Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mentors at Myers Park: Yes, there's a need

When Kimberly Roseboro tries to recruit mentors to work at Myers Park High, she knows she's likely to meet with incredulity.

Myers Park is one of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's most prestigious schools, with a well-earned reputation for helping high-fliers excel and get into the best colleges.  Why would such a school need help,  when so many other high schools face high poverty levels and low academic performance?

But that's precisely the challenge,  says Roseboro,  founder of the nonprofit Firm Foundations of the Carolinas.  A reputation never tells the full story.  Just as the lowest-performing schools always have outstanding students,  the highest-performing have students who struggle.

Consider Myers Park,  which has a poverty level of 33 percent  -- on the low side for CMS high schools.  But the school has more than 2,700 students,  so that represents just over 900 kids.  And as Roseboro discovered when she reviewed this year's school report cards,  those students aren't faring nearly as well as people might think.  The low-income students at Myers Park had a 59 percent pass rate on state exams,  well below CMS and state averages for low-income students and far beneath the 95 percent pass rate for Myers Park students who don't qualify for lunch subsidies.

That's been the case at Myers Park for as long as I've covered this beat.  Despite a strong overall performance and a thriving International Baccalaureate program,  the school's low-income,  black and Hispanic students,  on average,  trail their classmates by large margins.

Roseboro,  whose background is in nonprofit groups such as the Boys and Girls Club and YWCA,  says she decided to focus her mentoring program on Myers Park precisely because the school doesn't get the government and community support that higher-poverty schools do.  She's holding a  "lunch and learn" session at the school on Tuesday,  Jan. 29,  for people willing to commit to spending at least six hours a month providing support and career guidance to students  (RSVP by Sunday to

Roseboro gives Principal Tom Spivey credit for not trying to hide his school's weak spots.  She talked to him before going public with her plea,  she says,  and he and his administration thought it was more important to help the students than burnish the image.

It's recruiting season for a number of mentoring groups,  so if that time or place doesn't suit you,  there's also a Communities in Schools volunteer orientation coming up Feb. 11.  CIS places mentors and other volunteers in a long list of CMS schools,  from elementary to high school.  And the Mayor's Mentoring Alliance serves as a clearinghouse for about 50 groups that provide mentors to students in need.


Anonymous said...

Ann, the argument for diversity/quotas, busing, forced public housing in affluent zip codes etc. is to bring poor children/families into an environment where they can learn and thrive next to children who have more support at home. It is said that poor children in poor neighborhoods could thrive if they just have the advantages that their more affluent, working, educated neighbors have. So, why is that when you add poor students to an affluent school, they are still low performers? Shouldn't they be inspired/assimilated/driven by all the success around them? The actual truth is that some people wake up every morning with no incentive, no drive, no sense responsibility and no willingness to work hard. In fact, more of the "disadvantaged" students are a roadblock to other students being successful, because they are disruptive and full of negative energy. Our society and at least one political party has been very successful at convincing some parts of our society that they have been mistreated and are continuing to be mistreated so much that they will never have a chance. It is sad to see the numbers of kids wasting their opportunity to learn at Myers Park. I reject the sentiment that they are all inferior and can't learn.

Anonymous said...

It's basically the same kids doing well and doing poorly as at all the other schools (and the nation taken as a whole, as well) based on the demographics of the EOCs.

This school is more evidence that "mixing" the kids doesn't really help the low performers.

All these kids have access to the same teachers, facilities, etc., etc., yet we have pretty much the same pecking order as everywhere else.

Anyway, maybe the poor performing kids could go to the higher "poverty" (as if THAT'S the problem...) schools where they automatically get more "services".

Because what they're doing now apparently isn't helping much.

Anonymous said...

7:59am You are 100% correct. This program sounds like it could be a positive for some Myers park students who don't get the encouragement or support at home. I truly hope they achieve their goal of "reaching" or "inspiring" some of those kids so that the students can learn to take responsibility for their own learning and success. Good luck.

Shamash said...

Anon 7:59

Could ANYTHING convince you that some kids are "inferior"?

It doesn't seem that such a sentiment would be politically correct in today's society.

But maybe it's time to consider that we might have taken this "equality" thing about as far as it can go and just accept that things are what they are.

We accept that people have different athletic abilities, so why not that they have different academic abilities?

And why can't that be "racial"?

Our sports are definitely racially biased.

Not too many Asian football and basketball players, eh?

We don't spend exorbitant amounts of money trying to get the short, slow, and clumsy kids to be basketball and football stars, do we?

In the real world, we don't race dachshunds against greyhounds.

Because whether dachsunds are "inferior" or not, the results are pretty much the same.

But I do agree that training dachsunds and greyhounds on the same track at the same time mostly slows down the greyhounds, and doesn't do much to improve the speed of the dachshunds.

But, I'm just an oddball for recognizing those sort of real world examples of inequality, I guess.

Jeff Wise said...

Many would do well to learn about and understand the impacts of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. or as I've suggested many times check out Paul Tough's How Children Succeed.

Since pretty much most of you won't, I'll humor you.

It's not about placing low-income students in higher-income schools. It's not about 2-parent household students being mixed in with single-parent households, it's about changing their environment as well as parenting.

And it's color-blind and gender neutral.

To blame disadvantaged students as impediments towards successful students is ludicrous. They are definitely not inferior, but just like you can't place a penguin in the rain forest and expect it to succeed you can't just place students somewhere, not address the environmental issues informing their maturation and expect them to suddenly become great students.

But I will grant you that it's a whole lot easier to whine about it in the comments section here sitting safely behind your screen and keyboard than it is to actually educate yourself about the issue.

Anonymous said...

Very similar situation was occurring in Wake County while they did their much vaunted "busing based on socio-economics"--most of their schools had good test scores, but when those scores were closely examined we learned that Wake low-income minority students were actually scoring lower than CMS low-income students. (Research was done by Cheryl Pulliam of Queens).

