Monday, March 10, 2014

Irwin mom: This isn't good enough

A parent voicing concern about test scores isn't unusual,  but Colette Forrest's email grabbed my attention.

She was writing about Irwin Academic Center,  a magnet for gifted students and other children whose parents want them to learn from techniques developed for the most talented kids.  The school  (formerly at Villa Heights)  routinely tops most Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools on test scores and is generally viewed as a haven of high achievement for students of all races.  Just before Forrest emailed school board members and other elected officials,  Irwin received a national magnet school award.

But Forrest was up in arms about a state report card showing that 67.5 percent of Irwin's black students and 54.5 percent of its Hispanic students had passed both reading and math exams last year,  compared with more than 95 percent of white students.

"That is not acceptable!"  Forrest wrote.  She said she had raised the issue at a PTA meeting,  volunteering to reach out to minority parents whose children are struggling and suggesting that the school recruit mentors from groups that have a record of helping such students.

Forrest said her own 6-year-old son is testing well above grade level.  But she can't accept failure for his classmates:  "I will do whatever I can for ALL the kids at Irwin, because it is NOT just about my African-American son, but ALL children MUST succeed and yes, especially his fellow African-American peers."

When I started covering education more than a decade ago, I was taken aback by what seemed to be a double standard:  Scores that would barely rate as adequate for schools with mostly white and affluent students were celebrated for high poverty schools populated mostly by black and Hispanic ones.  Now,  for better or worse,  I've internalized the reality that pervades public education across the country:  Those gaps are so huge and so pervasive that it's hard not to celebrate even modest progress toward closing them.  Superintendent Heath Morrison's staff recently rolled out goals for his five-year strategic plan.  One is to get black students' pass rate on reading and math exams to within 22.5 percentage points of white students' rate by 2018.  Last year that gap was 45.1 points.

By that standard,  Irwin is a resounding success.  Black students there are almost five times as likely to pass reading and math tests as black students across North Carolina.  The black-white gap at Irwin is around 30 percentage points,  but that's partly because white students did so well.  Morrison hopes to get the districtwide gap down to that level in a couple of years.

Some people will tell you that certain types of kids from certain types of families just can't or won't excel. 

Forrest isn't buying that.  She says she's the child of unmarried teen parents,  both of whom died before they turned 20.  The grandmother who raised her hadn't finished middle school,  Forrest says,  but stressed the value of education.  Forrest became her family's first college graduate.

"At 40 I had my first and only child,"  she writes,  "and now my son and I know we are poised to excel because we know our strength and it is our job to strengthen others."

Here's what strikes me:  She didn't write to public officials to say,  "You're failing my child; what are you going to do about it?"

She said,  "We're failing our children.  What can we do about it?"

Imagine what might happen if more people asked that question.


Zane said...

Irwin Mom, thanks for your honesty. I wish you and your son the best, keep doing it the right way.

Evan Freeman said...

We need strong community leaders to lead after-school programs. With an issue as complex as this, there needs to be parity in as many aspects of life as possible.

I would love to teach a class on how to open a business geared towards high school students. All it takes is self-empowerment and real change is possible!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Irwin Mom--you are part of the "solution" not part of the problem--you care. I have been involved with the schools for over 30 years and the issues are clearly lack discipline and its counterpart lack of respect. Until those issues are addressed for what they are as opposed to it being couched in racial divide, racism, etc---it will not change. But one voice, such as yours can start the process.....

bobcat99 said...

Ms. Forrest, thank you for raising this important issue. We all have to keep trying. Our economy and our society depend on bridging these gaps. If the history of response to Ann's columns is any indicator, you are about to get slammed with all sorts of racial stereotyping and vitriol. Don't take it personally and, even more importantly, don't let it stop you from speaking out. Such comments are evidence that some of my fellow white citizens are more interested in feeling superior than addressing real problems. What I take from this article is that I need to get back to volunteering tutoring time. I had slacked off this year.

Ettolrahc said...

Darn Lady, run for school board you have said more about getting our schools fixed than our school board has said or even spent money on in the last twenty years.

Wiley Coyote said...

Ms. Forrest's story is certainly inspiring and a reminder that no matter what your situation is in life, you can succeed and pass that success down to your own children - without excuses.

We've been through this scenario for decades.

Ann, you reported this over two years ago:

“Progress has been painfully slow, and at the rate we are moving in Charlotte it will still be 15 years before the achievement gap is closed,” said former superintendent Pete Gorman.

The "gap" is nothing new. We continue to compare races for what reason?

What do Detroit and Chicago schools systems compare their students to due to virtually no White students attending those schools?


African-American: 41.6%
Latino: 44.1%
White: 8.8%
Asian/Pacific Islander: 3.4%
Native American: 0.4%


White: 10.6%
African American: 82.7%
American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.4%
Asian: 1.1%
Pacific Islander: 0%
Two or More Races: 2.2%
Hispanic or Latino: 6.8%

Here we are two weeks into March with no demographic data from CMS. The White student population could have increased, decreased or stayed the same from last year's 32%.

