Tuesday, June 12, 2012

LIFT launch has been intense

The biggest surprise about the debut of Project LIFT has been the intensity of public reaction,  good and bad,   organizers said at a national forum in Charlotte Monday.

Representatives of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the donors who launched the quest to pump $55 million into nine west Charlotte schools spoke to about 100 people. Federal education officials and America's Promise Alliance,  which convened the business/education summit that continues today,  took note of Charlotte's public-private partnership as soon as it was announced.  The group highlighted it Monday for others seeking ways for businesses to improve schools.

Charles Bowman of Bank of America and Richard "Stick" Williams of the Duke Energy Foundation praised  CMS leaders' willingness to give donors a voice in decision-making and to promise hard data on results.  But all involved were quick to note that there are no "proof points" yet,  with the classroom work starting in 2012-13 at West Charlotte High and eight schools that feed into it. Project LIFT is "an energizing case study," rather than a proven success,  said Michael Marsicano of the Foundation for the Carolinas.

Bowman, whose bank's charitable foundation pledged $10 million over five years,  said public enthusiasm has been overwhelming since the group went public in January 2011 with $41 million in pledges.  "People are jumping all over themselves to get on board,"  Bowman told the group.  But he said he has also been disappointed that other big donors didn't respond as eagerly.   "The business community has not been as committed as a whole yet," he said.

Project LIFT extended its deadline for raising $55 million from July 1, 2011, to July 1 of this year.  Denise Watts,  the group's executive director and zone superintendent for the nine schools,  said recently she expects to hit the goal or get "darn close."  But if the crew has $55 million in hand,  with the target date less than three weeks off,  none of them mentioned it to the national audience.

Watts said she has been surprised by the  "negativity and doubt"  she has encountered from many who aren't involved.  But she says she uses those sentiments as a prod to action,  rather than a deterrent.  "We have children who didn't get to pick who they were born to,"  she said.  "We have children who didn't get to pick where they live."

One audience member asked how LIFT organizers assured  "true, authentic communication"  with the community, rather than doing the "goody-goody drive-bys"  that mark some school reform projects.  Everyone on the panel said discussions with parents, students and community leaders from the West Charlotte corridor was essential in crafting the plans and carrying them out.  Watts noted that she held weekly advisory board meetings at the LIFT schools,  and recently moved to an office just off Beatties Ford Road to be closer to the community.

Still, I noticed that the group at the Ritz-Carlton heard from donors and CMS administrators,  but no one from the West Charlotte neighborhoods.


Wiley Coyote said...

Why would Watts be surprised by negativity?

We've had over 40 years of do-nothing programs that promise the moon but fail to deliver. Throw questionable tactics and spin on top of that and you will get negativity and suspicion.

I have posted information about data spin in a similar project called the Boston Opportunity Agenda, where $27 million in philanthropy monies was given to improve test score and dropout rates.

The first - and only report so far - gave the program high marks for improvements after one year, yet the major gains took place the year before the philanthropy money was announced.

I trust no data coming from spin machines, especially those who can't manage their own data department.

Bil Stevens said...

The goal here is to be a realist not a pessimist but you have to realize, CMS, the city, the BOCC and many other organizations and many, many dedicated people have thrown considerable effort and resources into these schools over the years. One positive thing LIFT discovered in the inital discourses was the need to engage more at the home level. They already knew about needing to engage on some issues at the home level as far as community health, etc.

Due to this long history of past efforts/failures, many now view that outside money and personal efforts is simply wasted. So community, parents, etc. has to now take the ball if they desire for the futire to be better for these kids. Does Denise fit this bill to pull this off? Several facts have been presented in past blogs that say no.

Recent research articles have tracked efforts such as introducing advanced technology into the homes that at first might project success but in the end simply created more kids too sleepy to be engaged in the classroom. At least they were staying home different than what Superintendent Murphy found in his nightly drives around these neighborhoods.

So needless to say, with the history of CMS and its data, and the rankling some have accused others in when they did nto agree with this approach, there is little optimism that true facts will come out outside of the 3% to 5% thatwill probably be reached in the end.

Anonymous said...

I don't trust anything Ericka has done, is doing or will do.

BolynMcClung said...



Yes, it's a start-up. In some peoples' minds that is enough to signal failure before completion.

I'm not willing to go the all or nothing route. I doubt that there will ever be enough evidence to proclaim success. For one thing the Project has too many moving pieces, too many students to rely on just one standard: graduation!

However the website does provide six areas of measurement. These can be taken at any time and should be.....and on a continuous basis.

Areas of focus:
1. Enhanced teacher and school leadership quality

2. Increasing learning time beyond the regular school day

3. Access to technology

4. Increased parental and community involvement

5. Policy changes to give more freedom to school leadership

6. Outreach programs and engagement of west side leaders

Let's take point 4. Increased parental involvement. That's a tough one to measure. But at Community House MS it's easy. Just look at the number of parents'cars in line to pickup students on retest day! You'd think they were giving away Ben Franklins!