Interesting that until the Queens study was published so many apparently just accepted the theory that everyone thrives in "diverse" schools. How many times did we read articles or hear reports about low test scores in high poverty schools in CMS, followed by the comment "while in Wake County, where assignment is based on socio-economics, there are no failing schools." I guess it was kind of an "inconvenient truth". I know that several members of the 2008 Equity Committee appeared shocked when they learned of these results from Eric Davis.
Sharon Starks

Anonymous said...

Why do they always say that it's the low income who aren't doing well? Are there no low income white kids (FRL or RL) at Myers Park?

The reason I ask is that according to schoolreportcard >95% of white kids pass their EOC's.

Surely a few of those kids get free or reduced lunches. Yet they seem to do fine. I'm sure they could do BETTER, that's true for most kids. But maybe there's something else besides income at work.

As far as I know, no one measures parental involvement (or whether both parents are in the home), but maybe something like that matters more than low income.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, the results I was referring to that were given to the Equity Committee were test scores that showed West Charlotte high poverty kids outscoring Myers Park high poverty kids.

Shamash said...

Anon 9:12.

I personally do not buy the "poverty" excuse because I've seen the numbers that dispute it.

It's in the NAEP report on Achievement Gaps.

In that report it clearly shows that, on average, white students who receive free or reduced lunches OUTPERFORM blacks who are too wealthy for those programs.

So "poverty" is not the problem.

Of course, the report doesn't go into that fact, but it is clearly shown in their charts.

It's just not discussed in the report.

At all. Not a single word.

It's almost if they had some kind of "agenda", ignoring that little bit of information.

The truth is out there.

All that being said, I'm sure that having mentors won't hurt anyone, but let's not kid ourselves about the real problem.

We need to dig just a little bit deeper than the "poverty" excuse.

Anonymous said...

Myers Park is two high schools. White and black. The white kids are generally upper-middle class, largely self-motivated, from stable homes, and with parents who are aggressive in making sure that their kids get every drop of resources from the school. The black kids are from Grier Heights and similar neighborhoods, broken homes, poverty, with no support and no advocacy. They don't benefit one bit from being surrounded by rich white kids who wish they weren't there. The reputation of the school, in terms of sending its best and brightest to top schools, makes no difference to them--why should it?

Missouri said...

Jeff, while I do not directly blame disadvantage students as impediments to the other students, I do blame CMS for being "manipulated" into this strategy that yields no results for the amount of money is has "redirected" from the other students/schools that would improve their achievement scores.

I am sure also the Queens Universty study ignored the fact that CMS white students' scores have been going down the last two years while the state, Wake and Guilford County scores continue to rise. I know several on the BOE and our urban community organizers applaud this approach to closing the achievement gap.

Anonymous said...

So are any of you experts going to sign up to be mentors or did you just want to share your analysis with us?

Shamash said...

Anon 9:23.

Heck, that's nothing. This is a national problem.

White kids in "poverty" outscore black kids who aren't in "poverty" across the nation.

In fact, the white Free Lunch kids outperform the non-eligible (well above poverty level) black kids in math.

4th Grade White FREE LUNCH 235
4th Grade Black Non-Eligible 232

8th Grade White FREE LUNCH 274
8th Grade Black Non-Eligible 268

Of course, the poorer kids in each racial category do worse and get LOTS of discussion, but this little tidbit gets totally ignored.

It isn't even graphec on its own. It comes from the data taken from several graphs (Figures 7 and 8) in:

Achievement Gaps
How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress

The reading scores show very similar results, with the 4th Grade black non-poor kids doing only SLIGHTLY better than the Free Lunch whites.

By eighth grade, the black kids are behind again.

Yet no one seems to want to acknowledge, much less tackle, that one.

Anonymous said...

Done that mentoring thing before, have that t-shirt. Now many of these youth are defiant of old white guys coming to "their rescue". I am qualified to teach calculus to nuclear physics. I am unwanted by most of the kids for tutoring, mentoring or whatever.

I blame that defiance on the continued message from the community organizers that white teachers ar enot good enough to teach black kids. The irony of it is I know many very professional, highly skilled black teachers and they do not want to teach these kids either.

Anonymous said...

I mentor my own children.

But I'll gladly share my analysis, too.

Shamash said...

Yeah, no point in introducing more "white supremacy" into these kids lives by serving as a mentor.

According to the experts, it will only make them worse.

Unless we all recognize our "unconscious racism" as the reason for their failure.

Will the mentors be forced to undergo "courageous conversations" before applying?

It seems that would be expected.

Hey, its a chance for another T-Shirt, Anon 9:49...

Oh, yeah, the good thing is that all my "expert" analysis is FREE.

Unlike some of those on CMS's short list of approved experts.

(Glenn Singleton and PEG...)

Anonymous said...

9:37--Queens report was from Oct. 2009. Below is it's conclusion:

"As demonstrated by End-of-Grade test results, there is no indication that the different approaches to
student assignment has made a significant difference in student achievement. While the overall
average Developmental Scale Scores are slightly higher in Wake County, there is no indication that
Wake County outperforms CMS in most individual student subgroups.
CMS has grown its students as rapidly as Wake County and in fact the growth of CMS academically
gifted students has been faster than Wake County’s."

At that time test scores were increasing for all. Not good enough, but trending up. It also should be noted that Wake County has a much lower poverty rate than Charlotte so there are more middle and upper middle class kids pulling up overall scores.


Shamash said...


If you've found some solutions that go beyond the typical drivel we normally get, then I'm all for it.

I've read many of the things you've suggested and see where there could be some merit in them.

However, I don't see these ideas being picked up by the educational "professionals", either, who just seem to want to try the same old solutions over and over again.

If it's child abuse and neglect that's behind low performance (and it could well be), then don't be too surprised to get a lot of pushback when that cause shows a "disparate impact" towards one group over another.

But, it makes more sense than a lot of things.

