Archive for February, 2012

February 29th e-Newsletter

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Dear Friend of MeckEd,

Next week new 2010-11 Interactive Data Maps of will be available on our website. The maps, created in partnership with the UNC-Charlotte Urban Institute, will include two new indicators: student growth and student growth for students who arrived on grade level. I encourage you to visit our website next week to interact with the new data to see where each school within CMS stands in terms of student proficiency, graduation rates, teacher turnover rates, student-teacher ratios, per pupil expenditures and student growth.

Read the February 29th e-Newsletter

Trust Our Capacity to Create

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

This article  appeared in the For Your Consideration section in our February 29th e-newsletter and was reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Viewpoint. For Your Consideration provides an open forum for community members to voice their opinions on various public education issues.

Spend more than five minutes with Michael Realon and he will tell you that there are children dying in America’s outdated school system every day. Realon is the entrepreneur-turned-Career Development Officer for the Olympic Community of Schools, one of the success stories of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants. While dying in physical terms is also true, the death he speaks of is the death of their future prospects, their spirit, intellectual curiosity, creativity and soul.

Realon’s job for the past eight years has been to engage businesses to support the curriculum and development of the collection of high school tracts. Working together they create and explore the convergence of the businesses’ and students’ needs. Encompassing bioscience, math, technology and computer science the effort has proven to be a successful collaboration on a project style learning curriculum and is a model for an interactive integrated system of education. In this effort children are engaged to create things, to take concepts apart, study and look at them critically, using their minds to create something.

But this school alone is not enough; kids are still “dying.”

Educational leadership

The process of creation was not in my mind when I was in school; making the grade, getting to college and then getting a job was. I asked Liz Coleman if the notion that education led to riches was a common one.  Coleman is president of Bennington College, where more than 10 years ago she and her colleagues radically transformed liberal arts education well before most of us were considering these issues.

Bennington is known for its cutting edge liberal arts program and its connection to innovation, civics and responsibility in educational leadership. Buckminster Fuller constructed one of his earliest Geodesic domes on this very campus. Bennington’s reliance on experts and academics has shifted to people that are involved in the work the students are studying. The students are exposed to instructors who are actively engaged in the area of study, and exposed to other areas of study to give context to their chosen tract, Coleman said.

With the precision of a poet and the heart of our founding fathers, she comments on the general state of the institution of education:

“The stunning accomplishment of this country in making an education available to every single person was certainly not driven by an impulse to simply change job opportunities. Its objective was the public good, not narrow self interest. Moreover it was presumed that education was profoundly connected to the quality of our public life and the vitality of our democracy.”

Democracy and dialogue

Coleman continued, “The fundamental idea of a democracy is the idea that conflict is always going to be there; the challenge of democracy–to deal with differences in ways that are principled and non-violent. Education is properly seen as a critical player in meeting this challenge, in enabling us to respect and engage differences productively. If we had any doubts of the importance of education or the dangers of ignorance when it comes to the well being of democracy, they should certainly have been dispelled by the devastating deterioration in the quality of our public life in recent decades. Whatever can be said for our role in enhancing earning capacities, we have failed miserably in meeting our obligations to improve the quality of our public life, and to give powerful voice to the public interest. And my guess is that we are credited with a lot more than we [the institution of education] deserve when it comes to preparing our graduates to negotiate the world of work.”

Can we foster Coleman’s notion that students should possess a “deserved confidence” of being able to create their future instead of justifying their role in it? That they should be on their journey for the sake of the journey and with responsibility to the rest of the world? With that can we and should we engage them to create?

Self worth breeds success

Bill Strickland, President and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, experienced the depths of a child’s journey only to rise to the status of hero to ones just like him. Out of his own ingenuity, creativity and drive (and he would say the blessing of others who believed in him), Strickland achieved a solid leadership role of a thriving organization. While he was not educated to be a teacher, his story certainly has a lesson for each of us.

He is the social entrepreneur behind the Manchester Bidwell Schools. With his support, these centers of learning are being recreated all over the country in an effort to save kids from dying the death Realon warns against. His Manchester School works with kids from the toughest backgrounds – children that are on the brink of destruction and have exhausted other forms of intervention.

“One of the big criteria (for success) is coming to an environment where people tell you that you are worth something in a variety of ways,” says Strickland. “That is the big fundamental message that these kids can learn, we are here to reinforce that learning. The message is from the first time those kids walk through that door they have value. We do not consider these kids at risk, we consider them students.”

Asking the right questions

Perhaps the answer doesn’t lie in the expertise that Realon, Coleman, and Strickland share but instead is found in the example their life suggests –  their willingness to create something they didn’t know how to create toward a vision of higher purpose.

Perhaps the elusive key to our education crisis isn’t about having the right answers but merely asking the right questions.

