years to leave so many questions unanswered and so many requests unfilled?

This story below from Ann is a prime example of something that should have lit a fire that made all the difference in our system and getting answers?

Does Bright Beginnings really work?
Data are sketchy, despite CMS’s pledge to track progress
By Ann Doss Helms
Posted: Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010

Bright Beginnings, the innovative pre-kindergarten program of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, debuted a decade ago with the hope of transforming the lives of at-risk kids - and the pledge of keeping close tabs on their performance to help them succeed.

That promise to families and taxpayers has not been kept.

Today, the program costs $23 million a year. It helped launch a similar $196 million statewide program. And while teachers say it clearly better prepares children for kindergarten, CMS can't say whether it has had any academic impact on later school years.

The pioneer class of 4-year-olds are teens now – freshmen in high school if they've been promoted on schedule. But analyzing their success “isn't on our radar,” Chief Accountability Officer Jonathan Raymond said.

Part two below.

Larry said...

Long-term research on public pre-K is weak statewide. Still, some say CMS is letting a rare opportunity slip away.

“This is what frustrates the public and I know frustrates parents,” says Lindalyn Kakadelis, a former school board member. She says she voted for the program in 1997 because officials said they'd track the kids.

After the Observer asked about research, Superintendent Peter Gorman vowed to revisit the first Bright Beginners before they graduate in 2011.

Even if there are no measurable results, Gorman says he’d still support pre-K based on kindergarten teachers’ glowing reviews.

Bright Beginnings aims to get disadvantaged children ready to read. The goal: Instead of falling behind in kindergarten, they’ll be on track for lifelong learning.

For years, CMS officials said middle and high schools would improve dramatically when those kids arrived.

Yet, despite the arrival of the Bright Beginnings generation, hundreds of the district's middle school students still test below grade level. This year, some of the first Bright Beginnings kids landed in a new academy for freshmen who hadn't mastered eighth-grade skills, Gorman says.

Before CMS stopped tracking the kids, there were hints of trouble: Dramatic gains reported in kindergarten were vanishing by the time the students finished elementary school.

Today, even proponents of public pre-K say the sweeping claims that launched the program may not be realistic. No matter how strong the classroom start, a student's experiences with schools, family life and peers shape success or failure in the years that follow, experts say.

“There’s no one-shot deal, one year that’s going to be the vaccine,” says Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, a UNC Chapel Hill early childhood researcher.

Part three below

Larry said...

What’s the benefit?

Seven years into Bright Beginnings, CMS analyzed costs and benefits.

For every dollar spent, officials said, citizens got back $2 to $3. That was based on the premise that the 4-year-olds would fare better through high school, earn more, pay higher taxes and be less likely to end up on welfare.

Add in reduced crime, they said, and the pre-K payback rose to as much as $15.

Those figures were based on a few studies begun in the 1960s and 1970s, in which children with high-quality preschool fared better as they moved through life. The Michigan-based Perry Preschool project found that even at age 40, their graduates were more likely to have jobs and less likely to be criminals than disadvantaged peers.

But modern pre-K is a different creature.

The earlier generation of preschools featured very small classes, with an open, creative environment for kids. Modern pre-Ks are large-scale efforts, with highly structured lessons to teach reading skills.

Former CMS Superintendent Eric Smith was a pioneer of the new approach. He created Bright Beginnings in 1997 after crafting a similar program in Newport News, Va.

In CMS, 1,900 children were chosen for the free classes based on lack of skill with words, letters, numbers and other abilities they'd need in kindergarten. About 70 percent were African American and came from low-income homes.

CMS also identified a “control group” of other at-risk kids.

Part five Below

Larry said...

The following year, officials were jubilant. The 1,534 Bright Beginnings kids still in CMS kindergartens were not only outshining the control group, but on some measures outdoing classmates districtwide.

“It didn’t surprise me that it could happen, but it surprised me that it happened this quickly,” Smith said then.
But when the students took state reading and math tests in third grade, the differences between the Bright Beginnings alums and other disadvantaged kids had shrunk. Both groups were less likely to pass the tests than classmates across CMS.

