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monsoon

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Failing Students

More Charter Schools?   29 members have voted

  1. 1. More Charter Schools?

    • No - They take needed money away from CMS
      13
    • Yes - CMS needs competition
      16
  2. 2. Will Peter Gorman make a difference?

    • No - School Board is the root of the problem
      11
    • Yes - He has the experience to fix CMS
      18
  3. 3. Will CMS Failures drive people out of the County?

    • No
      10
    • Yes
      19

Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

36 posts in this topic

The Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) system, by almost any measure is failing its students. This despite literally billions of dollars in bonds approved in the last decade for construction and a yearly budget, funded mainly thorugh property taxes, that is the largest in the state. Recently, it has come out that 79 of 143 schools in the district failed to meet goals for improvement as put for by the President's "No Child Left Behind Program". Not surprisingly CMS has spun this on their webpage as "63 out of 142 CMS schools measured have met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)".

This type of reporting of results is indicative of a broken system that is more concerned about image and maintaining the status quo than actually teaching students. We have had other threads on UrbanPlanet on the failures of CMS. These failures range from unsafe and over crowded schools to the 57% graduation rate. The failure of its schools to adequately teach its students is a big black eye for what many consider to be the premier city of the Carolinas.

The School Board after being stung in the polls by the failure of its last almost $1/2 billion bond request, has replaced the very shrill Frances Haithcock, who always said the schools are fine, with Peter Gorman as the new superintendent of CMS. The very photogenic Gorman, who was a salary of a $1/3 of a million/year is now Mecklenburg county's highest paid individual. He seems to be very good at getting his face on TV and in the papers, and attending taxpayer paid retreats and other social events, but will he make any difference? He has already failed at his first test when the county council voted down CMS's call for $174M in bond money. (They recently approved a smaller amount). And the school board has not yet given him permission to make changes that will make a difference. Have the school Board and the county commissioners already neutered Gorman despite the extremely high salary for a public official?

It would seem that putting a new public face on CMS, i.e an overpaid superintendent, and not acting on the reforms recommend by former Gov. Martin's task force is simply repackaging the SOS. Meanwhile, the students are not being educated and every county around Mecklenburg is advertising the superiority of its school system vs CMS. The school board, which is still divided over the court case that ended busing for racial equality, is unable to deal with the real issues. This is not going unnoticed as thousands of middleclass families are moving across the lines for better schools and there is close to open revolt by some of the suburbs to leave CMS. Are their any solutions to this mess?

The state does offer one, but limited solution, the charter school. Charter schools in NC are publically funded schools that are not under the control of the local school board and administration. When a charter school accepts a student, state, local and federal funds that would have gone to CMS for that student, are instead, directed to that school. The state at the moment puts limits on charter schools in that they do not receive public money for construction and they don't have publically funded school transportation. So what is the advantage of a charter school? Well, the bottom line, its the education. Students graduating from charter schools receive a better education on average and in most cases out perform their peers in CMS by a wide margin. In one CS that teaches grades 5-8, students leaving this school to go to a CMS highschool, require AP classes to maintain the level of education they were receiving.

So the question of this very long topic is should the county and state work together to expand the role of charter schools in the county? Would the competition to CMS be beneficial? I recommend a read of this topic.

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Coming from Charleston County, where there are many charter schools I would have to say that its a mixed bag. Teachers and administrators do have more autonomy from school district red tape and can be more innovative. Going overboard with Charters can drain needed resources from district controlled schools though. I am not opposed to Charters completely just think there should be a balance and not a belief that are a panacea. Gorman is great at PR and seems like a nice guy. His personal skills have helped him with an extended honeymoon. He seems very dedicated, sincere, and I think he should be given some time to prove himself. If the past is any indication it won't be long before we will be able to tell if CMS is going to change for the better under his leadership or chew him up and spit him out like past supts.

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This area loves to blame the school board for our schools' problems, yet I see it as a failure of parenting. I grew up in rural WV in an increidbly overcrowded school. We had 67 students being taught by one teacher when I was in elementary school. The parents, however, took an actual interest in making sure that we were learning.

Here in Charlotte it seems much different. Everyone blames the school board as a way of shifting the blame.

There are certain sections of our population that simply does not value education.

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^While you have a point, that has nothing to do with the schools failing to meet standards. That is patently unfair to the kids that DO want to learn but are attending schools that have not yet reached the mandated standards.

This could actually lead to another question: How effective is the NCLB act in actually getting kids to learn what they need to learn in order to adequately operate and compete in an increasing globalized society?