If that 32% continues to drop, CMS will become another school system with one less statistic to compare to Whites.

Educate the children and get out of the race business once and for all.

John said...

Ms. Forrest's success is due to having a grandmother who cared and who stressed the importance of education. Her son's success is due to her being the same kind of parent.

If you truly want to fix the problem, you have to start in the home. Parental involvement is key to student success.

It's no coincidence that public school performance started to decline when schools started trying to take over parenting!

Anonymous said...

Obviously the school can only do so much; it is what happens at home that accounts for the disparity. No amount of 'spending' can replace good parenting.

Anonymous said...

Can we please replace the dinosaur race baiters such as Dr Leake, with forward thinking, community minded acheivers such as Ms Forrest? Our schools and children would be so much better off with a role model preaching that it can be done, vs the BS we here from the race baiters that "you cannot stand tall" because the white man is holding you back.
As mentioned by Wiley, what is CMS going to compare the blacks to in the near future? The white population continues to drop in the school district, with no change in sight. The focus solely on race by the Dr Leake's of the world, has done the biggest dis-service to our community than anyone in our city's history, yet she is voted in every year.

Anonymous said...

I think the mom highlighted the best solutions while citing her own experiences. I would also add that getting rid of the ridiculous Common Core standards would make it easier for parents to help their children at home, especially in math.
Good luck to her!

Anonymous said...

Proof yet again that good, and involved, parenting produces the best results in children. Yet rather than expound on that, the liberal largesse comes shining through in asking what WE can do to help those failing students. The problem is always OURS to solve. It isn't enough to raise one's own children, the resonsibility is OURS to raise these poor "unfortunate" ones as well. Yes, it may very well take a village, but I for one am sick and tired of the freeloading welfare filth blaming their childrens' failures on me. Never once is the responsibility, or the blame, laced on them. And if it were, then you can bet what card would come flying out of the deck. Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ben Carson was raised in Detroit by a poor, single mom who could not read. He became director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins at 33 years old. He is famous for separating conjoined twins. His mother stressed the value of reading and education.
Sounds like the mother in this article.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:37: You are spot on about Common Core. I have never seen something so ridiculous in my 30 years teaching. It definitely impairs the average parent's ability to help their child.
This mother is on the right path. She should run for BOE.

Anonymous said...

When you have a goal that your black students should achieve a percentage below white students aren't you starting with a premise that they are inherently inferior? You fail the kids when you say that doing 80% as well as a white student is success. As to how to fix it, that is a societal issue as much as anything else. After school programs? You have to provide transportation. You have at least two generations of minority parents that unfortunately have a majority of households that also have no mom and dad, the mom is very young, and the grandmom is also very young, and has lived on assistance all her life. Dad? Not even part of the discussion is it? The truth that black leaders keep failing to address is that the black community has failed itself. And now, the white community is expected to raise their children and yours too. It's not going to happen. Unfortunately, the axiom of physician heal thyself applies, and until every black church has volunteers after school hours to help kids with homework or provide a good haven for study, or community centers do the same. The solution has to happen where the kids live or it won't work.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if black leaders, say like Obama, stood up and told the truth to their community and actually held them accountable. Is it time for that yet, or should we wait a few more years and throw a few more billion dollars at it?

I didn't vote for him, but admire Obama's Mom for working so hard with him, even waking him up at 4am to study and read with him before her work shift. It can be done, no more excuses.

Unknown said...


In his first year here, Dr. Morrison said he could do what Ms. Forrest asks. His answer came after a couple of weeks of going back and forth over a very contentious subject: Cultural Competency. The Superintendent feels that is one of the keys to giving Ms. Forrest what she wants. The heart of the idea is that no child should be left-out or denied, intentionally or unintentionally.

What’s missing in the article is the timetable.

When Gerald Ford became President he had the problem of high and rising inflation. His economic advisers came-up with the slogan Whip Inflation Now, which of course has the acronym WIN. They made WIN buttons, gave one to Ford. He was to wear it in his economy speech. When he walked to the podium he had turned the button upside-down. NIM. “No Immediate Miracles,” he said.

I’ve only been involved in education since 2004. I’ve heard lots of timetables. Mostly I’ve heard “it’s time to change the timetable.” The most recent schedule is that students arrive at school unprepared for the learning process. Teachers work like the dickens with them every day for thirteen years. Groups like L.I.F.T. have PowerPoints that show by changing teaching methods and paying higher salaries those children will catch-up to their peers by graduation. Mostly I think I hear no immediate miracles.

If you’re an underprepared student who arrives hoping to graduate in thirteen years from a North Carolina school, your odds have gotten worse. You may graduate but likely by just squeezing under the line. Even then you can’t tell about the quality.

