Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A glimpse at CMS reform details

Bummer.  I finally got Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools'  Race to the Top grant application on Friday and skim-read the massive proposal for changes at 27 schools.  Before I could write a story Monday,  the feds released a list of finalists and CMS didn't make the cut.

Iredell-Statesville and Guilford County are the only N.C. districts among the 61 remaining in the race for about $400 million in federal money, designed to prompt reform in individual districts (read a summary of the Iredell plan here).  North Carolina got a state Race to the Top grant in 2010.

Even though CMS won't get the $27.8 million it applied for, it's worth reading the plan for boosting achievement at Harding, East Meck, West Charlotte and the schools that feed them. (Here's a one-page synopsis, for those who don't want to tackle the whole thing.)  It offers some details on how Superintendent Heath Morrison may carry out plans he unveiled Monday,  such as creating personal education plans for all students,  recruiting and encouraging highly effective teachers and using technology to help the best instructors reach more students.  Among the intriguing tidbits:  Using a point system "similar to the immediate feedback received in a gaming environment" to motivate students to track and advance their own skills.

The plan also outlines a new approach to teaching math,  which would have been used at four middle schools,  and a  "wraparound"  plan for providing services to students and families in the Harding zone, modeled on the Reid Park project.  I think we'll see all these ideas resurface,  though things may move more slowly without the infusion of federal cash.

Of course,  I'm also eager to hear people's thoughts on the plan Morrison outlined Monday.  I asked him to put his STEM schools to work on cloning reporters,  because otherwise I have no idea how to keep up with all the work that will be going on in 22 new task forces.  If you're wondering,  no,  there's not a place to sign up for membership.  Morrison said he wants to hold the size to about a dozen members per task force,  and he noted that CMS critics will be among the appointees.  The district plans to release names of the leaders  (one CMS staffer and one community member per group)  this week,  with full membership released in December and meetings taking place January to June.


Shamash said...

Maybe they should have left out the part about "eliminating achievement gaps".

That by itself proves the goal wasn't realistic.

Wiley Coyote said...

The grant will represent phase one of a 7 year plan to pilot the school-community model.

Okay, tell me what I'm missing here.

A 7 year plan/pilot/model to close the "achievement gap" and accelerate learning?...Ummmm..isn't that what Project LIFT is already supposed to be doing at West Charlotte?

What makes this any different? How would they have integrated this in with Project LIFT?

Too many buckets of money and programs overlapping with little accountability.....

Bill Stevens said...

No only do I echo ..overlapping with little accountability... but when CMS creates measures, measures the measures, and reports the measures results, how can we the public believe them?

Of course the key is going to be how to do all of his proposals with no more tax money. Maybe he can create some revenue sources.

Still my huge question is, we are already super funding the urban schools and strangling the suburban schools, where is he going to get more funding? And what in all of this eloquent langauge (eduspeak) of his is so different than what we are doing or have done in the urban schools?

Anonymous said...

Poor CMS their lack of accountability and trust issues is catching up with them. Pete JR gave a vanilla speech last night detailing diversity and how he is going to force that to his employees. There goes another 100 teachers ! When is his time in CMS up ? Just another 2 years lets start a super search now so we wont go without one then.

Bill Stevens said...

I found the "closing the achievement gap" comment disengenious. Apparently Heath is unaware that 25% of the closing of the gap has been from the lowering of the white students' scores.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Bill, is it you that keeps posting that? What's your source on lowering of white scores? I don't think that's right, and when I've seen anonymous comments about it no one has responded with solid info.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone but a teacher has a clue how much work it would be to create a personalized education plan (PEP) for every student. Any CMS teacher will tell you that they are the bane of any teacher's existence.

For every student in danger of failing, we have to write a PEP saying what we will do to make sure the student does not fail. Then, we have to maintain a file on each student showing evidence of what we are doing.

This would be fine if the student is working hard and doing everything that he/she is supposed to do. However, if the reason a student is failing is that he/she does nothing (which is why the majority of my six students who have PEPs are failing), no PEP will help. Most teachers think that CMS makes teachers do this so they will decide not to fail anyone. We have too much integrity for that though.