My personal theory is that a lot of it still boils down to family and upbringing and not necessarily "poverty".

But we don't collect the statistics on that, so it doesn't show up in the typical studies.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Sharon, those Equity Committee members should have been reading the Observer, too. The first few years I was on this beat, Wake students were smoking those in CMS on about any type of comparison, including results for low-income and minority students. In November 2007 I did a front-page article saying those patterns were shifting, with results for CMS rising while Wake's declined.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Missouri, I know you and maybe a couple of other posters are wedded to the idea that scores for CMS white students are on the decline, but it just ain't so. Depending on which set of scores you look at, there are fluctuations of a fraction of a percentage point. But look at the state report cards. Percent of CMS white kids in grades 3-8 passing both reading and math exams went from 88.2 percent in 2011 to 89.1 in 2012. Percent passing EOCs went from 94.2 to 95. I wouldn't classify that as a significant gain (esp. EOCs because some exams were dropped), but it is definitely not a decline.

Anonymous said...

Poor people having children is child abuse!

Ann Doss Helms said...

And folks, while it's the nature of education analysis to talk about performance of groups, let's do try to remember these are real human beings here. No matter what the averages say, I've met outstanding students of all races and backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

9:42. I just finished my reading tutor group at a local elementary school. I go in 2 hours a week to work with a diverse group of low performing students. I look forward to it and the students do too because I talk to them and show and interest in them. I don't think many of them are from low income families, just families who are too busy to give them the time of day.

Anonymous said...

Ann, I think some members of the Equity Committee had their minds made up about what course CMS should be taking (or returning to). They were not about to let information from the Observer or anyone else change their minds. Perhaps that's why the committee was disbanded shortly thereafter.

Anonymous said...

Sharon, ah stuck in the 60's! I see it so much around here.

Anonymous said...

I challenge any of you to go into a public middle or high school where the kids are lined up or gathered, waiting on a program to start or waiting for lunch. In fact, just go to lunch and see the behavior of all of the kids for, say, 20 minutes. Then, write down the race and other characteristics of the kids who disrupt things...get so out of control a teacher has to come and address it. I've been inside public schools quite a lot and am always amazed at the total lack of decorum and discipline among some students versus others. You can just tell those who come to school without any discipline, interest in learning or respect for the process. Those are the kids who are going to wind up on the street, unemployed or in prison. These are the kids who grow up clapping so hard when politicians talk about how unfair and "rigged" society is against them. The bottom line is that these unmotivated, disruptive students never taken anything serious and drag down schools. When Rodney Monroe talks about "repeat offenders" and the revolving door of justice being a huge can also point to a group of students in a similar way. And, BTW, they will never, ever truly appreciate your mentoring them. They'll just resent you.

Shamash said...


Of course education is all about groups now.

Education is politics.

And politics is about groups.

Nothing would be better than dealing with the individuals as individuals, though.

But that's not the game anymore (if it EVER was).

And FWIW, I don't see evidence of white performance dropping in CMS, or nationally, either, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Its a shame, although not surprising that an appeal to add more mentors at a great school turns into a racially tinged post-a-thon about comparing test scores of different racial groups. Success in education has more nothing to do with race, more to do with experiences and everything to do with environment. The gentlemen who is trained to tutor in Calculus through Nuclear Physics is probably a victim of his own self-fulfilling prophecy and is victimizing his potential mentees by taking that defeated attitude with him to his tutoring sessions. It could be as simple as your approach doesnt match the approach that will work with the children you seek to tutor. You should leave the racial bias at home and focus on your craft of being a tutor. Every child won't be engaged by the same approach. Successful teachers understand that and tailor their approaches to the students they serve. When we mix students of different cultural and experiential backgrounds without properly training teachers and admin staff on the approaches that work for those backgrounds, it leads to significant differences in the messages received by the students in the classroom. Its never as simple as "they had the same teachers and equipment so they should be expected to get the same result".

Also comparing children to dogs is completely ridiculous and that poster should remember their own upbringing and be thankful they werent treated like dogs.

If the posters on this blog are representative of the examples our children have to follow in education, its completely reasonable to expect disfunction.

Shamash said...

Anon 11:10.

Actually my sister races greyhounds and cares for them quite well.

Probably better than a lot of kids get treated.

She's done a pretty good job with her children as well.

Both are college students now.

So, no, I don't think I would have minded being treated like a dog.

Under HER care, that is...

Maybe you treat dogs differently, though.

Anonymous said...

When I looked at data about 5 years ago, every high school graduated some very talented, high achieving students of all races. Overall, 10% of CMS graduates got an education unmatched in the country and could perform competently at any ivy league or such college/university. The next 40% or so performed competently at our state universities. There had been a web site where the NC university system tracked NC high school graduates through their college time. The rest fell into various categories. The one most easily recognized was what one of the last school board candidates found out where 1600 CMS graduates had applied to CPCC and 1200 found out they'd have to take remedial courses before they could get college credit. Reports are full of data from universities about the increasing amount of remedial courses incoming students are required to take and that seems to mean more college debt and more college time.

As for dogs and students, I have a large portion of my extended family involved in public education. I regularly hear how some people's dogs are treated better than other people's children.

11:10, you should take up 10:57's challenge.


Wiley Coyote said...

If the posters on this blog are representative of the examples our children have to follow in education, its completely reasonable to expect disfunction.
January 24, 2013 at 11:10 AM

So what do you attribute the dismal failure and disfunction of public education over the past 4 decades to?

Kids in Poverty Can Still Learn

During slavery, under some of the worse conditions known to man, slaves taught their kids to read by candlelight under the threat of death. And those kids learned.

On the heels of the great depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's new deal invigorated educational opportunities for poor white kids in places like Appalachia. And those kids learned.

Following the Vietnam War, thousands of Vietnamese refugees came to our nation. The vast majority of those children came to America unable to speak English and often lived with several families under one roof. And those kids learned.