CMS recently upped the graduation rate by lowering the requirements. NCDPI destroyed the reporting system so that data isn’t reliable. The General Assembly decided its Republican majority were better experts than the previous Democrats and then fell flat on their faces.

I agree with Ms. Forrest’s.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

When does blaming the teachers start?

Anonymous said...

These comments that she should run for school board crack me up. What idea has she proposed? So, a black woman wrote a letter about how she is a good parent and the schools are somehow to blame for the racial divides in achievement. Hogwash, just displacing blame.

Anonymous said...

Here's another way for us to boost student academic performance (From last week's Psychiatry Today magazine)

"Teenagers in schools that have moved their start times to 8:30 a.m. or later show fewer depressive symptoms and better academic performance than more sleep-deprived peers".

Shamash said...

Each parent CAN make a difference.

Starting with their own children.

Don't leave your child's education to the "village".

Because today, the "idiots" are running the "village".

Celebrating LESS failure as success for ANY group of people is sad.

Setting low expectations is bad for all children.

But the "village" is so good at it.

Unfortunately the "big bucks" today are devoted to failure not success.

So many people's careers depend on children failing that there seems to be little incentive to change.

At least not from the educrats and those of all stripes who are looking to make "big bucks" off education, whether through "high-stakes" tests, or putting their relatives on the payroll of the latest fly-by-night "academy".

It's up to the parents (and TAXPAYERS) to call them out on this.

Hold EVERYONE accountable.

From bad public schools to bad charter schools to bad teachers and administrators and bad parents and bad students.

The technology and infrastructure in most of our schools are adequate today.

There is water in the troughs, but the horses still aren't drinking.

People make the difference.

This is a start.

Shamash said...

"Teenagers in schools that have moved their start times to 8:30 a.m. or later show fewer depressive symptoms and better academic performance than more sleep-deprived peers".

Man, Daylight Savings Time must be killing some of you folks.

Anonymous said...

The most important thing in a child's life is TIME, time spent with a parent. Not time spent with an I-phone, or a video game, or an after school program, but time with a parent. Those are the children who are most successful and happy.

Double trouble said...

Daylight savings time has nothing to do with the ludicrous CMS school start time of 7:15am for our high school students. That just means they will be even more exhausted and disconnected this week.

Shamash said...

Daylight savings time has a lot to do with those "circadian" rhythms everyone keeps harping about.

It's making those kids get up an hour earlier than they have been.

Just as the sun was starting to rise at 7am, too.

So, even if you do change the start time to 8:15 am, DST kicks in and makes them get up at 7:15am according to the natural world of things such as sunrises and sunsets.

Why do you say this will only affect them a week? Shouldn't it be affecting them for the rest of the school year?

Anonymous said...

The saying "it takes a village" is the battlecry of the liberals to extract as much of the hard earned money from the producers of this country to pay people to be non-producers and simply create more and more societal "albatrosses" to hold this society down as with cement boots.

Ms. Forest is entirely correct in her observations. I was most aghast in the 1999 trial here of Cappichione, Gauvreau and others when CMS marched teachers to the stand and had them testify how they discrinminated against blacks and essentially held them back by holding them to lower expectations. The crowd cheered and the teachers were held as heroes in the press.

I've been in the school system with children since the md 1980's. I easily identify with high achieving blacks we were associated with in the gifted classes and the optional schools. It was apparent when the parents cared about what school to get thier children into that the family had shirked the "victim" stereotype and simply let their character speak for themselves. I still see children now adults, both black and white, I helped in tutoring, computer labs, or assisting the teacher and they come speak to me.

Today's income gap is due to the education gap as Ben Bernake put it. Leave it to a liberal government to get us into this bind we are econmoically.

Anonymous said...

To the commenter on sleep deprivation, yes you are correct, starting classes at 8:30 a.m. aligns the school day with the adolescent biological clock.

CMS has proven its unable to make common sense decisions on a host of important, data driven issues that would benefit our students. Why would school start times be any different?

Shamash said...

If you really want to be "fair" to all those early-rising kids suffering from screwed up circadian rhythms,then you need to start school relative to sunrise and sunset across the nation.

Otherwise, you're being grossly unfair to kids living on the western border of ALL the time zones.

There can be almost an hour's difference in sunrise between someone living in East Alabama and someone living in West Texas.

And there are also seasonal differences in sunlight as you go further north.

I wonder how the kids in Finland manage to sleep with the Midnight Sun and all that disturbing their circadian rhythms.

No wonder they are such miserable failures.

Oh, wait, they aren't...

Anonymous said...

It all cannot be done in school. It comes down to parents at home. What are they doing at home to encourage their child's participation and progress. I would wager that not as much as needs to be done. Volunteer mentors can help at school but not at home. You can't just keep throwing money at the schools in hopes it will make all the difference when it will not. When will people learn that teaching starts at home?