I cannot imagine writing one for all of my 225 students. I would never have time to plan or assess my students.

Shamash said...

Anon 5:39.

I hope you aren't a white teacher with failing black students.

Because if you are, then it is your fault they are failing no matter what they don't do.

Your "unconscious" racism is causing them all kinds of problems that won't quit until you admit that you are the true source of all their problems.

Now, go sit in the corner and anguish over that until you actually begin to believe it.

Bill Stevens said...

Ann, here are the numbers from the NC report card site. I;m not sure how these will format on this blog screen but here goes.

2009-10, 2010-11
CMS White, 88.4, 88.2, -0.2
CMS Black, 51.6, 52.2, +0.6
Gap change, 36.8, 36, +.08

So you see, 25% of gap change was white scores decreasing. SO here are the state and Wake County numbers for whites and they continue to rise.

State white, 78.7, 79
Wake white, 87.4, 87.9

The gap analysis is interesting also.

2001-02, 2010-11
CMS achievement gap, 34.4, 36

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:39,
Just think of all the help that Easy PEP software has made it for you to totally document the behavior and educational goals you need to apply for your 200+ students. Just what your "spare" time needs are for; page after page of check boxes for CYA evaluations when it works. Good luck on finding a parent for conference and signature.

Wiley Coyote said...


I'm confused on where you're getting the 25%.

Bill Stevens said...

Total gap change last year was 0.8. White score went down 0.2 and black scores went up 0.6. 0.2 is 25% of 0.8 of total change.

Wiley Coyote said...

36.8 to 36.0 is a 2.2% decrease.

Bill Stevens said...

While you are correct when looking at the total gap, I am focusing in on the change in gap and what constituted it. Part of the closing of the gap, 0.8 was white scores going down, 0.2 and black scores going up, 0.6.

Okay, of the 2.2%, how much was due to black scores going up and white scores going down.

Do you disagree that educrats are just as happy closing the gap by lowering the white scores as they are raising the black scores?

Wiley Coyote said...

Personally, I don't think educrats have anything to do with it.

I think it has to do with many factors, with one being the decline of Whites in CMS as a group and more of those Whites remaining being in the low income bracket.

From what I have read, the gap was narrowing at a good clip from 1971 to the early 90's and started fluctuating.

Here it is 2012 and the gap is at 24 points (3rd through 8th)

Bill Stevens said...

But Wiley, it is what gives these people (educrats) their glory thee day, closing the achievement gap. It is mostly what they breathe and think about. It is what all urban politicians dream about is bragging how their school system is closing the achievement gap and of course how many are on their handout programs. or h ow they pushed through their legacies, streetcars or light rail.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Bill, I think we're just going to perpetually disagree over the significance of those numbers. Maybe if the temperature drops from 88.4 degrees to 88.2, you call it a cold snap -- I call it a fluctuation I wouldn't even notice. I look at changes that small from year to year -- black, white, overall -- and call them virtually unchanged.

Ann Doss Helms said...

5:39, that was one of my biggest questions -- how do you write meaningful plans for lots of students and still have time left to teach them? At least one of the student journalists there also had that immediate question.

Wiley Coyote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wiley Coyote said...

I agree with you that the achievement gap is used as a huge crutch by educrats. It justifies their job and they get to use the talking points I stated of diversity, poverty and race to bolster their job security.

Most states have gaps like CMS for 8th grade reading, low to high 20 point range.

Based on past gains, it will take CMS at least 15 years to close the Black/White gap. That's half of a career.

Think about it. If most states still have that kind of gap, it tells me all of the spending being thrown at public education trying to build a better mousetrap won't make a dent in the gap, that time tested means of instruction, discipline and accountability (from parents, teachers and students) need to be reinforced.

Stop with the Project LIFTs of the world because they really won't make a real dent in the problem.

We've spent TRILLIONS on programs in public education since the 60's only to see gains fall out in the early 90's.

The final question becomes (at some point in time when I'm very old), okay, what do you do when you finally achieve utopia and the gap is equvalized?

Bill Stevens said...

Wiley, I foresee the gap being non existent when there are not enough whites to prove statistically relevant.