In California, folks like Cesar Chavez fought for better working conditions for Latino migrant workers. While those families struggled to make ends meet, many strived to put their children in schools that would meet their needs. And those kids learned.

Throughout the history of our country, the unifying promise of America has been the hope for a better life for one's children through education. Especially those children trapped in poverty. At every turn in our history, kids in poverty have demonstrated their ability to learn and succeed.....

....It seems as though each week there is a new study trumpeting the difficulty of teaching low income children and; the fact that poverty needs to be taken into account when we delve into tissues pertaining to teacher effectiveness and the quality of a school's overall performance.

I get all that. And I do agree that there must be better coordination of services between schools and those entities that help families in poverty.....

......But poverty cannot be used as an excuse for bad teaching or our failure to better educate children who live in poverty. Frankly, some of the growing articles and studies on this topic often times engage in excuse-making and justify the 'throwing up of the hands' as it relates to trying to teach kids in poverty. Isn't it curious that we are hearing more about poverty being a factor in a child's educational experience as we talk more and more about linking teacher evaluations to their students performance? I discussed this issue with a terrific school leader in St. Louis who bemoaned the fact that far too many people blatantly say to her things like "It's impossible to educate poor black kids," and "You need to change your school's demographic to have any real success." To me, this line of thinking is ridiculous. All kids can learn. But all kids cannot learn in the same way. It is incumbent upon us to meet these kids where they are and utilize the approach that best serves them, including offering more quality options for them. There are many teachers who have worked their magic with kids who come from the most challenged environments imaginable. From my vantage point, as opposed to using poverty as the easy reason why some kids in poverty can't learn, let's put an excellent teacher in the classroom of every low income child in America and see what happens. And once and for all, let's stop talking about poverty being a barrier to positive educational outcomes for our kids.

Kevin P. Chavous.

Attorney, author and national school reform leader

Anonymous said...

Of course they need mentors at MP. They bused in under performing minority kids to play sports at this school. They need assistance with education as they come in behind the others. Another reason not to bus them in. Put them in their LIFT schools and let them deal with it. Open a seat at MP for kids who actually want to learn. Similar to UNC were the athletes took different none educational courses. FIgure it out Just Sayin.

Shamash said...

"I regularly hear how some people's dogs are treated better than other people's children."


I think you just might be sneaking up on the problem just a bit.

But I hope you aren't blaming the dog owners for that.

Or making them feel guilty for taking care of their dogs.

My sister isn't rich by a long shot, but she managed to raise her dogs and her children right.

Although my sister tends to favor her dogs at times, it all worked out fine.

Of course, those were thoroughbred dogs, so everyone knew who their fathers were, too.

And that probably helped.

Anonymous said...

All kids can learn...All kids can achieve. But, it takes motivation and desire and hard work. That's what bothers me about this current political climate. Some folks are told they have been taken advantage and that others have cheated them...that they deserve more and more. This the big chip on the shoulders of some people...that others are priviledged and they have been shortchanged. We never, ever discuss how making wise choices and being diligent and determined can make up for whatever income gap there is. Folks around the world go to great lengths to come to America and get into our schools. Some of those who are here just blow off the opportunity and try to hurt the opportunity for others. I just think it's criminal that we aren't tougher and don't expect more out of all students. We just tend to excuse poor academics and behavior as normal with some students.

Anonymous said...

The quote that Wiley Coyote posted is exactly the point I was trying to make earlier.

Differences in income is a factor when it comes to access to certain technologies, etc., but experiential differences create the broadest gaps between students. In each example given in the quote, time was devoted to those students and expectations were laid upon those students at an early age that they should learn and that time would be devoted to ensuring they would learn...thus they learned. The folks devoting this time understood how to engage with them, contributing to the positive results.

The answer to the education issue is complicated and includes many factors:

1. Start Early. Brain development is at its most rapid pace between birth and 5 years old. Prior to entering kindergarten, students should have spent at least 3 years learning the alphabet, counting, basic reading, finding patterns, following instruction, etc.

2. Understand how to reach the children. If a child does not understand the examples a teacher gives to explain a problem or circumstance, they are less likely to learn from the example. They may not understand because they may not have been exposed to the circumstances described. Additionally, time should be spent to identify students who don't know the basics early in the process (i.e. Kindergarten, Pre-K).

3. Don't blend problems. A behavior problem doesnt mean a student can't or doesnt want to learn. Disruptive behavior may be a cry for help. The results of the behavior problem could be less time for learning, but it doesnt mean the child is not capable. The behavior issues should be addressed, but that should not automatically mean placing behavioral students in classes where learning is not expected.

4. Well Trained and Compensated Teachers. Well Trained and Compensated teachers will likely recognize when children don't know the foundations of the information for their grade level well before any standardized test is administered. Once the issues are identified, they need support in addressing those problems, not a peanut gallery urging them to disregard those students.

5. Community Engagement. A lot of the behavior issues are the result of things going on outside of school. Death in the family, lack of parental support, lack of time spent w/ parents due to work schedules, etc. etc. This list is endless. These problems won't be solved by the school, but acknowledging their impact on the school and working as a unit to find ways to address at least the results of some of these problems will elevate everyone's test scores, not just the students going through the issues.

To the posters who are comfortable with treating their kids the same as their are either completely disrespecting your children or you are not serious about the discussion. I'm sure you don't put leashes on your children's necks, drop them off at kennels to be caged when you go on vacation, or refuse to teach them to use a knife and fork b/c they aren't advanced enough for those endeavors. I'm sure you have not forgone teaching your children how to read and write and speak english. Stop the comparisons. You are disrespecting yourself.

Shamash said...

Anon 12:33

So you miss the point of the "dog" racing analogy...

Most of what you wrote about raising and teaching children applies to dogs as well.

Any good dog trainer will tell you just about the same thing.

Of course, you have to adapt to the natural skills of the dog vs. the human (no dog will read and no human will outrun a greyhound),
but many of the same principles apply.