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A new report is out and published in today's Observer that says that more than 1/3, of students from higher income families in Mecklenburg county are now attending private schools. The biggest reason is they have lost faith in the school system and don't see it being fixed anytime soon. The biggest complants are underperforming schools, and in some area, they fear non-english speaking students holding back their kids. I do note there is a brand new K-12 private school getting ready to open in Davidson and I am sure there are others in the county.

What I find interesting about this are two things.

First that CMS is failing so badly that close to 1/6th of students have opted out of CMS even though doing so comes at great expense and the number is rising fast. This comes to 25,000 students. In the South Charlotte area, the 1 out of 3 students go to private schools.

Second, this does not bode well for future bond packages and other voter support for CMS. Most of the families bailing out of the school system are located in the suburban areas of the county and if you add in the effect of the charter schools here, then what is left in CMS is inner city and poor. (or illegal) Schools affect property values more than almost anything else in this country.

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I think public schools may be developing the stigma that "public" transportation and "public" housing do.

Which is a shame... I went to Guilford County public school in the 1980s but I probably have only a small understanding of what today's schools are like. Nearly everyone at my high school was native born, and students snickered a bit at anyone using "reduced lunch". For Charlotte to have so many schools with 50% or more "reduced lunch" is hard to fathom.

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I'd like to add this article at well that offers a little hope in the sea of negativism.

http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/liv...on/15316977.htm

^ It's individual grass-roots efforts such as this that will save the system. Politically, I believe there is little to be done. Every decision further polarizes parents.

That is really a shame. When I lived in Country Club Heights 20 years ago, Shamrock elementary was considered a great school, though I guess the demographics have changed a lot over there since then. It's more polarized with more poor people surrounding Midwood, and very well off people living right in Midwood. The middle class is mostly gone.

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I'd like to add this article at well that offers a little hope in the sea of negativism.

http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/liv...on/15316977.htm

^ It's individual grass-roots efforts such as this that will save the system. Politically, I believe there is little to be done. Every decision further polarizes parents.

thanks for posting this atlrvr. i read this when it came out. i admire the grundy's and their efforts to better shamrock gardens elementry school... and thus the community. i have a child who started kindergarten this year, and shamrock gardens is our home school. personally, we learned of the grundy's efforts too late (mind you i live in midwood canyon not plaza-midwood). i don't think the drive to change shamrock gardens has gone outside a certain socio-economic eschelon. however, that in no way diminishes the grundy's efforts, but i think that the next step for the shamrock garden reformers is to approach and rally the bulk of parents, whose kids attend.... and just happen to be not as wealthy. i only say this b/c my family would've been a perfect canidate.

however, we had decided long ago to send our child to a magnet school. we did this b/c we felt that there seems to be more effort put in by the parents to research a magnet school, then visit it, then go the extra mile (literally) to make sure your kid gets to school. please note that i am not saying non-magnet schools don't have the same parental participation, i'm only saying with magnet schools it seems inherent. that seemingly little effort is more important than i can make it seem. when your talking about your childs education.... it's HUGE.

2 weeks into school... so far, so good. :)

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That is really a shame. When I lived in Country Club Heights 20 years ago, Shamrock elementary was considered a great school, though I guess the demographics have changed a lot over there since then. It's more polarized with more poor people surrounding Midwood, and very well off people living right in Midwood. The middle class is mostly gone.

the demographics have changed alot. but, in the last 2 years i have seen it change for the better @ an alarming rate... of course there is still more improvement needed. i also, think the middle class is migrating back in strong numbers here but that only makes sense when you have 1/2 million - million dollar houses a stones throw away from houses under 100 thousand. the middle class is swooping down on the $100 thousand dollar homes and expanding, updating, or just simply saving. all this said, the grundy's reform movement is happening @ a perfect time for this community... i don't know if they will reap the benefits of their efforts, but they seem to be be interested in forging a better life for all in this neighborhood. very selfless, communal, and noble....

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In Charlotte, we chose Dilworth because our son got to go to Eastover. Great repuation, great scores, lots of parent involvement, and I'll admit, the perception that wealthy schools provided a better learning experience. Eastover was great, everything I had hoped for (plus a little pretension).

In Boston, we have gone the Grundy route. We decided to live in the city limits, and live near downtown. What we quickly learned is though there are many wealthy people near downtown, NONE send their children to Boston Public Schools. We decided that we would (at least for the first year) and we got three choices. We chose the first school based upon proximity to us, and relatively high-income, and our other two choices were based on proximity to transit and testing scores.