During elementary school, Bright Beginnings kids were more likely to be promoted than the control group. But by fifth grade it was getting tough to track the control group as families moved away.

Smith left for Anne Arundel, Md., in 2002, just before the Bright Beginnings kids got their third-grade scores. He is now Florida's education commissioner, and did not return a call to talk about his former program.

What’s the cost?

Even as Bright Beginnings's promise appeared to fade, the program helped fuel enthusiasm for statewide pre-K classes.

The sight of 4-year-olds reading oversized storybooks in CMS wowed state and local officials. In 2001 North Carolina launched “More at Four,” modeled partly on Bright Beginnings.

Enrollment has grown steadily, with almost 27,700 children statewide participating this year.

The state spends $4,450 a child, about half of what officials consider the full cost of high-quality prekindergarten. Local communities add to that.

CMS’s Bright Beginnings quickly grew from the original class of 1,900 to just over 3,000. The per-child cost has risen from $5,105 the first year to $7,030 projected for 2008-09. The county’s share has shot from $1.6 million to $11.1 million, with federal money covering the rest.

Questions about Bright Beginnings – and CMS spending in general – tend to follow party lines. On the school board, Republican Larry Gauvreau has long demanded that the program be eliminated or scaled back because it has not met its academic goals.

Bill James, a Republican county commissioner, calls Bright Beginnings “a waste of money.”

“Government’s really good at making promises and asking for money, but if a program doesn’t produce results they still want the money,” he said.

Commissioner Parks Helms, a Democrat, says pre-K is a good investment, even if it yields results only when kids start school.

“It is imperative that we have in place a program to prepare these students to begin to learn.”

Short attention span

Failure to follow long-term results isn’t unique to CMS.

In a book titled “Spinning Wheels: The Politics of Urban School Reform,” education researcher Frederick Hess contends that the demand for quick results creates “policy churn,” in which superintendents are hired and fired too fast to figure out what works. Since Smith left in 2002, CMS has had three superintendents.

“What may have been a priority in previous administrations hasn't been on our radar,” Raymond, CMS's accountability chief, said of the Bright Beginnings data.

Part six below.

Larry said...

Newport News schools haven’t tracked their pre-K students through high school either, a spokeswoman said.

The state sizes up More at Four by following students through kindergarten. There are no plans to monitor them in middle and high school, said Peisner-Feinberg, who leads the evaluations. Nor does the state compare More at Four kids with a control group.

Peisner-Feinberg said she’d be interested in CMS’s long-term results, but warns that they should be judged cautiously.

The most disadvantaged kids often face turbulent home lives, and may change schools several times. CMS continues to struggle to get strong teachers into high-poverty schools.

Cheryl Merritt has been principal of Double Oaks Prekindergarten since the first Bright Beginning kids arrived in August 1997. She regrets that CMS has stopped tracking them.

But every year she sees children who knew no letters or numbers leave writing their names and counting confidently.

“It’s been one of the best programs we've done in CMS.”

Read more:

Anonymous said...

Gorman knew nothing about eduacation and more about how to structure a system that would deflect criticism of his ideas and practices "Learning Communities!" which still plague this system today. He spent less than one year in the classroom, knew next to nothing about pedagogy and looked o.k. in suit. This alone was reason by members of Charlotte's second rate business elite to support. him. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!!

therestofthestory said...

5:07 PM


Do you contend then we need to pay the superintendent $10 to $20 million a year?

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you what was on his mind when he left... $1.2 million dollars... his new salary...

therestofthestory said...

I think too he realized what a hornet's nest he stirred up when he helped push through the bill in the NC legislature that overrode teachers having some say in the new PfP plan.

Addtionally, in his new position, he would stay connected enough and probably help drive some agendas and eventually get some high post in the Department of Education.

therestofthestory said...

