Friday, July 12, 2013

Does switching students fix a school?

How do you fix a failing school?  Charlotte-Mecklenburg's turnaround plan for Hawthorne High illustrates the slippery nature of that all-important question.

You have to start by defining a failing school.  For the purposes of North Carolina's school improvement grants,  falling into the bottom 5 percent for performance on English and math exams qualifies.  That's a group that includes Hawthorne,  where fewer than 40 percent of students passed English I and algebra I in 2012.  Based on that,  CMS recently received a three-year grant.

But low scores at Hawthorne are hardly a surprise. It has been an alternative school serving ninth-graders who failed eighth-grade reading and math exams.

The CMS improvement strategy?  Phase out that program and replace it with a health science magnet.  The switch is almost guaranteed to boost pass rates.

The new Hawthorne High may well provide a valuable resource for students,  who will get a chance to work with nearby hospitals to prepare for high-demand careers.  But as a school improvement plan,  it seems a bit like reducing a hospital's mortality rates by replacing the intensive care unit with a maternity ward.  The numbers will improve,  but what does that meant for the sickest patients?


Anonymous said...

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! That headline is so funny. No, switching students won't fix anything. The students and parent have to want to be successful. Maybe if we (the tax payers) give them MORE FREE stuff they'll behave?

Wiley Coyote said...

This reminds me of the scene in the Untouchables, where Ness (Kevin Costner) forces a corrupt judge in the Capone trial to switch a jury from another case in the building with the tainted jury deciding Capone's fate.

I've said it a thousand times, it doesn't matter where you go to school, what the ethnic makeup is or the poverty rate. At the end of the day, every child has to learn to read, write and do math.

You either learn it or you don't.

Putting lipstick on a pig solves nothing.

Anonymous said...

Does changing superintendents fix a school system?

Need one say more?

Anonymous said...


Pay teachers more and bring back their benefits!

Common Goals for a Common Core

Anonymous said...

So where do the students who fail eighth grade reading and math go? Will they be served at Hawthorne as well?

Anonymous said...

Another useless attempt to solve the poor management issue by CMS. Change a low performing school with educators dont change the topic. Now your going to have to bus kids in as a magnet program costing you even more precious dollars. Heath it pretty simple make sense based decisions (without consultants) and drive educational results. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

Yes it fixes schools. Look at Independence. One of the worst schools in the county three years ago and now one of the better performing schools in the county. Back when it was decided not to use Rocky River for the Town of Mint Hill, even though it is located in Mint Hill, a majority of the Town's kids were districted back to Independence from Butler. Independence largely resembles itself from the 80's and early 90's when it was a very desirable school. Also might add that Butler's performance went down after the rezoning. So yes....students can change a school.

Anonymous said...

9:06, that's a good question. The coming year has been described as a transition/phase-in, but the school web page for Hawthorne says nothing about the alternative programs now. I think, but can't swear, that the plan is to send the low-scoring kids to their regular schools (this year is complicated by lack of scores as school begins).

Anonymous said...

Well, of course, the students can change the outcomes. The teachers DO change it, but can only lead the students to the knowledge and can only ENCOURAGE the parents/guardians. From mentoring young men, I've found the amazing: sometimes bright ones "hide" their "smarts" so the others don't make fun of them ("diss"). I agree about Independence! Till something can be done to make the learning valued by the parents and the students... the way it is with the students.

Anonymous said...

Does moving dollars from wasteful administration to schools improve schools?
Does changing parents improve schools?
Does paying STEM more than phys ed teachers improve schools?
Does eliminating all the area superintendents improve schools?
Does personal responsibility improve schools?
Does eliminating sports at one high school improve schools?
Does sharing football stadiums improve schools?
Does requiring school uniforms at one school improve schools?
Does having an all male & all female HS improve schools?

Anonymous said...

This is to go along with the question about what will happen to the failing kids now served at Hawthorne. Several have written about improvements at Independence once the population changed. So what happened to the kids who were dragging down Independence? Did they get moved to Rocky River? If so, how are they faring there? If not, where are they?
If failing kids who formerly would have been served at Hawthorne are going to be in their regular schools will they have specialized help there? Or will they just have to fend for themselves (or not)? Won't their poor scores then drag down their home schools?

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 9:14...

How does it "fix" a school?

So if we take all the students from Ardrey Kell and switch them with West Charlotte, that solves the problem? All of the students at West Charlotte magically perform well just by being in the Ardrey Kell building?

I can sum up the direction of CMS in two words; Chicago, Detroit.

CMS is 68% minority. Mecklenburg County is 40% minority.

CMS is about 32% White, Mecklenburg County is 60% White and declining.

The one, absolute, predictable thing about CMS and public education in general, is that the powers that be will continue to keep their collective heads buried in the sand and refuse to face the reality of the problem(s) and attempt to do anything about them...

Unknown said...

The ONLY way to fix a failing school is to improve the instruction in that school! Establish what students should know and be able to do at the end of each course; create assessments to know if they know it; and develop systems of support and re-teaching for students who are struggling! I turned around three low perfoing schools with this method AND a group of teachers who were dedicated to the work! It is hard work, BUT it can be done!

Anonymous said...

9:48-- I think you've got it backwards, West Charlotte would perform well and Ardrey Kell's performance would drop. Nothing magical about buildings.

Wiley Coyote said...


That's what I said.

Wiley Coyote said...


That's the standard mission statement at every school district.