Since me moved here so close to the start of the school year, we were assigned the third choice. The school is low-medium income, in a "transitioning" part of town, and very ethnically diverse (<5% white....for those that don't know me, I'm white).....however, the school does regularly have near the top scores for public elementary schools in the city. We were at first EXTREMELY nervous, but we are committed to at least seeing it through this year. I dropped my son off yesterday morning for his first day, and was pleased to see all the kids seemed well mannered, and that the staff had good control. There were also lots of parents that seemed to be engaging teachers.

Soooooo....I guess the point of my ramblings are this. As a parent, my child's welfare comes first, and most parent's will agree, however, I do like the fact that we may be contributing to a positive trend in the local schools, and perhaps that leads to a greater long term good. Until I have reason otherwise, I too will try to promote to other parents our new school, BUT I will also either move outside the city or look at private schools if the school can't deliver.....it's such a delicate issue that never seems to have an easy answer.

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A couple of our Boston forumers, that I have chatted with, told me they moved from the city of Boston when their children got old enough to go to school. They did this because the felt that Boston's public schools were dangerous and did a bad job at teaching students. I don't know where this was in Boston as I don't know the makeup of the city, but both moved to smaller towns in the area. This wasn't that long ago as UP has been running just 3 years. Is this common practice there?

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Oh yeah.....it's the standard.....just like downtown Charlotte. The people who can afford to live where they want, live in the city until their children reach school age then head to Cambridge, Newtown, or points west, or send their kids to private school.....Charlotte is obviously moving towards this trend per your article Metro.M, Grundy's not included.

Unless parents are willing to put faith in teachers, then it will continue. We're experimenting, but like I mentioned, it won't take much for us to run too....I think its just parental instinct.

I truly believe that fixing public schools is still the key to truly revitalizing cities.....I just don't know how, except through mass agreement among middle and upper class parents to send their kids to public school.

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I am a firm supporter in the public school system as I don't think private schools are good for society in general. The United States got to where it got in part because a free education and good education was offered to the people who live here almost from the beginning. (When it was uncommon in the world to do so)

Boston is historically infamous for the riots that took place there when court ordered busing was started there. There is pulizer winning photo showing a white man beating a black man with an American flag pole over the issue. That was 33 years ago but I guess it lingers. Charlotte in comparison has been a fairly integrated city and while there were protests over busing here, Time Magazine did a story on Charlotte once that mentioned how well the races got along here and the number of integrated neighborhoods. I agree with you that Charlotte has moved from this quite a bit and is headed to what you see in Boston.

I think the problem that we see in the schools now is caused in part by the increased polarization of society in general in the USA, and it is mostly along the lines of the haves vs the have nots. CMS's issues are directly caused by the school board and directly by those board members who are elected from districts.

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We've got 2 or 3 CMS representatives that hate Larry Gavreau's guts and are more focused on stopping anything he supports than on reaching consensus.

And the schools are just too freaking large. 3000 students at north Meck? That's a college. I don't see how a young person can feel like part of community, and develop neighborliness, in such a setting.

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Yes, it is.

- There is not enough money for capital spending, and what they have is improperly spent (systematic problems for keeping up with growth, every high school gets built with a stadium but not enough classrooms, designs are usually low cost that don't age well, nothing in CMS school buildings is inspiring for employees or students).

- Operating expentitures are consistantly spent on the wrong things (new textbooks before the old ones even have creases in their spines, way too many people downtown shouting illogical orders on the teachers, software programs that don't work).

- Society is becoming more segrated, primarily due to whites moving to sprawl.

- Schools are setup to serve massive populations, so bad apples can easily spoil a HUGE barrel of good apples.

- Schools are developing bad reputations for a couple of random acts, leading to a cycle where of resegration

- The system makes it too easy for stupid stupid stupid people to teach children. (Lateral entry to teach without licensure, communistic compensation system, lack of cultural respect for a teacher's education --yes, that is ironic --)

- The system places stupid stupid stupid people in control of schools (many CMS adminstrators could not write a proper english sentence to save their lives, being a crony of a downtown person is much more important than quality or education, worst people end up being sent to the schools that need quality the most)

- The voters place stupid stupid stupid people in control of the system's board (petty politicking, illogical policies, lack of comprehension for educational paradoxes)

- American society does not value education (teaching considered a job not a profession, most students don't respect schooling, parents fight teachers to give better grades despite student's performance)

It is a f'n mess.

Both my wife (a teacher) and I believe very much like metro:

I am a firm supporter in the public school system as I don't think private schools are good for society in general. The United States got to where it got in part because a free education and good education was offered to the people who live here almost from the beginning.

But I promise you, when/if we have kids, if we live in Charlotte, and have the means, those children will be going to private school. Before my wife taught in this system, I would have been assassinated to suggest such a thing to her.