5:01 PM, if that is all these governments did, we all would be very happy.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard much about the Board privatization committee? When it comes to leadership, fuzzy math and taxpayer dollars seems like this might be a good venue to keep an eye on. All the Gorman, testing and FRL chit chat is getting somewhat tired.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 5:01...

Perhaps you should try and comprehend the "taxes to raise someone elses kid" statement again.

You failed miserably understanding the context of it.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 7:15...

You want to talk about privatization yet what do you think one of the biggest outsourcing components is they want to outsource?

School lunches.

Every person like you who "grows tired of FRL" is another status quo person who sticks their head in the dirt and ignores the fact FRL fraud is one of, if not THE biggest, hindrance to advancing public education.

When we spend tens of millions of dollars targeting "low income" kids by pouring millions more from other pools of money into the system, a system where thousands are getting benefits they don't qualify for, it causes funds to be diluted among a greater group of kids and harming those who truly need help.

Do the math.

135,000 studens and 56% or 75,000 qualify for FRL? PROVE it.

Every poverty report for the County and national trends doesn't come close to 56% of CMS students being in poverty. I'm still waiting on this years number, which I'm sure will rise.

The system itself incentifies school districts to cheat and /or not care about auding the program.

Anonymous said...

Just want to know what liking or not liking Tim Morgan has to do with what occurred and Eagle Scout Timmy obviously condoned! Not very trustworthy...doesn't have anything to do with like or not like...has everything to do with honest, trustworthy and simply downright wrong. Don't fall for the trick that the Observer endorsed him so its ok to lie cheat and steal or simply not listen to the community stakeholders. Please exercise some common sense and remember the votes he has made and realize that he should not be voted at large. He still has two years to mess up as District 6 representative. This is apolical grab of power...don't let it happen. Vote for Hurley, Nelson and Wise.....

Anonymous said...

Before and after school programs = babysitting, free breakfast and lunch, free testing and free sports ... 40 years of taxpayer waste trying to make a change and still no difference for the freeloader bunch. You can't fix what doesn't want to change. Why don't we just pay their rent and food bill? Oh, we already do that too. Whatever.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how "mature" the anti-Tim Morgan posts are. Love the name calling. Does someone have their middle schooler writing these posts?

Anonymous said...

Firstly, Tim Morgan plans to win no matter what it takes. (He said so!!) If he wins, the newly elected Board of Education members will APPOINT his replacement. How convenient! So in other words, it appears there has been a master plan in place attempting to eliminate one of the three At_Large seats in the race.

Secondly, understanding the above, is this why Larry Shaheen, Tim Morgan's campaign manager threw away candidate Keith Hurley's campaign literature at an early voting poll location?? THis violation may have seriously cost Keith Hurley votes.

Shame on Shaheen and worsely, shame on Tim Morgan for not firing Shaheen on the spot after he admitted he did so! Or, did Morgan condone this act?

Knowing Tim Morgan's voting record, I have a hard time wondering why anyone would support him. But, then again, his district (District 6) has not been hindered by recent negative BOE decisions that have hurt so many.

Folks, remember all of this at the voting polls!!

Anonymous said...

11;46 needs to be reminded once again that the entire board will vote for Tim's replacement if he wins. This has always been board policy--nothing new. When Vilma and George left the board for the County Commission the board voted for their replacements. Anyone from District 6 can apply for the position.

District 6 has had plenty of hits from the school board in the past--refusal to build schools in booming areas, long bus rides under former assignment plans, plenty of assignment changes and fractured neighborhoods.

Why are you trying to pit one district against another?

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, the after school program is a fee for service (at least it was when I used it). And I used the after school program to take care of my kids--while I worked!

And Tim Morgan has not listened to his constituents in his district. There was a large outcry against PfP and he pushed it through anyway. Many of us aren't forgetting that. At all.

Anonymous said...

Live in District 6. Have heard differently.

Anonymous said...

@anon 4:10
I,too, live in District 6 and I know most of my school hasn't forgotten how he "represented us." We plan to show that at the polls.