Start young.

Understand how to reach the dog.

Use well-trained teachers.

Keep the pack in line.

If left alone in the wild without a good upbringing, a greyhound will behave in ways that, well..., we see in some of our children who were basically raised like wild animals.

As for dogs in kennels and leashes...

Well, I've felt exactly that way looking at some of the lower-end daycare centers I've seen around here.

I'm not suggesting that we treat our children exactly as we treat dogs, but just as appropriately based on their abilities.

If we're expecting a good outcome.

Jeff Wise said...


I agree with you that the current crop of education reformers and what not are focusing on avenues that have the best chances of success.

Somewhere some group of people figured it was time to blame teachers and that testing would give us all the data we need to uncover the rainbows and unicorns that is perfect education policy.

It's unfortunate those folks are the loudest and most influential voices right now.

We could be spending all this time to create better systems for educating students individually instead of spinning wheels trying to raise test scores of groups of students.

Anonymous said...

I know a former Myers Park kid who transferred to NWSA. He told me his parents were poor and out of work. His parents eventually had to move out of state. This kid decided to live with his grandmother rather than move with his parents just so he could stay at NWSA. He loved NWSA. He was a good kid. He's in college now. I know another kid who needed a mentor. He lived with me for a while and also with a CMS teacher. He was a good kid too.


Shamash said...


I'd like to see more emphasis on individual education and results as well.

I've NEVER liked the whole idea of being treated as one of the group when it came to MY performance.

But, with all politics, it is the usually the groups who set the rules and get the benefits.

And if you don't play THAT game, then you tend to lose. A lot.

Unfortunately, when one subset of the population plays the group game and another tries to stand as individuals, those standing as individuals tend to get lost in our society.

Many have even made careers and built businesses (maybe even industries?) doing this.

So, even if "the system" is "unconsciously" favoring you and yours, you can't let your guard down one bit today, or you will be the sucker paying for everyone else's party with your resources.

But that's the way we play the game, and so it goes.

I may not have many solutions (esp. since I tend to view this as an individual or family problem, not necessarily MINE to solve), but I can at least help fight some of the groupthink and distortion of facts that is leading us down some silly paths.

I don't see where "blaming" teachers will get us anywhere because I seriously doubt that students take advantage of what they currently have.

After all, I went to public schools myself, so I KNOW what goes on in the classroom.

But I do think there is something to be said about improving the lot of teachers we have.

I really do feel that we don't get our teachers from the top of the barrel, though.

They aren't the bottom, either, but I think they may not be as capable as they could be.

And a lot of this has to do with all the social changes happening around the same time about 50 years ago that we just have not adjusted to very well.

I like the idea of better educated teachers with higher pay and status.

But I don't think that will EVER happen in our society.

And it's very unfortunate, but that means that we just have to pick and choose the schools we send our kids to very carefully.

Anonymous said...

I hope you folks have not gotten the wrong idea about children and dogs. Dog trainers will tell you interesting stories.

All children are loved. How many are cared for? And what do we as a society have a responsibility to do about it? And what then when the government actually creates disincentives for this segment to be socially irresponsible and then imposes by mob rule, "democracy" that we must give up more and more of our hardearned money to support decisions and practices we teach our children not to do?

The question is, can you lead a horse to water and make it drink?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad we could reach common ground regarding some of the underlying issues.

I think daycare centers are an excellent place to start regarding impacting future test scores. Requiring a certain level of instruction for certain age groups would result in a huge boost, and ultimately force the elimination of centers who are just babysitting and not teaching the kids.

Regarding students currently in elementary - high school. Well trained, well compensated teachers, supported by admin staff w/ adequate resources and coordinated community involvement will definitely have an impact.

Stereotyping our kids won't help.

Addressing the underlying issues inhibiting their success will help.

The mentoring programs are definitely a great step in the right direction.

Pamela Grundy said...


As a former member of the Equity Committee, I'd like to reassure you that members of the committee did take everything you wrote quite seriously, and looked at the varying statistics (which were somewhat complex) with the same care that you did. It's hard to do straight-up county-to-county comparisons because the makeup of CMS schools various tremendously. For example, in 2009 proficiency rates for low-income middle school students at CMS schools with poverty rates below 70 percent were 14 points higher than those for low-income middle school students at CMS schools with poverty rates above 70 percent.

For what it's worth, I would not consider Ms. Starks to be a reliable source about the outlook or analytical predilections of other Equity Committee members.

Pamela Grundy said...

That would be "varies," not "various."

Pamela Grundy said...

Lastly, it's great to see Ms. Roseboro working with the kids at Myers Park. No one has ever suggested that going to a diverse school magically eliminates the challenges that low-income students face. What diverse schools offer is broader horizons and greater opportunities (compare the number of AP classes offered at Myers Park with the number offered at Garinger, for example). Kids still need to work and strive to take advantage of those opportunities, and helping hands can make a huge difference.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Pamela and Sharon, the last thing I'd want to do is get between the two of you in a discussion about the EC! :-)

My point was only that it wasn't as if everyone else was snoozing until the Queens report (yeah, maybe I was being a bit defensive). And there definitely are many ways to parse any set of numbers. I suspect the three of us could take the same spreadsheet and come out with three intelligent but very different analyses.

Anonymous said...

What happens if a Garinger student wants to take an AP class that's offered at Myers Park but not at his/her school?

Off topic but...
Does anyone else find it bothersome that Garinger H.S. was designed by a famous architect? The school was featured in National Geographic. What happened? (to the building)


Anonymous said...

2:26, Bright Beginnings started engaging many child development centers years ago. So far, no measureable improvement has persisted past a few grades.

Anonymous said...

For the love of God, don't get me going on the Equity Committee. I'm not a data spreadsheet analyst but I do know that installing some donated ballet barres shouldn't have required a near act of congress. At least you people didn't argue over ballet's French (instead of Swahili?) terminology.