Shamash said...

I just love these "studies" on circadian rhythms.

Most of them I've seen say you can adjust those rhythms by cutting off the lights earlier and getting more natural light in the morning.

Even the studies about adolescent sleep say that (if they're being honest), don't they?

Usually like this:

"Sleep experts say dimming the lights at night and getting lots of daylight in the morning can help. Having a routine bedtime of 10 p.m., sleeping in a cool environment and turning off music, the Internet, and televisions would help to reset the body clock. "

Double trouble said...

Shamash, I don't give a rat's butt what is happening in the western part of time zones or in Finland for that matter. What matters most to me is the fact that my kids go to CMS and that this school system does not make decisions based on logic or scientific data. I spoke recently to my son's high school principal, one of the best in south charlotte, about this issue and he agreed and says it would be so much better for the students to have a later start time(And that's from one of the high flyers in CMS).

I know that I am not alone on this issue. 36 school districts across the US have changed their high school start times in the past 2 years.

Wiley Coyote said...



Mathematics: The percentage of students in Alaska who performed at or above the NAEP Basic level was 77 percent in 2013

North Carolina:

Mathematics: The percentage of students in North Carolina who performed at or above the NAEP Basic level was 75 percent in 2013.

SAT Scores:


Critical Reading SAT Score: 520 (Ranking 28)
Math SAT Score: 516 (Ranking 31)
Writing SAT Score: 492 (Ranking 38)
Total SAT Score: 1528 (Ranking 32)

North Carolina:

Critical Reading SAT Score: 495 (Ranking 42)
Math SAT Score: 511 (Ranking 36)
Writing SAT Score: 480 (Ranking 41)
Total SAT Score: 1486 (Ranking 39)

As you said.....excuses, excuses, excuses...

Anonymous said...

Wiley Coyote- I would like to shake your hand! Best reply thus far!
Take race out of the equation and focus on the education.
Great citizens come from all walks of life, race, and upbringing- all it takes is determination and drive on the part of the person themself.
How do we expect to close a racial divide when stats like this continue to be used?

Attended the NACAC College Fair yesteday where one of the seminars was directed specifically towards black students and their families- Why? Shouldn't it be a level playing field then too?

Ettolrahc said...

Anon 9:29 Read this story and come back and comment.

You seem to have commented on another story.

The Woman is saying the problem is spread around with Parents and the school system.

And like I said during a meeting at West Charlotte, if half of us got in our cars and they would not start we would do something about it today.

But yet, we allow half thee kids to drop out and not a sound from the Churches, the Black Leaders or those folks who always show up for something or the other to just protest or complain.

the home said...

This is not a race issue. It is a family issue. Kids do well that come from two parent households that hold the child accountable and responsible for school, and provide the atmosphere necessary for the kid to succeed. Kids that don't come from those types of families, including whites, don't do as well. Is that surprising?

Of course the stats make it seem like a racial issue because there are higher percentages of single parent households in non-white populations.

In the past six years, how often has Obama been in our poorest neighborhoods talking to the people (white, black, purple) about the need to have strong, supportive two parent households with working, educated parents? How often has he been preaching against fathers that don't father?

This is the single greatest tragedy of the Obama administration - and I voted for him - because arguably he could have made a real difference to these families, a difference that could span generations.

This doesn't mean some extremely talented, hard working and/or fortunate people can't succeed against the odds - thankfully some do. But why stack the odds against these children? Why is this not the #1 mission of all of our elected officials - our future depends on it.

Ettolrahc said...

Sorry but the job of the government and the elected officials is not to set the agenda for life. They work for us.

Until we get past that, mother government idea, we will never achieve anything, anymore in this country.

Anonymous said...

10:57am It's called honesty. You ain't gonna get much of that from the current administration.

Shamash said...

Double trouble,

So what if you're not alone?

It doesn't mean much.

I just gave you the scientific data that says you can adjust your circadian rhythms if you try.

And the same information is in just about every article I've read about this "problem".

So what's the big deal?

Double trouble said...

Shamash, you're right. you cant adjust your circadian rhythms, that's why I'm stating that the school times need to be adjusted to account for the teens natural sleep cycle. See, you do agree with me!

Anonymous said...

A good article. But she asks what can we do about it. It is imperative that children these days are taught not to procreate unless you are in a stable relationship and can afford to pay for your family. The stress of being poor translates into education going to the backburner. Children of single mothers watch TV and see that the people that get all the attention is someone with a "good" voice or an athlete. So then these children think the only way to getting out of poverty is by having a good voice or going into sports, no one tells them that it is one in a million that this luck goes to. That is the root of the problem. Two parent households that make an ok income can then focus on school, go for walks and learn about nature, look at the moon, stars, why is a tree brown in the winter--find interest in the mundane beauty of the world; doing this gets those brain cells working in a direction of being a doctor, or scientist or architect etc. To many single mothers, trying to stay afloat and teaching their kids that obtaining a $300 purse on a shoe string budget or a $50,000 SUV on lease while living in a $700 a month apartment is what life is all about.

