Friday, May 16, 2014

CMS: Visa change isn't about money

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has stopped sponsoring visas for overseas teachers,  and that has some families at Waddell Language Academy worried.

At a recent budget forum,  a parent accused Superintendent Heath Morrison of undermining a standout magnet program to save money.  Waddell,  a K-8 school formerly known as Smith Language Academy,  provides instruction in Chinese,  Japanese,  German and French.  The school has relied on foreign teachers who are fluent in those languages.

Waddell students sing for German dignitaries
Morrison said the change isn't about money,  though he acknowledged work visas are expensive at about $15,000 per teacher.  Instead,  he said,  the district has decided to seek teachers who can be expected to stay longer.

"What we end up with is a lot of instability,"  he said.  "It's about trying to find long-term stability."

CMS put out the word to principals last spring that the district wouldn't sponsor new visas.  As the issue rippled out to parents,  there have been enough concerns that CMS recently held a community meeting and put out a Q&A; read it here.


Wiley Coyote said...

This is a good example of supply and demand meets teacher pay.

Find teachers that live in this country to teach those languages and pay them accordingly.

I never heard of any issues at West Meck when my son attended that language magnet. He had the same Spanish and Japanese teachers for several years, both were excellent teachers.

Anonymous said...

Yet our superintendent is completely ok with TFA teachers coming in and leaving after two years? Much larger percentage of teachers in this district are TFA, yet he wants stability at one school that truly needs these foreign teachers?

I think the word is disingenuous.

At least Pete was slick; this guy truly is transparent...we can see right through his talk.

Anonymous said...

It is hard for me to imagine that CMS can't find foreign language teachers here in US. This time I agree with Heath, unnecessary expense.

Shamash said...

While they say it isn't about money, the money question does come up a lot in the Q&A document.

So it is about money.

I guess it makes too much sense to spend that $15,000 on extra pay to get someone to teach who is already here with the proper visa (or, heaven forbid, citizenship).

What are the other obstacles, I wonder?

Would they need an Education degree as well?

I'm sure that narrows the candidate pool a bit.

Wiley Coyote said...


UNCC Department of Languages and Culture Studies

...The Department offers a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Spanish, a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) in French, German and Spanish, the undergraduate Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree with majors in French, German, Japanese, and Spanish, and minors in French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and a minor in Classical Studies (including Ancient Greek, Latin and Modern Greek). Arabic, Chinese, Italian, and Portuguese are offered regularly through the intermediate level of instruction. Farsi, Swahili, and other languages are offered on demand.

Seems like a great place to start to me. You?

NAhhh...makes too much sense.

Anonymous said...

and speaking of TFA, I spoke to them at their booth at the Wells Fargo Championship a couple of weeks ago. I aked them a couple of simple questions and neither of them had an answer, which surpised me. All I asked was if there TFA teachers have had a positive impact and if so, could then name a school or two in the CMS district. After doing some research on my own, I learned they have some teachers at Berryhill Academy and that school is making a difference.

Anonymous said...

12:04, I'm not pro- or anti-TFA, but I don't think I'd give them credit for Berryhill's results. That school has had a stable principal and faculty, which is lacking in a lot of high-poverty schools.

FormerCMSteacher for reasons such as this said...

I'm sensing a lack of understanding of how the language program at Waddell works. It is a language immersion program and thus requires teachers (at the elementary level) to have native or near-native fluency in the foreign language. They must also have elementary education teaching credentials. It's not simply a matter of majoring in the foreign language. It is being able to communicate it (and the North Carolina education objectives) in a way that students can learn IN that foreign language (math taught IN Chinese for example). This is extremely difficult if you are not a native speaker. How many native-Chinese-speaking education majors do you expect to find in North Carolina? Especially since North Carolina has sunk so low in teacher salary rankings how would we even be able to attract such candidates from other states? Mr. Morrison is also misinformed about the teachers at Waddell. The majority of the foreign language teachers have permanent resident visas already and/or are married to American citizens. They won't be leaving any time soon, except perhaps to find a job that pays them what they are worth.

Anonymous said...

