Weekly Education News-4/8/11

Dear Friends of MeckEd,

Over the past few months, much of the news around CMS has focused on the challenges facing the district, with the main source of pain coming from the severe budget reductions of the past two years ($170 million) and another huge reduction ($100 million) expected for the 2011-12 school year.   With all this bad news, it is easy to forget about much of the good work being done by our teachers, principals and administrators on a daily basis.  Just last week, during a meeting with local clergy, Dr. Gorman shared some of the many successes CMS has realized, as he specifically spoke about the across the board improvement in student achievement, the narrowing of the achievement gap and an increase in graduation rates.  Once again CMS has been nominated as one of four finalists for the 2011 Broad Prize for Urban Education.  This prestigious recognition continues to reinforce the good work being done by our teachers, students and school administrators. This is the third time CMS has received this esteemed honor, which recognizes large, urban school districts that prove through data a significant increase in overall performance and student achievement, while also reducing the achievement gap among different groups of students. As a community we should truly be proud of this recognition. Read the reasons CMS was chosen as a top contender.

The newly formed grassroots parent advocacy group MeckFUTURE has made great strides in the past week. MeckEd has been working closely with the group, as they advocate for saving teacher positions and protecting public education by lobbying our county commissioners though personal letters and face-to-face meetings.  MeckFUTURE is encouraging county commissioners to consider applying a potential $50-$70 million in new dollars from the recent property tax revaluation to help CMS fill the huge budget hole they now face. Read more here. MeckEd strongly encourages all of our readers to attend the 6:00 PM April 13th rally at Metro School. We all have personal stories as to how the impending budget cuts will negatively affect our children and our schools. Let your voice be heard, and please spread the word about this rally. CMS and all of Mecklenburg County need you now.

There has been much discussion this week surrounding increased testing within CMS and performance pay for teachers. CMS has recently launched trial versions of the new tests that will be used to evaluate teachers, but the new testing is controversial because some argue the tests are time-consuming and costly.  The opponents of this new round of testing have expressed their concerns in several forums and are asking to be included in future decision making around the entire Pay for Performance Plan, which will not be officially implemented until 2014. I do, however, think we can all agree our public schools must have effective teachers in all classrooms in order for our children to be academically successful.  Superintendent Dr. Gorman has defended the new testing, citing the benefits it will have for CMS students as less effective teachers are identified. This issue will clearly be a topic MeckEd will report on with keen interest as it goes forward. Read more here.

Speaking of effective teachers, are you aware of the incredible impact a great teacher has? Studies have shown one year with a top ranked teacher, who is in the top 15th percent for performance, can move an average student from the 50th percentile to the 58th percentile or higher. On the other hand, a teacher in the bottom 15th percent can push a student below the 42nd percentile. Read more on these facts here.

As the discussion around budget shortfalls across our nation continue to be front and center when it comes to funding education, numerous politicians continue to point to one of their greatest challenges–the ever increasing costs for Medicare and Medicaid.  As a former principal, it always amazed me how little information many of my students, and their parents, knew about nutrition and obesity.  Michelle Obama has been pushing for schools to serve healthier foods as part of her “Let’s Move” Initiative and the NFL is promoting kids across America to move at least 60 minutes per day. The passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 now gives the USDA the authority to define the types of foods, as well as the portions and ingredients, that can be served for breakfast and lunch in public schools, in an effort to decrease childhood obesity and malnutrition. Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, who supports the proposed changes, saw impressive results with his 2004 “Feed Me Better” Campaign in London. Eleven-year olds who received healthier lunches, as part of the campaign, performed better in English and science, saw improvements in math and had fewer sick days. The USDA’s proposal, based on recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, discusses decreasing sodium and saturated fat, increasing whole grains, as well as fruits and vegetables and their variety and limiting the number of calories. Schools will likely not have to implement the changes into their cafeterias until the 2012-2013 school year. One major concern, however, is the new costs to schools, about $6.8 billion over a five-year period. Will students eat the more nutritious food or toss it? Read more in depth information about the new food requirements.

Again, I want to encourage you to attend the MeckFUTURE Public Rally and Campaign Kickoff next Wednesday, April 13 at 6 p.m. at Metro School to show your support for CMS. This is the time for everyone to come together, despite our differences, to advocate for more funding for our public schools. Increased funding is crucial, because the success of our students depends upon it.  If you do not already, please also follow us on Twitter and become a fan of our Facebook page to ensure you do not miss any MeckEd information. Thank you for your continued support of MeckEd and our mission to ensure all CMS students receive a quality public education.

Sincerely,

Bill Anderson, Ed. D.
Executive Director

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