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

Kids in northern latitudes, like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland...seem to do just fine in school although they have FAR fewer daylight hours than we do. Especially in winter, which is when kids are mostly in schools. Blaming circadian rhythms is just another roadblock of nonsense. Change the culture of most black families to spend time getting their children to read and study and value education over sports and Hollywood is what's needed to help black kids succeed. Obama has done very little preaching that message. Neither has Michelle. They are blowing a historic opportunity to change black culture for the better with their leadership. They have less than 3 years left. They need to get busy with that, or their tenure will have been squandered.

Shamash said...

Double trouble.

Read the WHOLE article, not just the part that fits your argument.

Of course you CAN adjust your circadian rhythms.

People with "jet lag" do it all the time.

I lived in China for a year and Indonesia for a year and Germany for three years.

And I actually went to Norway once in the summer and witnessed the Midnight Sun.

In each case, I had to adjust my circadian rhythms.

Don't claim "scientific" evidence for your cause when the science doesn't back it.

It just takes some effort.

Shamash said...

Anon 12:32.

Yep. Kids in Helsinki, Finland (southern Finland) get about six hours of daylight, from around 9 to 3pm in late December.

Anonymous said...

Just fyi, kids in Europe go to school fewer hours a day, go home for lunch, do not have as many extra curricular sports/church, etc.. activities as kids in the US. I lived in Switzerland for several years and this was the case.

Shamash said...

A lot of what keeps our kids awake is optional.

They just need to prioritize.

It's an important life skill.

Most Asian kids have longer school days and additional tutoring after school.

And not nearly as much fun, so it's not so bad here.

Anonymous said...

Seems we could learn something from how Europeans educate their kids, and how their parents make the effort to make sure their kids do well in school and with their life values. For instance--my German brother-in-law, now a family doctor over there, was taught his times tables up to 20X20. Any wonder why they are far ahead of us in math and science? Imagine the screaming from American parents if we tried to teach our kids those times tables! You get the results you insist on, model by your own behavior, and expect in life from your kids. Not from how well they sing or play sports if you want them to succeed in real terms.

Anonymous said...

Folks--Forget the circadian rhythm and start time strands. This particular post covers the crux of what's been wrong in Charlotte for a long time.

20 years ago when we arrived in Charlotte the double standard had long been alive and well even though the city was constantly patting itself on the back for being such so successful at integrating its schools. No one seemed to mind or notice that most African Americans in any CMS school were achieving far below their white peers. The most important thing was those diversity numbers, and oh, we were so proud of them (including the Observer reporters and editors).

Over the years as the busing mandate unraveled and the achievement gap became undeniable all sorts of excuses were offered up--poor facilities, bad teachers, lack of supplies, unequal funding, not enough diversity, etc., etc. (all things--except for the bad teachers--that were probably true when Charlotte's schools were segregated pre 1971). A cottage industry of sorts sprang up to try to explain away the gap, and unfortunately many believed the myriad of excuses offered up, especially the excuse that selfish white parents were getting all the perks for their kids and black kids were once again being relegated to underfunded second rate schools.

Irwin Academic Center belies this argument. These kids--of all races--are in class together. So why are some succeeding and some not? I think think that those who have preferred to excuse poor academic performance and behavior, to blame and divide, to promote the lie that the suburbs were getting it all, have over the years done a huge disservice to our entire community and most specifically to the African American community. If you come from a culture of excuses, no matter what your race, you are not going to succeed. Those who have promoted that culture in Charlotte for so many years have a lot to answer for.

Shamash said...

Wiley (and anon 2:09pm)

"As you said.....excuses, excuses, excuses..."


That's the theme that ties all this (including those uncontrollable "circadian rhythms") together, isn't it?

Personal responsibility is typically the last thing some people will try.

And then, usually when forced.

So where does it end?

In HS English (decades ago) I sat next to a kid who dropped acid nearly every day.

Maybe class should have been delayed until his daily case of "giggles" wore off and his pupils returned to normal...

Or maybe he should have put away the drugs and paid attention in class.

Wiley Coyote said...


An example of politicians enabling the same type of excuses and behaviour you talked about.

Add this to the fraud in the NSLP I incessantly talk about:

'Gaming the system’? States use trick to undo food stamp cuts

States are using what critics call a "perverse" legislative maneuver to partly undo congressional cuts to food stamps, despite efforts by some U.S. lawmakers to stop it.

The Washington Post reported Monday that three states so far are finding a way to avoid or minimize the cuts. The bill passed by Congress last month was supposed to save $8.6 billion over the next decade in food stamps. But New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have figured out how to trigger additional spending anyway.