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I take offense at the bad rap CMS gets. I happen to live in South Charlotte and send my child to the GREAT schools down here. I relocated from NJ a while back and let me tell you that aside from the overcrowding, which is an issue, my child gets a first rate education. The test results prove it out, so before you go around bashing the entire school system, take a closer look at the issue. There are most definitely problems in most of the inner city schools, as is the case in just about every major city in this country. Let's not trash the whole system though.

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Of course there are significant numbers of kids getting a great education in CMS.

The issue is the system is a failure, not that 100% of the students are being ruined. Some kids have been raised by smart parents, and read a lot, and have average teachers. Those kids are still going to do great, even in bad schools. Others have great teachers, but had poor upbringing, but they try and pay attention and do their work. Those kids are still going to do great, even in bad schools.

Believe me, my own opinion is not that 100% of the teachers, students, administrators, and bureaucrats are doing a terrible job. My wife is a teacher, and she has top notch educational credentials for herself (A average at a top university program, graduating with honors, and a masters on top of that), and has done very well with her students, in very low performing schools overall.

The issue is that those kids and teachers and administrators are doing a good job despite being within a system that is mired with inefficiency, backwardness, pettiness, and idiocy.

My wife would have dedicated her whole career to the low performing school she taught at. Her students, who were terrors in other classes, would behave for her, and her test scores were quite good. But the incompetent adminstration at that school consistently ran people out based on petty personal politics. If you disagreed with an idiodic policy or decision (thousands --literally-- of examples as backward as giving someone lunch detention for selling drugs in the cafeteria) you were basically written off as an insubordinate. Usually, the insubordinates were the very successful teachers, with the highest test scores. Each year, those were the ones that were displaced or run off. The teachers who shared in the juicy gossip with admins were the ones who were rewarded with perks, despite having terrible test scores or being of low intelligence or skill themselves. (They is the ones who is makin the principles the happist cuz they is always tellin them how good a job they is doin, even wen they aint).

My wife has left that school because the administration was so abusive and the working conditions were killing her. They would pile up on her so much of the work that they should have been doing, while they installed TVs in their offices. My wife would get to work at 5:30a and leave at 6:30p and then grade from 8p until midnight, and most of the weekends. They gave her 170 students in 4 preps, and a grade where they had to turn in a ~10 page research paper) (170 students * 10 pages * 3 drafts = 5100 pages, and she refused to skip any of them -- I'm sure the reality was fewer pages, but the point is still the same). The adminstrators, meanwhile, consistantly told her that her education was useless as she could have gotten a piece of paper from any community college. They wouldn't even return a hello in the hallway, or consider making any changes to anything they did. She was constantly sick, she'd cry all the time for "no" reason, she felt hopeless about her situation because she loved her kids but she hated the conditions.

When turnover pulls out the best teachers at bad schools, it quickly becomes a numbers game. The good teachers that hang on (like my wife did for many years) are abandonned and fight a losing battle.

It is hard enough when the kids come to you with no education or skill whatsoever. For example, follow this exchange recently: kid: "I wasn't alive during September 11" teacher: "Yes you were" kid: "No I wasn't, I was born in December" teacher: "But this is the 5th anniversary" kid: "what does that mean" another kid: "dumbass, you were alive during September 11, it was LAST year".

Now take those kinds of students, put them in an overcrowded classroom, in some cases hallways because there is no room. Put overworked and poorly treated teachers in front of them, most of which without any training in the subject matter. Put them under an administration that tells the teachers to pass everyone because every F shows that the teacher is a failure. Then have parents show up and yell about giving their kid a zero for downloading a paper from the internet. Then have downtown bureacrats that taught for 2 years top show up for faculty meetings to give a condescending training about good teaching approaches that are obvious to everyone, yet somehow the downtown person manages to do all the listed 'incorrect' approaches during the training. Then system leaders come in to literally scream at the teachers abusively asking them how could they be so stupid that every kid hasn't passed.

Probably MOST of CMS is fine and would run fine on its own, with anyone in charge. But the failing schools are failing badly, and most of everything the system does messes them up further.

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Under the proposed new rating system for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, high test scores won't be the only mark of a successful school. Teacher morale, student discipline and parent involvement also will count, Superintendent Peter Gorman said Wednesday.

Just the fact that he gets that that is important is an exponential improvement over "Dr" Pug.

http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/news/15514113.htm

As I wrote above, the bad kids plus bad administrators create low teacher morale, and high turnover of the most skilled, which leads to bad teaching and bad test scores.

