Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tomorrow is Yesterday

Well, well, well.  It really is true.

The Democratic-led WCPSS School Board is clearly rebranding the vision of the '09 Republican-led School Board and calling it their own.

You read that right.

The Democrats have not brought back diversity busing as their supporters elected them to do. In fact, according to WCPSS staff, they have no intention of using diversity assignments anymore.

Yes, yes. I know. Even after all those protests, disruptions, and arrests back in 2010; even after all the media play over how removing the long-standing diversity policy would destroy our school system and our community; even after watching Rev. Barber and his uber-liberal GSIW crew disrupt meeting after meeting with dancing, praying, singing, and name-calling over the end to diversity busing. Yup, even after all that, the Democratic Board isn't going to do it.

Instead, they are continuing the vision of the Margiotta-led Board and the work by Supt. Tata.

But, how can that be? How can Susan Evans, Jim Martin, Christine Kushner, the 3 current Board members who were part of the GSIW leadership team and who have stood side-by-side with Rev. Barber at protests and Moral Mondays, now see things MY way?

Bizarro world, indeed.

And think about it. Putting an end to diversity assignments back in '09 was an outrage. The liberals lashed out and decried the policy change as "resegregation" and said we were heading back to the days of Jim Crow. They then caused enough ruckus and created enough fear across our county to regain control in the next election.

Geez, guys. What was the big deal?

This School Board is doing exactly what the Margiotta-led Board was trying to do: End the long bus rides for poor and minority students and bring the resources to the students and schools that need them the most.

Did anyone hear that message back then?

When Supt. Tata was leading the charge, it was called Managed Performance Empowerment (MPE) and was part of his 2012 strategic plan. High-needs schools were identified and given more funding to improve academics. I blogged about the ending of this program - the Renaissance schools - and their funding back in June.

And, yet, lo and behold, the WCPSS staff announced last week that, rather than busing, they too will be using the MPE model and provide extra resources to high-needs schools.

Hmm, oddly familiar and eerily quiet.

I was hesitant to believe that Supt. Merrill and this Board were going to simply repackage Tata's work and the vision of the '09 Board when they came out with a new academic formula earlier this year - one that didn't place a priority on diversity assignments.

Today, I'm glad to see things playing out as they should have in 2009.

And without all the noise.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Irrational Numbers

A research paper about WCPSS was released this past June. It's titled "Middle School Math Acceleration and Equitable Access to 8th Grade Algebra: Evidence from the Wake County Public School System" and speaks very highly of WCPSS' math placement policy. And yet it has received no media attention, no mention of it by the School Board, and not a peep about it from Supt. Merrill.

But, why? Why would such an important document - one that shows that a simple change in policy has resulted in academic success for many minority and low-income students - not be lauded by the Wake County Public School System?

Let's go back to 2009 so you understand the whole story.

In 2009, a scathing report was released by SAS that accused WCPSS and their data reporting of "hiding an inequitable situation for students in schools serving more FRPL [free reduced price lunch] students." Under the leadership of then-Supt. Burns (the coward that left when he couldn't stand the heat), WCPSS had been purposefully withholding minority and economically-disadvantaged (ED) students from being placed in Algebra 1, even though they were academically ready.

Shameful, right? Even worse, Supt. Burns had the nerve to suppress this report for months - with no intention of releasing it to the public. No wonder he hightailed it out of town.

Fortunately, the then-School Board (you know, the ones that were painted as evil and racist) immediately worked to address this educationally-damaging practice that was restricting access to Hispanic and Black middle school students. Yes, that's right. They focused on academics; not diversity.

But this wasn't without strong opposition from the "diversity lover" Democrats.

School Board member Kevin Hill and newly-elected Jim Martin fought against allowing access to these children. Even though Hill acknowledged that some students had been wrongly held back, the Democratic Board members still believed that these minority children weren't capable of achieving.

Ironic, isn't it? The very people that were supported by the NAACP and Rev. Barber, the very people who stood arm in arm at protests and candlelight vigils, the very people who were elected to "protect diversity" were completely against implementing a policy that provided minority students opportunities to succeed.

Passing this policy was a huge step forward. Enforcing this new policy and unwinding years of a culture of low expectations was daunting. As the paper points out, "..compliance with the policy appeared more modest in its first few years." However, after a "powerful directive" from Supt. Tata, "...compliance with the policy became stronger over time".

The result? Enrollment in Algebra 1 nearly doubled from 2009 to 2011.

(Side note: let's not forget that Kevin Hill and his fellow Board members hated Tata's leadership style. Maybe because Tata demanded and expected results. Unlike Supt. Merrill, who does...what?)

And it wasn't just enrollment that increased. After the policy had been in effect for a full year and thousands of students were added to Algebra 1, much to the dismay of the Democrat School Board members, overall performance for all students in Algebra I went up 1.1%. 

So, read the paper. It's a lot to digest but here are some important facts about the policy change:
  • We know from the End-of-Course (EOC) data that >95% of students placed are successful.
  • The inclusion of ED and minority students in 8th grade Algebra I has significantly increased.
  • Providing access to higher-level math exposed ED and minority students to teachers who were of average or greater than average effectiveness. Historically, these children have not had access to highly-effective teachers.

This is all great news but, under our current leadership, some very important questions and concerns remain:
  • Has inclusion remained a goal of the system?
  • Do students stay on an accelerated track once in high school?
  • As the paper points out, this policy had to be mandated by Supt. Tata. What is Supt. Merrill's mandate? 

The math placement guidelines may be the same in writing as they were in 2010 but compliance to the policy is now unknown. Transparency is something this Board has lacked since day one. Are all qualified children, regardless of socioeconomic status or race, still given access to the proper math class? Supt. Tata demanded that the data regarding placement be transparent. Supt Merrill? Not so much.

So, now you know. Acknowledgement of this success by the Tata-hating School Board would be extolling the virtues of Tata's leadership and decisions. That will simply never happen.

And, considering Board members haven't changed their opinion on the capabilities of poor and minority children, don't hold your breath on any mention of this paper any time soon.

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