The trick, as many states have discovered, is for them to devote a relatively modest amount of funding to home-heating assistance. Under the law, states that give a certain amount to families could then qualify those families for additional food stamp money.

Lawmakers, reportedly concerned that states were "gaming the system," had raised the threshold in the new law -- but states have responded by simply spending more money on home-heating assistance. In turn, this triggers more food stamp funding.

The move, which supporters hail as a way to keep feeding families in need, also threatens to undermine the savings from the hard-fought farm bill. Fiscal conservatives have long worried that food stamp funding -- formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- has surged to dangerous levels, reaching nearly $80 billion last year.

According to the Post, it's not clear how long the latest gambit will last.

But so far, New York State reportedly raised home-heating spending by $6 million, resulting in an extra $500 million in federal food stamp money.

Anonymous said...

The students are in class. How will they get the day light? Does florescent bulbs count?

Unknown said...


Free and Reduced Light

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Behind successful students, of any race, you are apt to find very supportive/involved parents.
Sadly, being an involved parent is simply not the norm within the African American community, specifically those who are less affluent. As a consequence, African American students, on average, are woefully behind their white counterparts. Until this culture is addressed, it is highly unlikely we shall see much improvement in the academic performance of African American children.

Shamash said...

Anon 4:27pm.

"The students are in class. How will they get the day light? Does florescent bulbs count?"

(Heh, Free and Reduced Light...Dang, I shoulda thunk it. Must be getting slow.)

Well, there ARE fluorescent lights that simulate daylight and can help those who are indoors during the day.

6500K (Full Spectrum) lighting is what it's called.

All this "scientific" research that everyone mentions about those "circadian rhythms" should mention this since they have been used in light therapy for decades for folks with sleep disorders or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Hey, isn't that great?

Maybe these kids have a MEDICAL DISABILITY and can SUE for "equal access" to an education?

(Wow, think of the bucks to be made with that by some educratic thunktank...)

Don't see why schools couldn't use them. I do. Have one on my desk now made by Verilux.

I have an even older one (20 years old) nearby made by Ott-lite that still works.

As I said, this technology has been around for decades.

Maybe the schools could use something like that, if they haven't already.

Or someone could sue them and get new lighting.

Modern LED bulbs can be adjusted for "hotness" as well.

I also use a computer program called f.lux which adjusts the brightness of my LED computer screen to simulate daylight and evening light.

It was designed precisely to help your "biological clock" adjust to all that "blue light" from the electronics.

So, again, it is amazing what you can do with a little research and some effort.

Anonymous said...

I've also thought that if I was a poor black student I would be mad that less was expected of me. That is CMS in a nutshell. And being white, I'm mad that they completely ignore my needs. Try getting around to a class at either AKHS or Community House.
One thing is true-CMS will punish you regardless of color.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...


"Free and Reduced Light."

I smell Gubmint Cheese and I need some rats to take my bait.

You know some of these CMS folks, don't you?

Do they need a "lighting" consultant?

(I can do a few PowerPoint slides and a flashy Web page to get their attention, if necessary.)

I've identified a known medical disability that CMS should address immediately.

There MUST be some federal money in this for me (or a relative) somewhere.

My brother used to hang garage doors.

I could re-train him to change light bulbs for the right "shovel-ready" job.

Anonymous said...

Black students will never score as well as white students because of the "war on poverty" started by LBJ. This has done more harm to the black community than slavery. It has kept them dependent on the government for assistance to the point that they will never try to feed themselves. About as useless a program as the wasted trillions spent on the "war on drugs"

Wiley Coyote said...

Shamash, Bolyn...

Since people who are blind experience continual circadian desynchrony through a failure of light information to reach their hypothalamic circadian clock, wattage of light bulbs seems..... trivial.

Again, start schools at an optimum time based on sound logic and data and if parents don't like it, too bad.

Anonymous said...

School start times aren't at the top of my list of school concerns, however, my college aged son recently mentioned that more colleges are ditching 8 AM classes including Duke and USC which he wholeheartedly supports because having to wake up in a frat house at 8:30 AM is killing him - on my dime. On the other hand, my college boyfriend signed up for all 8:00 AM classes on his "foreign exchange" program at the University of Hawaii in order to spend the rest of his day sleeping on the beach.

Good for the Irwin Avenue mom. We need more soccer mom's like this one.


Joan E. said...

Hope the Irwin Mom can make a positive impact at her school.

As far as the early bell schedule, I have two middle school students who participate in competitive sports and other activities. Along with homework, there is no way we could ever get them to bed by 9pm. Yes, those are our choices but we see value for our children in all of our other activities as well as school activities.

I know very few adults who have to be to work by 7:15, and no college classes start at 7:15.

We have actually considered moving to fort mill due to the 8:30AM start time because we are not willing to sacrifice our sports and sleep. You have to admit that 7:15am does not make any sense.