Pamela Grundy said...


You are quite wise.


It's my understanding that the Garinger student would either have to use his/her own transportation to travel to Myers Park to take the class or take it online.

Like many center-city schools, Garinger didn't get regular renovations or upgrades for many years, which was hard on the building. It's incredible how long it has taken for the school to get decently modern science labs (which have been needed for ages but have only now gotten on the schedule to actually be built).

Pamela Grundy said...

2:26, it's incorrect to suggest that in terms of Bright Beginnings "no measurable improvement has persisted past a few grades." Measurements of this particular effort haven't been taken since an early, problematically structured study that was inaccurately reported . You could say no "measured" improvements, because nothing has been measured, but it's incorrect to say "no measurable improvement" because that implies there was none, when it simply hasn't been measured one way or another. Again for what it's worth, accurate studies are extremely different, expensive and time-consuming to do, so very few get done. The really good ones show lasting effects of quality preschool, although none of them were done here in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...


Why doesn't Garinger have some historical architectural status? Will the architects of the new science wing consider the significance of Garinger's original design? The original library was apparently spectacular as were the grounds and layout of the campus. The original campus was considered a state-of-the-art example of modern architecture when it was built. Modern architecture is a matter of personal taste but you wouldn't ruin something built by Frank Lloyd Wright. I think it's a travesty our community has let this school's buildings and campus grounds deteriorate. A school building does reflect the state of education within a community.


Anonymous said...

I have no idea if Garinger offers AP Art History but I'd find it tragic if it didn't given the historical significance of the building. AP Art History includes the study of architecture.


Anonymous said...

I do want to clarify that Garinger was very clean and neat when I took my Praxis exams here. It's only a shear fluke I discovered the building's historical significance. The building I took my exams in was downright depressing. It really was. CMS has maintained the school but our community has abandoned it's important aspects. Garinger's original design elements are considerably worthy. I also find it sad that a police station near the school is considerably nicer with obvious thought put into the design. What does this say?


Jeff Wise said...

To 2:26p, I agree with Pam, that it's oversimplifying to say Bright Beginnings has had no measurable impact.

It's true for the most part that cognitive gains from Pre-K schooling tends to dissipate or regress back to average by the end of elementary grades, however, the true impact of Pre-K is what is inherently learned and internalized by those students.

Twenty years later those students will be by far better employed, have stable homes and have a positive impact on society - regardless of if they get a college degree or just obtain a high school diploma.

Their burden on society, in terms of incarceration costs, welfare costs will be significantly less than if they had low-quality or no pre-k education at all.

Anonymous said...

Jeff so what is it? You seem to have some conclusions, though I have not found a "study" proving this, just more antedodal type stuff. The studies I did find included many, many more aspects of special programs for these children so drawing a conclusion that just pre-K was the sole reason for these "improvements" simply is not true because there was no control group to measure against with all the other programs other than pre-K. The Department of HHS just released a study indicating Head Start did not pan out. With that then, why are politicians so scared to cut them?

Pam has indicated no study has been done due to the cost and complexity of such.

As I said, the few studies that seem to show any benefit at all have an immense number of other programs like Harlem Achievement Zone. So you can not point to just pre-K giving any benefit when so many other factors are in the mix.

Anonymous said...

What is being done at the school, by the school to protect mentors from the students? There have been enough cases with students accusing teachers of all sorts of things ruining their careers in teaching that I would not even consider mentoring high school or middle school. These kids are so different than when I was a PTSA President in a middle school and an high school in the 1990's.

Anonymous said...

What most people do not realize....and I didn't realize it until speaking with people who work every day with the families of kids who get into mentoring that these lauded mentoring programs actually do more harm than good.
Now when I was first told this I must have had a stunned look of disbelief...but it was explained to me in the following way.
When a person mentors a disadvantaged child, things tend to be great between mentor and child. Mentor and child do fun and meaningful things together. However, it's the spillover effects that people don't understand.....when the child goes back home the child harbors resentment towards Mom/Dad because Mom/Dad don't do the fun/meaningful things that the mentor does.....and because it is the mentor doing the fun/meaningful things with the child, the Mom/Dad harbors resentment towards the mentor.
Mentoring programs are the kind of programs that sure make the do gooders feel good.....but at the end of the day, these programs in fact cause more harm than good.
Until we aggressively admit and work to solve the problem of the "wealth gap" there will be no meaningful improvement. And no, there is no such thing as an "achievement gap". It's a "wealth gap" and until we help-force-demand the changes that are needed in our communities and in our society that solve the "wealth gap" - well I hate to say it but we are wasting our money, our breath and our time.

Jeff Wise said...

Happy to oblige.

Economist James Heckman is the best source for showing the benefits of pre-k.

Start here to read his 2010 study analyzing rate of return on the Perry Preschool Project:

He's also studied the effects of people getting their GED's and how they do in society, plus topics on welfare, education and so forth.

Look here for those papers:

Related to that, NPR's Planet Money did a podcast on the benefits of preschool which is a great listen.

That's available here:

nd lastly, NPR's This American Life picked up on that theme with their Back To School episode last fall. They talked with Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed (which uses Heckman's work in part of the book).

You can get a transcript or listen to the episode here:

Anonymous said...

Do you want to actually improve public education?

Here's how you do it:

1) Transition teachers from instructors to facilitators.

2) END age based social promotion. Age based social promotion is the single biggest reason we have such high dropout rates. Think about it....if a child is behind in first grade but is pushed through to second grade (pick any grades you want) the child is now behind. No child goes to school with the though that "I want to struggle and fail" yet we not only allow that to permeate public education, we FORCE IT!
This also works in reverse and holds kids who could soar higher back from reaching their full potential. Why do kids HAVE to graduate with the same kids they started kindergarten with? If some kids graduate at 15 and others graduate at 21, who cares as long as they graduate successfully???!!! And a kid who graduates at 21 instead of landing in jail or the unemployable line at 21 is a whole lot less of a drag on society.