What if we stop looking for silver bullets, stop looking for the one perfect method of “getting it right” or the one perfect person with the right amount of politics and pedigree in creating the type of education system we aspire to and instead ask ourselves what is our future perfect vision?

What if we stop long enough to realize we have the talent within us to help our children fulfill themselves, if we only understood the mission?

We have the ability to help each child realize their individual capacity, their responsibility to themselves and to the world around them, and to use their minds with ingenuity, courage, integrity, passion and compassion; we merely have not recognized what it takes: trusting our own capacity to create.

Do you have a comment? Please post your response below:

About the Author:

Angela is founder and principal at Rogers and Gala Creative Partners, Inc. She is also the mother of three CMS students and an active advocate for the transformation of public education for the 21st century.

Gov. Perdue Announces 2,000 Additional Pre-K Slots

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Office of Governor Perdue
February 22, 2012

Gov. Bev Perdue announced this morning that her administration will create 2,000 additional slots this year in NC Pre-K classrooms across North Carolina.

Gov. Perdue has identified $9.3 million that will allow the additional at-risk 4-year-olds to attend NC Pre-K.

“NC Pre-K is a nationally recognized, academic program that helps prepare children to succeed in kindergarten, throughout school and in life,” Gov. Perdue said. “This additional investment in our children will pay big dividends for all North Carolina because these children will be less likely to fall behind and drop out later in life.”

The 2,000 additional slots represent the number of children that could be served immediately with available funding. The children would attend NC Pre-K from mid-March through mid-August, at which point, they will enter kindergarten. Local administrators have a process in place to determine which children will be placed in Pre-K programs.

Gov. Perdue has advocated expanding NC Pre-K as the General Assembly’s budget cut funding and reduced the number of slots available to at-risk four-year-olds. In July, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning issued an order in which he said that “[t]he State of North Carolina shall not deny any eligible at-risk four year old admission to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program (NCPK).” The Judge also directed the state to “provide the quality services of the NCPK to any eligible four year old that applies.”

Gov. Perdue had previously identified a fiscally responsible first step toward implementing the judge’s order that would have served an additional 6,300 children without raising taxes or making further cuts to education. The General Assembly has not acted on the Governor’s recommendations.

“All children in North Carolina, regardless of where they live, deserve a chance at a successful future and we know that NC Pre-K changes lives,” Gov. Perdue said. “We have one shot to give these children the benefit of Pre-K. They can’t wait, and we can’t either.”

Research by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-CH has shown that children who attended NC Pre-K have significantly higher end-of-grade test scores in 3rd grade than similar children who did not have the benefit of the program.

Each year, approximately 67,000 at-risk four year olds in NC are eligible for the program. Current funding provides service for approximately 24,700 children.

The additional funding for the 2,000 new slots will come from child care subsidy funds on a one-time basis to meet the urgent need of at-risk children who are not currently served by NC Pre-K.

February 22nd e-Newsletter

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Photo courtesy of Jeremy M. Lange; The New York Times

Dear Friend of MeckEd,

At last Tuesday’s CMS school board meeting there was a powerful and passionate presentation from a small group of teachers participating in the Talent Effectiveness Project teacher working groups.  The energy, enthusiasm and professionalism of the teachers was encouraging, and will serve as a guidepost for professional development and school improvement efforts in CMS.  I strongly encourage you to view their presentation and become inspired by their work.

Read the February 22nd e-Newsletter

Dropout-age Debate Secondary to What Matters Most

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

This editorial was originally published by the North Carolina News Schools Project and appeared in the For Your Consideration section in our February 22nd e-newsletter. For Your Consideration provides an open space for individuals to voice their opinions on various public education issues.

President Barack Obama, in his recent State of the Union address, urged every state to set the dropout age at 18. The administration recognizes that allowing students as young as 16 to make that life-compromising decision is a policy that makes little sense. In a globally competitive world, pursuing advanced training beyond high school is no longer optional as it was for previous generations.

North Carolina education leaders have sought to increase the dropout age from 16 before, and should try again. It would send another signal to students, parents and others about the critical importance of staying in school and graduating. While this effort is significant, no one should believe that simply changing the state’s compulsory attendance age is sufficient.

Far more important than requiring students by law to stay in school is ensuring that school is a place they want to be, and helping young people understand that education is something they need. Schools must be engaging and challenging at the same time that they are supportive and personalized. In a word, they must be excellent.

Students must see the relevance in what they’re being asked to learn, and they must have opportunities to make connections with the real world they enter upon graduation. In this ever-changing economy, we must prepare our students for jobs that don’t even exist today, and we will do this only by developing new opportunities for students that reflect 21st century realities. The latest dropout data for North Carolina, released earlier this month by the State Board of Education, provide fresh evidence that these kinds of educational opportunities are helping keep students in school. The dropout rate for Guilford County Schools has continued to improve and remains below that of all other urban districts in the state.