The mission is never fulfilled due to politics and political correctness, where everything is based on diversity.

Diversity is the killer.

Put programs in place that will ensure ALL children have the OPPORTUNITY to learn. Allocate assets to fit the needs of every school and child.

Beyond that, if they don't get it, too bad. Move on. The days of holding up the system to save one kid needs to be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Stop focusing on test results and go back to being sure students actually learn something. Teacher bonuses based on overall pass rates only encourage continuance of systemic problems. Since many students in alternative schools have other issues that prevent complete focus at school and testing will inevitably remain, fix those too so that test scores improve.

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

8th graders that failed will be right back at their same school, even if they failed at a magnet school.

Anonymous said...

Ann, your headline is straight from the 1980's and 1990's of CMS. My middle class integrated neighborhood was reassigned regularly to keep any school from having a failing rating more than 2 years straight.

CMS has got to come up with a better scheme for alternative schools and just deal with it. Right now, they just want to keep punishing the productive students and their parents.

Anonymous said...

I had a co-worker who was PTSA president at West Charlotte a number of years ago. I had had a child at West Charlotte and had to pull them out for their safety only to realize when I put them at a private school, they could only do 9th grade math as a senior.

I asked him what he thought the school ratings would be if you bused the West Charlotte kids to Providence and voce versa. He quickly answered the school ratings would follow becuase he knew the teachers were good, just demoralized with the additional burden the West Charlotte kids brought to school. He also said that if the Providence teachers just refused to deal with those issues and just taught, the kids would turn around. Once again proving in many cases in CMS, "the inmates are runnign the asylum" if of course the illiterate baby mamas are not.

Anonymous said...

9:14 I think you missed the point in the article. If you change a school to a magnet you have the following.
1) Busing cost rise
2) The low performers dont learn more or go away. They are still in the system for CMS to handle.
3) GPA may rise at the new Magnet , but drop at another school who "adopts" the low performers.
I agree kids can learn and teachers can teach , but this is not the case involved. This is a shell game CMS is playing and the end result will be cooked data we have all seen this one before. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

Pay Teachers and bring back their Benefits.

This will keep and attract the best and brightest.Quality instruction will produce quality scores. Enough with the feel good stories and TFA. Production will go up with proper incentives, not putting the whip to the mules.

Common Goals for a Common Core

Wiley Coyote said...

..."keep and attract the best and brightest". How many times have we heard that?

James Edwards: Maybe you already answered this, but, why exactly are we here?

Zed: [noticing a recruit raising his hand] Son?

Second Lieutenent Jake Jenson: Second Lieutenant, Jake Jenson. West Point. Graduate with honors. We're here because you are looking for the best of the best of the best, sir!

[throws Edwards a contemptible glance]

Second Lieutenent Jake Jenson: [Edwards laughs]

Zed: What's so funny, Edwards?

James Edwards: Boy, Captain America over here! "Best of the best of the best, sir!" "With honors." Yeah, he's just really excited and he has no clue why we're here.

Anonymous said...

1:22 & Wiley : It could not have been put any better that your last comments. In any industry you get what you pay for. CMS case is the acutal workers on the front line get trampled and the "execs" in the tower are "OVER" paid.
I do know that CMS is at least interviewing candidate teachers for the coming year already which is a positive since they usually wait until 2 weeks before the start of the year. In my eyes thats a proactive approach one I have never witnessed CMS use so hats off to the leader this year Heath !! Keith W. Hurley

Pamela Grundy said...

The power of American popular culture: the same movie scene can be a touchstone for people with sharply divergent political views. What does this say about corporate ed reform?

Wiley Coyote said...

Corporate education reform?

What are the excuses for failing public schools prior to the latest corporate education reform fad?

We can debate, corporate education reform, teacher pay, testing, Common Core, closing schools, etc. all day long. The fact is, public education has been stagnate for decades and nothing I see coming down the pike - on either side - is going to fix it.

Pamela Grundy said...

Apologies for being hopelessly obscure.

Wiley and I differ sharply on most things politically.

However, we both seem to be quite fond of the same iconic Men In Black scene, and we are also both deeply skeptical about corporate reform.

Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

According to the 2010 United States Census, the racial composition of Charlotte was:

Non-Hispanic Whites: 45.1%
Black or African American: 35.0%
Hispanic or Latino American (of any race): 13.1%
Asian American: 5.0%
Native American: 0.5%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
some other race: 6.8%
two or more races: 2.7%
In 1970, the Census Bureau reported Charlotte's population as 30.2% Black and 68.9% non-Hispanic White.[34]

Anonymous said...

Look at Barringer Academic Center, for example. Test scores still below state average even after making it a partial magnet for gifted kids and having some of the highest performing students in CMS bussed there from all over the county.

The real question is how poorly are the neighborhood kids still performing on testing to have the testing scores remain below average in these partial magnet schools? Check third grade scores by race and Asian/White/TD scores are >95% while African American scores are at 42%. TD scores significantly skew the data and then the kids who are struggling are overlooked when the average scores are inflated over what they would be if the magnet program were not in place at that school (which of course is why it was placed there in the first place).

If CMS prioritizes resources based on low scores, the method of inflating the scores by inserting a TD program in it does not truly address the children struggling within that local community who attend that school. While other low performing schools are getting year-round programs and other needed attention, the needs of these children are hidden from view and overlooked. Shell game indeed 9:14.