L.I.F.T will need common sense measures like this to convince us....Not Accountability Department statements.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Ms. Watts should not be surprised by the skepticism because she of all people is well aware of the empty promises and programs CMS has yet to fulfill. West Charlotte Hgh School will never make the progress that it could make academically as long as the school system continues to promote and protect the weak leaders that they have hired! She should really take the opportunity to speak with some of the employees in the"west corridor" I can guarantee that they will communicate story upon story of incomptence. Watts had a principal in her zone that never communicated with his staff. He had approximately one staff meeting the entire school year, no academic vision for the school and no initiative to make things happen !

Furthermore Ms. Watts, we are skeptical of you! You are being paid by private funds, yet you are supervising public schools with public school employees! How can we trust you to make the best decisions for these schools under Project Lift and you are being "fed" by the private sector. This is a hugh conflict of interest and as time goes on everyone will see what side you are really on....the side of the money! Your salary. If anyone thinks that these groups from the private sectors are going to sit idle and not have any input we are fooling ourselves!

Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical of anything that comes from the mouths of the professional poverty pimps.

They've created quite a cozy world for themselves as masters of the fates of the unwashed masses.

The "performance gap" is just where it was 50 years ago, and most likely exactly where it will be 50 years from now.

Only difference is that the US will not be the top nation of the world.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Watts , I am puzzled by your question of the amount of "negativity". Did you leave CMS as a employee years ago? Did you state at a morning breakfast meeting last fall " the funds will be spent with our people on our kids inour community"? Who is our? Do you have the funds you have qouted for your program? What are your new measurment tools so we could een get interested in LIFT? How does Project LIFT affect ALL children within CMS? How do you plan to work with non-LIFT school teachers to debate pay issues? (LIFT teachers earn more if they are chosen) Tell me please your experience in a project like LIFT? Is any taxpayer money being used to fund LIFT (even a dime)? Who covers the lawsuits that will come out of claims within LIFT zone?
Just the basics Denise we can start their. Keith W. Hurley

The U1911 said...

Why are you all attacking Denise Watts...obviously some of you Judases, have not even read the news PAPER MR. ANONYMOUS about where the funds are coming from with Project Lift. The funds from Project Lift are coming from private corporations. Not one RED DIME OF TAX PAYERS money will be used in this endeavor. PROJECT LIFT IS NOT FOR ALL OF CMS STUDENTS...ONLY THOSE NINE SCHOOLS WHO ARE BEING IMPACTED BY SEGREGATION, HIGH POVERTY AND HIGH SOCIO ECONOMIC DISPARITIES. LIKE MRS. WATTS SAID...AS A CHILD YOU CANNOT HELP WHO YOU ARE BORN TO AND WHAT YOU ARE BORN INTO...

Anonymous said...

Watts doesn't get it. She is the main reason that there is so much negativity and animosity.

Go away Watts and there will be less negativity. That is if you truly care for "our kids".

The U1911 said...

Anonymous...since when did you get it? Have you ever taught at WCHS....have you ever been inside the walls at these schools...do you know the type of person it takes to take on these challeges..much less I dont think you would even care to? Until you choose to do so, or choose to become a principal, lets see how effectivee you can be doing this job.

Bill Stevens said...

I served my two years at WCHS. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

U1911, Ask the board member of LIFT Mr. Anthony Foxx if he is trying to get city tax payer funds for LIFT in his budget that got COOKED last night. Your comments of " born into" "west side" "segregation" show me just how much hatred LIFT cannot fix. You fix education with motivation to be educated and LIFT provides none of this. Keith W. Hurley

Bill Stevens said...

3. Access to Technology. This will be intresting to watch if we ever get the truth out of the results. Like the NY Times article had in it last week. WE already know form the Cochrane Middle School principal that most all these kids have smartphones. But their parents will not buy them school supplies.

Until the value system and the priority scheme changes, the cycle of poverty will continue. Check the tennis shoes and other bling. Check baby mamas' nails and hair.

Time to put that culture in its place and quit giving them a pass to being civilized and responsible behavior.

Wiley Coyote said...


Plenty of tax money is being spent in the LIFT schools. They are owned by taxpayers and all upkeep and support is also tax funded.

If I am not mistaken, every dollar of salary of all teachers and support staff is not coming from LIFT money. Some of it is, but not all.

So for the next 5 years, taxpayers will still be supporting these schools with basically no say in what goes on.

More buckets, more money.

Anonymous said...

It is time to find out who the anonymous donors are and why others are not committing. Are they waiting for the lobbyist to make some headway in Raleigh? I do not know if Ms. Watts understands how this is being used by Gates, etc. to further their goal of getting money from public school systems for their products.

Anonymous said...

This is for Anonymous 6:12

I agree with the last half of your post.

Anonymous said...

Bill Stevens is Absolutely correct!

Anonymous said...

Everyone on this post is correct except that racist rant who actually supports the LIFT folks. Thats about a 12-1 majority over the nut.

Bill Stevens said...

The amazing thing to me is that there are people out there that do not even acknowledge how much extra has been done for these kids before LIFT.