3) Stop putting metrics on everything. My are human beings, not numbers. Teachers see kids all day every day....and teachers know, without test data, which kids are doing well and which kids need help. Instead of spending millions on tests to generate data that make the MBA's feel giddy because they can jam up a fancy pivot table in a spreadsheet, why not use our limited education dollars on programs and ideas that will actually matter.

4) Start paying good and great teachers what they are worth and fire the teachers that are no good. And there are a whole bunch of teachers in each of those categories. That would be a better use of dollars than all of this testing nonsense.

5) Do you understand what a crock "formative" tests are...I mean COME ON....whoever came up with the brilliant idea to spend money and time testing kids on things they have NOT YET BEEN TAUGHT should be fired immediately! If any of you realized how much time is taken away from actual teaching and is wasted on testing this and testing that so the MBA's can have "data".....lets just say if you spent ANY time in an elementary school you would be shocked and dumbfounded at how much instructional time is actually test for data time.

6) Why does each grade have to start on Aug 25 and end on June 10? If a child is ready to go from 2nd grade and 3rd grade in January, why do they have to wait until August???

Fix those things and you will start to see significant improvement.

Wiley Coyote said...

If you want to improve public education, eliminate the US Department of Education.

It's a total waste of $61 BILLION dollars per year and growing.

If it is soooo great, what has it done since 1979?


Anonymous said...

Many lists here leave off parental engagement. I substitute at all types of schools and lack of parental engagement is a common thread. Even "wealthy" parents don't have time for their kids. Driving a kid to a sports activity doesn't count as parental engagement. Sitting down for a family dinner and discussing issues does. I've been in a couple "wealthy" schools where only one kid in class went to see "The Hobbit" during vacation. Are parents too busy to even take kids to a movie and make connections to literature? God forbid they should be motivated to pick up a great book. We live in times where education simply isn't valued, period. The Dept. of Education and CMS can't fix the parenting problem. As someone said here, foreign cultures DO value our education system. Oftentimes, that is enough to counter any challenge placed in their kids path.

Shamash said...


If you're referring to the Heckman papers and his references to the Perry Preschool Project (1962), keep in mind that project was a long time ago, using only a small number of blacks at risk (low IQ, as they were called back then) just outside Detroit.

The Perry Preschool Project involved just 128 children, 64 who received some rather intensive preschool intervention (much more intense than Bright Beginnings) and 64 in the control group, at an estimated cost of over $11,000 per child per year in 2007 dollars.


While that is certainly a start, it isn't enough to convince me that they would have the same effect today with our MUCH WORSE family situations.

I still have my doubts, though, about whether what worked in the 1960's would still work today.

In particular, I doubt that they would see the same reduction in out of wedlock births.

For some reason, I think this problem is a little more ingrained and acceptable in todays society and goes beyond what is typically covered in a pre-school program for 3 and 4year olds.

Even when you consider the "soft-skills" they might have gained, I think the outside influences to do otherwise are stronger now.

Not that people shouldn't keep trying, but I don't think they've found the silver bullet just yet.

I'd like to see studies of other pre-school results to see what their results were, since I don't think most were as intensive as the Perry Project back in 1962.

One thing about this project, though, is that they DID do some proper followup.

I'm not so sure the other projects are as carefully monitored for effectiveness.

They just seem to "feel" right, so they get done...

And that concerns me.

Shamash said...

Anon 6:39.

Gosh, I didn't take my kid to see The Hobbit last vacation, either.

But we did take him to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown during Thanksgiving break.

Does that count?

And we aren't wealthy, either.

I do agree, though, that the problem with most kids education is probably due to the parents.

I've just seen too many poor Chinese parents with smart kids who study hard to think otherwise.

Basically, we accept "poverty" as an excuse far too easily. The real problem is most likely the family.

I'm not so sure gubmint intervention is the answer to that, though.

Unless we bring back orphanages.

Shamash said...

Anon 9:55

I pretty much agree with most of your points.

However, I don't see a problem testing kids on things they "haven't been taught".

Now, maybe holding teachers responsible for that (or giving them credit for it) is a problem, but not the fact that they're being tested beyond what is typically taught.

That's because we constantly teach our children things they DO NOT cover in the classroom.

As a result, my child knows many things THEY HAVEN'T BEEN TAUGHT in the schools.

Now, what's pathetic to me is that the schools get the CREDIT for what my child has learned from us (as if they had anything to do with it...).

My son is 2 years ahead in math because of OUR FAMILY EFFORTS, not because of what the schools teach or the talents of his teachers (which are fine, BTW, for what they teach).

And I know other children whose families can say the same thing.

And, yes, they tend to go to the "better" schools, so I'm SURE teachers get "credit" for the family's efforts.

Just as they get blame for the family's failures...

Shamash said...
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Shamash said...
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Shamash said...

Jeff 9:38.

(I keep thinking of things to add...)

I appreciate the other references, as I do tend to read them when I get the time (not too keen on audio, though, maybe a transcript).

However, one of my main points (if I have any...) is that I seriously doubt that government intervention is a cure for bad parenting.

I really don't like seeing the government getting into that business as I think it just fosters more dependence and irresponsibility.

And is a bottomless pit.

The history of the benefits of government "welfare" efforts has not been impressive enough for me to think otherwise.

As an example, I do not want to see $11,000 per child, per year spent on pre-school "intervention" for 3 and 4 year olds (Perry Project) as part of our "education" funding for parents who just aren't there for the most part.

Especially when, at the same, time we have talented kids at the top (see Kavi Jain article) who have to have cake sales (or whatever) to fund a math club so they can compete in a math contest at Harvard-MIT.

It's a matter of priorities.

And I'd like to see more spent on those who are at school to learn and whose parents care.

The upcoming Kavi Jain's of the world.

Get the social services elsewhere.

Jeff Wise said...