Anne, if you go to the TFA website, they are taking the credit for Berry Hill's success. As for myself, I can't speak to the effectiveness of TFA teachers because we have not encountered any, other than when I spoke with those at Quail Hollow. I did not mean to indicate Berry Hill is doing better due to TFA teachers, thank you for your clarification.

Shamash said...

"How many native-Chinese-speaking education majors do you expect to find in North Carolina?"

Oh, oh, oh, FormerCMSteacher, I think I know.


At least that's MY expectation.

Which was why I wondered if the education degree was a requirement.

Since they teach all subjects, it makes more sense that they might need an education degree, but those have to be pretty rare.

Also, I have to wonder how many native Chinese teachers survive the "diversity" training and culture shock of teaching in the US, given their experiences elsewhere.

Google THIS interesting paper on the challenges they face...


It's from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln...

I'd hold out for the extra $15K if I were them.

Wiley Coyote said...

The irony.... thousands to hire foreign teachers to teach students who choose be immersed in a particular language, yet pay the same salary to American teachers to teach illegals how to speak English...

Anonymous said...

I made a mistake, the school I am referring to is Phillip O Berry School of Technology, TFA uses this school as a success story, sorry about that.

Shamash said...


Even more ironic, have Chinese "immersion" classes and then expect the Chinese-born teachers to change their teaching methods to conform to US pedagogy.

For the "full" effect of learning Chinese "properly", of course.

(We crack me up sometimes...)

I wonder if we have "education" classes teaching foreigners how to properly teach foreign cultures to "diverse" US students.

It wouldn't surprise me.

Of course, it would have to be taught as part of the Chicano Studies department.

Even for the Chinese.

Because we dare not let a foreign teacher teach like a foreigner would.

Because THEY might not respect "diversity" the way WE do.

Anonymous said...

2:25, I always get confused over all the Pine and Highland schools in CMS -- I hadn't thought about the Berrys until now!

Anonymous said...

Evidently many of you have not seen the current foreign language programs demise in the "regular" CMS schools. Getting virtually any qualified foreign language teacher to stay here is impossible when the market for fluent speakers world wide would make NC the last place to stop.
Wiley, the head of the former immersion program and Spanish teacher at West left years ago and her daughter followed. When South became the feeder, West dried up but you knew that.
Additionally Shamash, the Chinese teachers at Waddell run a tight ship and don't tolerate the usual BS that CMS promotes. It starts in kindergarten and it all comes down to an earlier discussion, expectations, rigor, and parental support from all factions.
I bet there will now be at least one or two Waddell parents ready to run for the school board
willing and able to go toe to toe with Heath and the bloated HR department's recommendations.
Maybe Ann or someone else knows whether CMS dropped its relationship with VIF in Chapel Hill in obtaining qualified teachers because of the high costs and procedures VIF used in recruiting foreign language faculty.
So Heath do you really think TFA, Michele Rhee, Pearson, or Discovery Network can provide suitable clones with experience to have immersion students fluent for third grade EOG's in English and Mandarin? German?, French?, Japanese?, and Spanish?
Really fluent…..not the usual high school stuff.

Shamash said...

Anon 8:05pm.

" the Chinese teachers at Waddell run a tight ship and don't tolerate the usual BS that CMS promotes."

So, the Chinese teachers didn't buy into all their "diversity training" crap and let the little thugs run over them?

Well, I guess they'll be getting an education after all.

Don't let word get out, though, that this sort of thing actually works.

Especially with "poor" "minorities"...

Because that goes against the narrative.

Anonymous said...

"According to Start School Later, a national organization based in Annapolis that also pushed for the Maryland legislation, starting middle and high school before sunrise “is out of sync with the biological clocks of young people” and can prevent them from getting the 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night that their bodies need."

Anonymous said...

How much work would you put into a career if you knew you would be in it three years max like the tfas? Hardly any stick beyond the minimum. Many give up before that despite the huge financial windfall of college loans being erased. How many would enter teaching without the loan erasing perk to start with? A band aid solution that muddles the real to obtain and maintain talented teachers.

Anonymous said...