Dr. Bob said...

Despite the technological advances of "modern" society, the overall health, as in sleep, diet and lifestyle of our children is worse than it was a century ago. The consequences of poor health among our children has never been more problematic or prevalent, possibly due to technology. Sleep deprivation is a part of our "modern" society.

Shamash said...


Well, since MOST people aren't blind...

The one-eyed man ain't king around here.

Nothing against using logic (and science or technology), just not blindly.

Why avoid the obvious personal solutions and make the whole "village" cater to your personal "needs", though?

Everyone can find SOME issue that the world needs to address to make them more comfortable.

I'd like to minimize that through personal effort.

Shamash said...

On a personal note, though, I like to sleep late, too.

It's just that I've had to adjust to all kinds of schedules in my life and just think it is a part of modern life off the farm, so you learn to cope.

My son's school starts at 7:15, some kids get on buses well before that.

And some will have problems getting out later rather than earlier. So it goes.

My first job out of high school (the summer before college) was working night shift in a paper plant.

Lots of people work evenings and nights now.

And if you ever have kids, they cry in the middle of the night, too.

The world just doesn't cater to your needs all the time, so it's best to learn how to cope instead of expecting everyone to change to suit YOUR needs.

We simply cannot accommodate everyone in every little way.

Anonymous said...

This is not about you Shamash.

This is about making common sense, healthier decisions for our teens. And, this has nothing to do with sleeping late. Do you think waking up at 7am for classes that start at 8:30am is sleeping in?

For those of you who want accurate, scientifically based data on this subject, from groups/schools like the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Institute of Health, National Sleep Foundation, Stanford University, Brown University, The University of Minnesota, Harvard School of Public Health (just to name a few), please check out the Start School Later website at

Wiley Coyote said...


You must have skipped over this part of what I said:

"Again, start schools at an optimum time based on sound logic and data and if parents don't like it, too bad."

That pretty much sums it up.

Shamash said...


Nah, I saw it and agreed in principle.

It's the practice that I think will get screwed up.

Sound data and logic won't matter because CMS won't use it anyway.

Can you imagine the charts they'd need to accommodate everyone and find an optimum schedule for everything including everyone's extracurricular activities.

They'll just pick a time and run with it without thinking too hard about the scheduling conflicts.

Some "solutions" to scheduling problems with later start times I've seen have kids coming in for sports practice in the early mornings.

So much for their sleep...

Bottom line is 24 hours in a day.

If the kids get more sleep it has to come from somewhere.

It's unlikely to come from increased "efficiency" at homework or schoolwork.

And the total number of school hours aren't changing.

So I think their "extracurricular" calendars are probably just too full (and will have to give anyway)

But that's probably what's important to them anyway.

Maybe we just need a shorter school day, too. Four hours should suffice.

As it is, school start times are just ONE factor.

And changing them is unlikely to solve the problem by itself.

"Factors such as a later school start time, parental monitoring of bedtimes, and moderation in the number of hours spent on extracurricular activities are all likely to optimize sleep opportunity and so sleep. These factors have a cumulative effect.

For adolescents who have a constellation of negative factors, such as an early school start time, no parent-set bedtime, and a heavy extracurricular load, the impact on their sleep and functioning is likely to be so detrimental as to present a significant negative impact. "

Shamash said...

Anon 8:49 am

It's not about me? Really?

Well, I checked out your website and have seen the same stuff before.

Sure the sleep helps, but the kids need to actually sleep, not play Midnight Basketball.

Did you look at some of the issues people are having with all the rescheduling as a result of the changed school times?

The ripple effect is amazing.

So SOMEONE is sure to have problems with that. Especially those dependent on "free" school transportation.

Also, you still have the 24 hours in a day problem.

Something has to "give" for the kids to find an extra hour to sleep even with a later start time.

Parents still have to enforce an early bedtime, or it's just no good for Bonzo.

Moving activities from after school to before school (as many have done) doesn't help.

From your suggested website:

Shamash said...

Anon 8:49am.

The problem isn't the research saying that sleep is good.

That's pretty much a given.

It's the implementation of the schedule change that will probably get screwed up.

That and still getting enough sleep with the later start times.

Unless someone is willing to cut back on those extracurricular activities.

the mom said...

To the people that say "just put your kid to bed earlier", the problem is that most kids CANT go to bed earlier.

My son plays Varsity ball at a south charlotte high school, he also takes AP and Honors classes and is involved in Student Govt, and a church group. The earliest he can get to bed is 11pm on a good night. Please don't lecture parents on putting kids to bed earlier. What a joke. the kids are so exhausted by 11pm they can barely function. Then it's up again at 5:45am. This is an awful cycle, and really makes no sense if we are considering what is best for teen students.

I'm all for changing the start times.

Shamash said...

I'm not saying go to bed earlier, I'm saying cut out the extra activities keeping him up.