Shamash (and anyone else still reading),

Yes, Perry Preschool Project was 50 years ago, but it's also been a longitudinal study. Lots of people dismiss the data out of hand without reading through Heckman's papers. He addresses most of the issues that you raise.

But you're right that these studies, in the wrong policy maker's hands could create unneeded government intervention.

It's not having preschool or the government step in as replacement parents, but providing a resource for what's already there.

Pre-K doesn't replace parenting, it's a place for 3- and 4-year olds to learn foundational skills.

Paul Tough's book outlines some programs that include parents in an effort to help them understand the effects of parenting, so sure that's government assistance, but outside the educational realm, so outside the nature of this post.

But simply because Perry Preschool was 50 years ago does not, in and of itself, make it invalid.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, ...just because it was 50 years ago does not...

While you are somewhat right Jeff, conditions have changed. 50 years ago, the government was not so much in everyone's business. The sense of entitlement had not taken root. The urban culture had not polluted these kids. The urban culture had not infected the other kids and communities.

So I would submit the testing environment and other parameters have changed so much that yes, the conclusions may well be invalid.

As for mentors, mentoring is not what it used to be in Mayor Foxx's day. Mentors must be more defensive and second guessing of their every word and action if they are of a different race or gender. Lastly, I might would think that if a mentor is introduced to a student these days, the student figures out they have been identified as a "loser" and might would also suffer from ridicule from their friends.

Anonymous said...


You cite a 1960s study, but just in the past 30 years, we have greatly dumbed down our culture. We now spend quite a lot of time focusing on the misadventures of Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and Kim Kardashian. We have pushed the envelope of TV so that what used to be restricted as "R" rated is now in a 9 pm sitcom. We all laugh at conservative views, hard work, thriftiness and studiousness. Rap music flashes guns and loose women. 8 of 10 babies born to black households in Feb. 2013 will be born into single parent households...and nobody raises an eyebrow. We tell young minorities that their only shot is music or sports. So, we start the kids off in challenged families and proceed to stuff them with the wrong societal signals...and we're surprised that teachers can't turn this around in the few hours they have available? The only way to combat this is more hours at school and year around schools. Society must control more of these kid's time to fight all the wrong stuff that's thrown at them....immigrants know this and force their kids to spend almost as much time with their studies as home as at school.

Shamash said...


I read at least one of Heckman's papers pretty carefully on the topic, and he didn't answer my questions in it.

Anyway, the more I look into these various "studies" the more I find to be skeptical about. That's just my nature, I guess.

One source I used is called "Social Programs That Work" (so, see, I am looking for THINGS THAT WORK) and includes the Perry Project, but NOT as its TOP TIER project..

It also includes a supposedly TOP TIER study in which all these great and wonderful things Heckman attributes to soft-skills gained in the Perry Study (hs dropout reduction, prison reduction, etc.,etc.,etc.) were achieved by a simple pre-natal nursing visit just ONCE A MONTH during pregnancy and the first two years after birth.

Well, THAT program was a "success", too, and at a cost of only $12,000 over the three years (in 2010 dollars)... nearly 1/4 the cost of the Perry Preschool project.

And it just had ONE person showing up ONE day a month.

Not a bunch of daycare delivered every day.

WOW!, talk about bang for your buck.

So it seems that EVERYONE has a pet project worth funding out there.

And that's what bothers me.

It seems that as long as there is money to be made from these poor folk, there will always be projects.

I wonder how well the Perry Project would compare to ACTUALLY GIVING THE PARENTS $11000 per kid for a few years to spend as they pleased.

Of course, the cynic in me says that more crack, meth, and alcohol won't help the family, but maybe they could get some restrictions over the purchases.

Or maybe they could just send around some "chat lady" to visit these parents and chat with them at home from time to time so they feel wanted.

It really makes me wonder exactly what is REALLY needed to get these results.

Maybe it's not ANYTHING nearly as intensive as Perry Project level daycare.

Shamash said...

Wouldn't it be a bit ironic if they did a study which found that simply doing ANY longitudinal study on an "at risk" population was enough to get solid positive results in their behavior.

You know, the old idea that someone watching you makes you straighten up your act a bit.

It' a bit like substituting gubmint for an all-seeing God.

I know having company over often gets us to clean up our house more carefully than we normally would.

So maybe it would work.

Shamash said...

Anon 1:25

Lastly, I might would think that if a mentor is introduced to a student these days, the student figures out they have been identified as a "loser" and might would also suffer from ridicule from their friends.

Uh, yes.

There have been studies about that.

I think it's called the "Stereotype Threat" and apparently affects black students right around SAT time.

Any situation in which they might confirm a stereotype is under suspicion.

So I suspect getting a mentor just might have the same effect.

Shamash said...

I was almost joking, but darned if I didn't find a source for the "stereotype threat" caused by whites mentoring blacks.

Will it never end?

Handbook of Youth Mentoring
By David L. DuBois, Michael J. Karcher

Page 193...

"White mentors might do or say things that lead their mentees to experience stereotype threat"...

Honestly, I can't make this stuff up.

Or I can make it up, but when I DO, predictably, there is a study out there...

Anonymous said...

Shamash, believe me, there is a study that will support any position you wish to take when it comes to anything around public education. Find me one study that says one thing, I can find you a study that says the opposite. This is courtesy of your Department of Education funding college research and keeping that clientele addicted to your tax dollars.

Shamash said...

Anon 9:13pm

I sincerely believe that you speak the truth.

Someone should do a study.

If they already haven't...

Maybe the problem (as at least one prominent sociologist - Herbert Gans - has suggested...) that TOO MANY PEOPLE benefit from poverty and dysfunction for the powers that be to WANT to solve their problems.

Including the researchers....

Anonymous said...

Shamash, no truer words were ever spoken! You hit the nail on the head. We also see how "community organizers" also benefit. The government is fully aware of the "crack" they addict all these people to.