But focusing on the dropout rate doesn’t tell the whole story. While a student staying in school is certainly critical, those same numbers don’t tell us whether that student graduated, or was well prepared to tackle college classes, advanced training, or an entry level job. Those numbers don’t tell us whether a student demonstrates perseverance, knows how to use new information technologies well, or works collaboratively as a member of a high-functioning team in an environment characterized by constant change.

To prepare students for college and/or the career of their choice, Guilford County Schools (GCS) has focused on reshaping its traditional, comprehensive high schools and on opening different avenues to spur greater student success and engagement, including early/middle colleges, academies, and a new service-learning initiative. The district’s eighth early/middle college opened this school year and focuses on health sciences, and the newest early/middle college, to open this fall, will emphasize science, engineering, technology and mathematics.

The state’s graduation data provide evidence that these innovative approaches are making a real difference. In the 2010-11 school year, eight schools in GCS – all non-traditional high schools – achieved a 100 percent graduation rate, and nearly all non-traditional high schools had graduation rates above 95 percent. Overall, the district’s graduation rate has risen every year since 2006 and remains above the state average.

Not only are our schools working hard to keep students in school by keeping them engaged and well supported, they’re making sure that students understand there is no alternative to graduating and that learning is a life-long endeavor.

The kinds of results we are seeing in GCS are the sum of many parts – from hard-working educators to a supportive community united by a vision of educational excellence for all students. While GCS acknowledges the district’s low dropout numbers, we celebrate the thousands of students each year who walk across the stage, receive their high school diploma and enter the next phase with the confidence and skills to succeed and make a difference.

Ultimately, it comes down to setting high expectations and making sure that students are empowered with the skills, knowledge and strength of character to reach them. In this equation, age doesn’t matter nearly as much as the level of educational excellence our students receive.

Do you have a comment? Please post your response below:

About the Author:

Maurice O. Green is the superintendent of Guilford County Schools.

Group Wants to Divide CMS Into Three Districts

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

By Michelle Boudin
February 16, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The push to split the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District into three parts is once again gaining ground.

Tom Davis says the CMS system is broken.

“Supersize this, supersize that, all of a sudden your quality starts suffering because you’re trying to do too much, ”he said.

That’s why he is leading the group called SPARK, which stands for Strategic Partners for Accountability and Reform of Key educational performances.

Simply put, they want to break the district up into three different school districts–one for the north, one in the middle and a third in the south.

“You’ve got one central office covering 500 square miles with 18,000 employees,” Davis said.Executive Director Bill Anderson Speaks to WCNC

The group says the district is mismanaged and money is misspent, but not everyone agrees.

“I think by breaking up our district, I don’t see how that would help,” said Bill Anderson, Executive Director of Meck Ed.

Meck Ed is a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group in Charlotte.

“I also think it’s very important that we think about the big picture, the long term picture in Charlotte. One of the great things when we recruit new businesses to town is that we are a consolidated school district,” Anderson added.

But he says he understands what’s at the heart of SPARKS push.

“I think people want to make sure they’re voice is being heard, they’re children are being taken care of.  As a former principal, parents are not objective about their own children, nor should they be,” Anderson said.

SPARK wants to petition the state legislature.

Related Article: Sparking the Idea of Splitting Up CMS

February 15th e-Newsletter

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Dear Friend of MeckEd,

Over the last week, there has been much discussion about two groups, SMART and SPARK, who are petitioning to break up CMS into smaller districts. In other local news, County Commissioner Harold Cogdell indicated county commissioners are reluctant to grant across-the-board three percent raises to all CMS employees and are interested in knowing where CMS stands with regard to a performance-based compensation plan. For the record, the commissioners approved across-the-board raises for all Mecklenburg County in fiscal year 2011. Cogdell: County Can’t Pay For CMS Raises

Read complete February 15th e-Newsletter

Public Engagement and Education Excellence

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

This editorial appeared in the For Your Consideration section in our February 15th e-newsletter. For Your Consideration provides an open space for individuals to voice their opinions on various public education issues.

Too much of the public is missing from public education.

As a people, we recognize the economic value of education, but we under-invest in our schools, both financially and in terms of civic capital. With America’s students and schools facing unprecedented needs, and education budgets under enormous pressure, it is time to drastically ramp up civic investment in public education.

Our public school system — one of the great achievements of American democracy — is not just a service for the public to consume. It is a lifelong compact among Americans to continually renew our nation’s future, to be actively supported by all citizens, whether or not they have children of school age. It is vital to ensure a populace with the knowledge and skills to succeed in, and create, good jobs. Indeed, Americans view education as a core value as well as a key service, according to research by pollster Celinda Lake. So, what does civic investment mean, and why is it so important today?