Discipline to keep the bad kids at bay (so the good kids don't get their education ruined), and morale ratings to cease abusive administrators, are root-cause corrections for the low scores.

Congratulations to Mr. Gorman for not missing the obvious like most CMS leaders have.

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Gorman is doing another thing that is both common sense and I believe will make a tremendous difference in the classroom.

http://www.news14charlotte.com/content/top...asp?ArID=132512

CMS seems to have a tremendous amount of wasteful spending at the main offices. They have a lot of overhead positions filled with people who aren't really that well qualified, yet they wield their power as expected from bureaucrats.

In periods of tight revenue, businesses always cut funds from non-revenue producing jobs. In public service, there isn't revenue production, but there is a primary mission that indirectly earns public funding. It is GREAT that Gorman gets this, and is willing to make a major structural change to lower the overhead costs of the system.

I think it is really an obvious thing to do. Yet somehow, past superintendants have been more interested in creating pet positions that gave the appearance of doing something for the classroom, but simply created more power in the main office.

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As the highest paid employee working for Mecklenburg county, it would be nice if he cut his own outrageous salary as a sign that he is willing to endure some of this pain. He did take the time yesterday to hold a press conference to say that he has self-graded himself with a "B" and that the entire public should support him and his policies. This does sound a bit self serving to me.

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I'm sure would like up to dock the pay retroactively for Pug and the crazy lady that is interim. But I don't think I would be expecting any non-billionaire to cut their own salary after being on the job for less than a year. I would agree though with the county changing most of it to bonuses rather than straight salary. Especially if they work like most CMS bonuses, with impossible criteria so they don't have to pay them, or quick rule changes just before people are about to earn them.

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Charlotte, in my opinion, is at a crossroads and school quality will determine how we continue to develop. As someone pointed out, the affluent are increasingly choosing private schools. More and more, public schools are the domain of lower-income, single-parent and immigrant children. Consequently, scores will continue to disappoint. The growing rift between suburban home owners and urban dwellers highlight the stakes. The suburban residents are already used to "privatized" management. They belong to HOA's who provide many of the amenities that the public sector used to provide. They have private golf courses, tennis courts, pools, landscaping, etc. With the exception of roads and sometimes jobs at the banks, they are largely independent from the "urban" sphere. They also tend to vote Republican. Cities like Portland, OR and San Francisco are already experiencing "youth" flight--that is parents with school age children are increasingly choosing residences outside the city. Thus, the urban schools become more exclusively low-income and under-performing--confirming the suburban biases. These are wicked, circular problems.

One other factor that matters, I think, is brain drain. Granted, excellent teachers remain but many undergraduates who are high performers in Math, Science, Economics, etc. are choosing the private sector. Having to be "certified" with a degree in Education is silly. Get the best and brightest scientists you can find, provide them some training in pedagogy and let them loose in the classroom. The education industry will not let that happen, sadly. Has anyone else noticed how many former teachers there are selling real estate?

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Charlotte, in my opinion, is at a crossroads and school quality will determine how we continue to develop. As someone pointed out, the affluent are increasingly choosing private schools. More and more, public schools are the domain of lower-income, single-parent and immigrant children. Consequently, scores will continue to disappoint. The growing rift between suburban home owners and urban dwellers highlight the stakes. The suburban residents are already used to "privatized" management. They belong to HOA's who provide many of the amenities that the public sector used to provide. They have private golf courses, tennis courts, pools, landscaping, etc. With the exception of roads and sometimes jobs at the banks, they are largely independent from the "urban" sphere. They also tend to vote Republican. Cities like Portland, OR and San Francisco are already experiencing "youth" flight--that is parents with school age children are increasingly choosing residences outside the city. Thus, the urban schools become more exclusively low-income and under-performing--confirming the suburban biases. These are wicked, circular problems.

One other factor that matters, I think, is brain drain. Granted, excellent teachers remain but many undergraduates who are high performers in Math, Science, Economics, etc. are choosing the private sector. Having to be "certified" with a degree in Education is silly. Get the best and brightest scientists you can find, provide them some training in pedagogy and let them loose in the classroom. The education industry will not let that happen, sadly. Has anyone else noticed how many former teachers there are selling real estate?

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CMS reflects the sociopolitical polarization of the community it serves. Affluent surbubanites resent any funding of under capacity poorer urban schools when their children are crammed into trailer park classrooms. Conversely, urban parents see suburban parents as elitist. Like so much else in Mecklenburg there is a political undercurrent, with the Republicans and Democrats representing suburban and urban areas respectively on the BOE and MCC, equaling partisan gridlock while poor and rich kids suffer.

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