In Charlotte, challenging all students, parents to raise their standards

When you cover a two-hour forum that ends at 6:30 p.m., like yesterday's schools merger event with education leaders from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, there are many things that get left on the cutting room floor. Here is the deadline story, but I'm going to include some posts today with items that did not make the story.

  • One thing definitely noticeable at these "learning opportunities" organized and funded by the Hyde Family Foundations is who shows up. Josh Edelman, the lead local project manager for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's initiative in Memphis, was on hand, as was Patrick Smith, the second in command for the Tennessee Department of Education. The international firm newly hired by the schools merger Transition Planning Commission, Boston Consulting Group, also sent its local project manager, Lane McBride, along with three associates.

  • The CMS leaders emphasized that as proud as they are of the progress seen in Charlotte, schools there still must show improvement. Just-recently departed superintendent Peter Gorman called the remaining achievement gap between white and black students "horrific" even though, at 20 points, it has been closed considerably.

  • Gorman also made it clear that in Charlotte, it's considered vital to really challenge students and parents at low-poverty schools accustomed to great test scores. He made this point using his hands, showing that students without economic disadvantages were coming into the school year at a high level and leaving with modest but not spectacular gains vs. high-poverty schools where students came in at a low level but showed great growth -- not enough to put them at the level of the highest-performing schools but indicative of great teaching.
"We found some people that we thought were doing really good work -- they weren't. The kids were coming in up here and they were leaving here. They were still so far above the bar we thought they were superstars.
"Other schools where we had people who were coming in here and leaving here, and the work to move from there to there was heroic and phenomenal and if you look at that, you say to yourself, 'My gosh. That was harder than any other school in our district.'"

Gorman described a program CMS designed to give almost complete autonomy to schools demonstrating high growth, or to effective principals agreeing to take teams into low-performing schools with a turnaround plan. He said that four pages of non-negotiable curriculum and instructional methods would be whittled to just three directives -- follow the law, include all state-mandated subject areas and implement the district's highly-successful reading series.

Again, Gorman said looking at student growth revealed some surprising trends -- yes achievement scores at low-poverty schools were nice and high, but many of those schools did not receive the autonomy because growth was mediocre.
"It was shocking for parents at some schools with 95 percent proficiency found that their schools did not have complete freedom and flexibility. It was a real wakeup call to some parents: 'Wow, it feels good here but are my children really learning all they should?' "

3 Comments


I have learned a lot. thank you. I was very pleased. Thanks

I was very pleased. Thanks

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As the process for merging Shelby County's schools accelerates into action, we'll provide bonus coverage here at www.MemphisNewsBlog.com, with a particular focus on the 21-member transition team and the 23-member unified school board. Comment early and often. If you have any tips or suggestions you wish to share, contact Zack McMillin at zmcmillin@commercialappeal.com or 529-2564.

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