“Take an informed interest, put in time, and get political,” the National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education declared this year. It is essential for the American people to better understand the economic and civic costs of educational failure. While there are multiple challenges to creating an equitable system of quality public education, it will not be realized without the vigilant, knowledgeable and active support of the American people. They must demand and expect three things: educational excellence; accountability of elected officials and school leaders for quality education; and adequate financial resources for public schools.

Begin by being well-informed about what public education is — and is not — doing for our young people and our country. Citizens should learn what contributes to, and what hinders, a high-quality public education. They should carefully scrutinize candidates and education ballot initiatives and vote for ones that support and promote quality public schools. Civic investment means attending school board meetings and education budget hearings, and peppering elected officials — in person and in writing — with key questions: How do you plan to provide adequate funding for public schools? How do you support the goal of college-and career-readiness for every student? What do you think are the best ways to evaluate school and student performance?

This is already happening in some communities. But in a nation with more than 50 million K-12 students and 14,000 school districts, this kind of civic activity is essential for every community.

Active citizenship is critical because of the profound connections among education, the economy and our collective well-being. Poorly educated individuals fall behind in our society. Poorly educated nations fall behind in the world.

The corollary, as we see in many East Asian and Northern European countries, is that investment in education pays high dividends. As former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise said: “The best economic stimulus is a high school diploma.” An educated population means more rewarding, high-paying jobs, which pump money into the economy and build community strength.

Instead, we risk a vicious cycle of declining educational outcomes and declining economic fortunes. U.S. schoolchildren have fallen behind their counterparts in too many countries on too many indicators — math and science performance, timely high school graduation, knowledge of history and the arts, and in college readiness and matriculation.

At the same time, our economy has been stalled or going in reverse for too many Americans for too many years. The litany of economic problems is also familiar: anemic growth, joblessness, stagnant wages, too little productive investment, growing poverty, economic insecurity and rising inequality. The best long-term jobs and growth strategy requires that citizens speak out often, loudly and insistently for quality public education.

If we leave these educational and economic circumstances unchallenged, we will disenfranchise millions of children from the American dream, dilute our democracy and compromise our nation’s future.

It won’t be easy. State education budgets are being hit harder this year than at any time since the recession began in 2008. At least 46 states are reducing services, hitting children and the most vulnerable especially hard, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Thirty-seven of these states are cutting their K-12 education budgets this year — at a time when 1 in 5 children lives in poverty, 1 in 10 is without health insurance, and national school enrollment is up by a quarter-million.

The state funding crunch is likely to be made worse by the federal government’s fiscal problems and demands for budget cuts. The United States needs to get its fiscal house in order, but all budget cuts are not equal. Slashing education funding is a cut that just keeps on cutting. Educational opportunities denied mean foregone skills and knowledge, poorer career and life outcomes, and a weaker economy and nation for us all. If we choose not to properly educate our young people, we will suffer the consequences for generations.

Civic investment — being well-informed, voting, and keeping the pressure on officials to support quality education — is the alternative to public passivity. If we recognize that educational opportunity and success are foundations for a strong democracy and a thriving economy, we need to be engaged trustees of that most American of institutions: our public schools.

Do you have a comment? Please post your response below:

About the Author:

Wendy Puriefoy is the founder and President of the Public Education Network (PEN).

Bill Anderson Discusses CMS Dropout Rates on 282

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Arne Says We Must Invest in Education

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education“Education is an investment,” Secretary Duncan told a town hall audience earlier this week at Emerson College in Boston. Duncan explained that other countries aren’t cutting their investment in education, and for America to compete in the global economy, investing in education is vital.

Duncan started a busy day at Boston University where he discussed Race to the Top with Mass., Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, superintendents, union presidents, and others. The Secretary then stopeed by J.F. Kennedy Elementary to visit Boston Public Schools’ Parent University. Following the visit, Duncan updated his Twitter account saying:

Later, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) joined Arne for the Emerson town hall and a meeting with college presidents on keeping college affordable for America’s middle class. The meeting on college affordability follows on the heels of President Obama’s recently introduced Blueprint for College Affordability. “[W]e’ve got to have an economy in which every American has access to a world-class higher education,” President Obama explained when he unveiled the blueprint. “This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it, and that’s part of what helped to create this economic miracle and build the largest middle class in history,” he said.

Following his visit to Emerson, Duncan gave a speech at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Askwith Forum, entitled “Fighting the Wrong Education Battles.”  Duncan encouraged education advocates to “seek common ground—knowing that it will both take you outside of your comfort zone and require tough-minded collaboration.” He said that we need to “stop defending the status quo when it hurts children. Let’s wage the right education battles. Together, let’s work collectively to advance achievement and a love of learning in America.”

Read the entire speech here.