Then go to bed earlier.

Otherwise, you don't get the extra time to sleep anyway.

SHIFTING the school day will not help if he doesn't cut back on the extra-curricular activities.

Don't you see the problem?

I don't see why NO ONE wants to acknowledge the 24-hour in a day restriction here.

So if your kid STARTS school an hour later, he STOPS an hour later, doesn't he?

That leaves him AN HOUR LESS in the evening for ALL those extra-curricular activities.

So either he cuts an hour off THAT or goes to bed at 12pm on a good night only to wake at 6:45.

Or goes to bed at 1am to wake at 7:45, etc., etc.


BUT if he can cut that hour WITH the time shift, then why can't he cut it now?

Why does the whole world have to change its schedule for nothing?

Shamash said...

Jeez. How can I make it simpler?

I quoted a "pro" late start time article with three suggestions for the sleep deficit problem.

1. Later school start time.
2. Earlier parent-set bedtime.
3. Fewer extracurricular activities.

TWO of these can be done by the parent and child with a little discipline.

THE OTHER requires the NANNY STATE to change the rules.

WHY is everyone focused on the nanny state solution when they obviously haven't tried the other two?

They'll have to do those anyway because they won't get more time to sleep by simply shifting the school schedule.

This is a simple scheduling issue.

For every hour you delay the start of school, you get one less hour AFTER SCHOOL for ALL activities (including sleep).

So to get more sleep, you need to cut activities, too.

Zoolander said...

Univ of Minnesota, MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (03/12/2014) —Later high school start times improve student grades and overall health, according to a new University of Minnesota study, released today.

The three-year project, using data from more than 9,000 students attending eight high schools in three states, found that, when switching to a later start time:
•attendance, standardized test scores and academic performance in math, English, science and social studies improved.
•tardiness, substance abuse, symptoms of depression, and consumption of caffeinated drinks decreased.

In addition, the study found that there was a 70 percent drop in the number of car crashes involving teen drivers at Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming, which shifted to the latest start time of the eight schools (8:55 a.m.).

"The research confirmed what has been suspected for some time," said Kyla Wahlstrom, Ph.D., director of the U of M’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI), which conducted the study. "High schools across the country that have later start times show significant improvements in many areas. The reduction of teen car crashes may be the most important finding of all, as the well-being of teens and the safety of the general public are interrelated."

The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that high schools that begin as late as 8:55 a.m. have 66 percent of students obtaining eight or more hours of sleep on school nights, which is the recommended amount for high school aged students. Schools that begin at 7:30 a.m. have an average of only 34 percent of students obtaining eight or more hours of sleep on school nights.

"Even a start time of 8:35 a.m. allows 57-60 percent of students to get eight or more hours of sleep, which is an important health benefit for a majority of students," said Wahlstrom. "Local school districts, school personnel, parents, and students need to understand the importance of sleep and to make choices using the knowledge from this and other studies."

In the first study to examine multiple schools in various locations across the U.S., student data were collected from eight schools that moved to later start times. Over the last three years, researchers surveyed St. Louis Park High School, Mahtomedi High School, Woodbury High School, Park High School, and East Ridge High School in Minnesota; Boulder High School and Fairview High School in Colorado; and Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming. Students were individually surveyed about their daily activities, substance use and sleep habits. Researchers then examined various health factors post-change in school start time and compared them with national average data.

The study also collected comparative data about students’ academic performance, including grades, attendance, tardiness and performance on state and national standardized tests. Car crash data were also examined for the communities surrounding the participating high schools.

The full report, "Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study," includes an examination of the processes by which local school districts participating in the study made the decision to change to a later start time. Key participants in the discussions and the decision-making were interviewed.

"Our research provides evidence of clear benefits for students whose high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later," said Wahlstrom. "More research needs to be done, but these findings are substantive and should provide more information for school districts considering a change in start time."

Anonymous said...

Has anyone asked how the "failing" African American and Hispanic students at Irwin are performing in the classroom? Are they making progress? Are they mastering the material that is being taught on a daily basis? These issues are much more important than their performance on high stakes tests. After they have all of the relevant data, the school should be able to provide targeted intervention to all students who are actually in need provided they have the adequate funding.

Anonymous said...

Irwin Mom here. I am glad to hear of Mrs. Forrests concerns, these are the types of parents that help improve test scores for any child. There is much to be desired at Irwin including parent outreach. I have been painfully alone learning about my gifted child (did not even know what that meant)and advocating for his needs. I have been volunteering at the school all year and still when I approach administration to address my childs needs I am viewed as the approaching enemy. I am a white educated parent and it is still difficult communicating with the system. I feel deeply for a great, single, uneducated parent who only wants the best for their child. Ms. Forrest I urge you to start an outreach program, a parent group, something to help these parents. I do not know if the PTA can help with this but I wish you the best of "you can do it." This is our last year at Irwin.