Ann, I might would agree with you looking at CMS in a vacuum, but when I see the state scores, Wake County scores, Guilford County scores doing what they are, then I know something is amiss in Mecklenburg County.

Anonymous said...

Bill and Wiley,
I'm a state certified dance teacher who is in the process of making a career change in order to teach 4th grade. Recently passing the Math section of the Praxis 1 exam on my first try - 30 years after graduating high school - felt like winning the Superbowl. I'm immensely grateful to people like you who taught me how to multiply mixed fractions, understand the Pythagorus Theorem and convert decimals into percentages. Statisticians like you also taught me how to consistently mark the same letter on a standardized test over and over again when I have absolutely no clue what the answer is in order to artificially raise my score. You know, so it appears I might actually know something I really don't. While a 10th of a percentage point matters if I were an Olympic swimmer, I sometimes wonder if our educational system has reached a point where it's incapable of seeing the forest through the trees. Or, perhaps it IS only about seeing one tree in the forest?

I'm not dismissing the significance of a very real achievement gap or your viewpoints regarding how or who can or can not solve this problem. I get as ticked-off and frustrated over these matters as you do. However, I do question the relevance of minor fluctuations in gathered data when it comes to educating children over a 13-year period. My children have taken more than a lifetime's worth of standardized tests with scores that have fluctuated all over the place. One day they're brilliant, the next day, not so much.


Anonymous said...

If any teachers are looking for work, they are hiring over at CPCC. Because of the new Obamacare rules, CPCC has cut the hours of their part-time teachers to avoid having to pay health insurance.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am looking forward to seeing how Morrison will go about bringing all the changes he outlined. The money, of course, is the main issue. Bill James may be a bloviating blowhard, but he is 1000% right when he said, "CMS is the ultimate Socialist program where nothing ever gets cut." That statement actually applies to every government school system in the country. If the CMS budget is $1.2 billion this year, and the legislatures approved $1,999,999,999.99 for next year, you would see every Democrat in the world screaming bloody murder that the evil Republicans are actively trying to kill the children with their Draconian funding reductions. Politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to be married to the concept that there is ONE, and ONLY ONE, way to improve education, and that is to spend more money on it.

For CMS, I hope Morrison closely examines every line of the budget and throws out anything that isn't working. I'm willing to bet that by doing that, he'll have a nice pile of money to spend on new initiatives.

Wiley Coyote said...

More money spent on education does NOT guarantee success.

Per student expenditures have doubled since 1970, yet reading score remain relatively flat.

High school graduation rates provide another historical barometer of American educational performance. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average freshman graduation rate for American public schools has remained relatively flat over time. In 1990-1991, the average graduation rate was 73.7 percent. By 2004-2005, the rate had increased modestly to 74.7. However, the most recent estimate for the 2005-2006 school year shows that the national freshman graduation rate has dipped to 73.4 percent.


Bill Stevens said...

Alicia, congratulations on passing the Praxis 1 Math section first time. I am in an industry with required state certifications and the first time we can take our exams is 4 years after college. Some folks wait longer and it does become much more difficult when you have been away from being a student yourself. I know many perspective teachers that have a lot of difficulty passing any part of the Praxis even just out of school. It sounds like you are taking your career by the horns and making changes due to its changing environment.

As for discussing points, issues you raise about any one child having a bad day and it affecting their performance score is washed out when you are looking at large populations, like a whole 8th grade in CMS. That is the beauty of this type of testing. Of course, there are many debates as to how you really get to teach this subject to students so they develop a love of learning and not have to resort to teaching to the test. I have taken some of the sample Math tests on line offered at times and generally find them to be very thorough. The drawback you get to next is that a passing grade (level 2) is probably around 40%. That seems somewhat low to me since a low of math is a building block process.

Good luck to you as you continue on for your certification.

Understand me too that I speak from being in CMS since the 1980's in 12 different schools urban and suburban. And I speak too as a taxpayer knowing a great school system is essential to a great community. What has been going on in CMS is public education has been co-opted by the social engineers and we as taxpayers are not getting our money's worth.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight:
If white scores increased 10% (8.8 points), and black scores increased 10% (5.4 points), it would be a bad thing because the gap increased?
Would it not be terrific that both improved?