It's not like it's a secret. The program has been successful for twenty years because of the backing of parents, businesses, the native speaking communities in the area, and the dedication of a superb principal and faculty. It's no different than many other schools with years of international leadership skills that know how education works and does it in a diverse and inclusive manner.
The world-wide recognition is a bonus. Evidently CMS is going in a different direction so they must have plenty of other photo opportunities lined up.
Quit trying to spin cultural differences as anything other than what it is and has been…. success from hard work, long hours, and immense dedication.

Chad Coleman said...

I have three sons in the Waddell Chinese program. It is imperative that their teachers are native Mandarin speakers. Mandarin is not an easy language to replicate and unless the students hear and learn from native speakers, it is pretty pointless. I have heard outside Chinese speakers marvel at the accent of my Chinese speaking sons. I really think there is a level of ignorance on the school board's part in thinking they can just pull that part of their support without messing up a model school.

As far as the Chinese teachers running a tight ship, I wholeheartedly agree. Having been through more than half a dozen of the teachers, I have learned to appreciate the different strengths they all have, but the one thing they have in common is very high expectations. I wouldn't ask for anything else for my children. It isn't always easy, but look at the test scores from their school and you will see that the children live up to the expectations.

Chad Coleman said...

And I should add to my earlier comment....all of my close friends who are moving out of their starter homes have chosen to move to SC to escape from CMS. We are happy with and loyal to Waddell so are only looking to buy a new home within CMS (truly a rarity). CMS needs to recognize Waddell as one of the schools that is working the way it should work and continue to support it in the same way they have been.

Shamash said...

Anon 1:42pm.

"Quit trying to spin cultural differences as anything other than what it is and has been…. success from hard work, long hours, and immense dedication."

Have I EVER said it was anything else?

Not that I recall.

This is exactly what I've been "spinning".

And it's available to everyone, despite their "race" or "SES".

Shamash said...


I will tell you that the Waddell Chinese program is the ONLY program that would get us back into CMS (at this time).

We currently own a place in Ballantyne which is better for general purposes schools (feeds into Ardrey Kell), but not great enough to draw us away from SC at this time.

Perhaps in the future, that may change, though, depending on how CMS changes over the next few years.

Right now, it's not looking that great, though.

Shamash said...

Anon 1:42.

"It's not like it's a secret."

It is if they've somehow managed to bridge the "achievement gap" using Chinese (or other "foreign")teachers.

Especially if they've achieve "success from hard work, long hours, and immense dedication".

Because that's NOT even on the politically correct radar.

Anonymous said...

This is a very frustrating situation. We have teachers who must leave before the end of the school year THIS YEAR because of the visa situation. Waddell is not looking for someone who can manage the language well enough to teach it - these students are being taught all day long, every subject, in their target language. This move by CMS is really a slap in the face to Waddell, and indicates (to me) that they don't really care about the school or program, in spite of its proven track record. It is a real shame, because Waddell is a great, diverse, successful school, and deserves better. Parents and PTSA would love to be able to raise money for teacher visas, but it's not allowed - must be handled via the employer, without donated money. So essentially, Waddell is being cut off from highly qualified native speakers, and the program will disintegrate over time.

Shamash said...

" So essentially, Waddell is being cut off from highly qualified native speakers, and the program will disintegrate over time."

Well, maybe an evil Charter school will step in to take its place since they have more lax hiring "standards" so that a foreign teacher wouldn't need US teaching credentials.

Or perhaps a private enterprise could step in and do the job with foreign-trained teachers here as permanent residents or even US citizens.

Either way, there is probably a "market" for this, so it's no wonder CMS is dropping the ball.

It's just that this sort of education is more likely to be available for people with money and not for "public" schools.

Unknown said...

Just hook all the kids up to Discovery Education. Computers are the answer to everything, don't you know, and much cheaper. Blended learning is on its way........... Meanwhile, I'll get a second job tutoring the kids that need personal interaction with a teacher.

Anonymous said...

teachers at the immersion magnet have to be licensed to teach that grade as well as being fluent. Graduates of the unc language program referenced above are licensed to teach the language k-12, but not GRADES k-12.