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.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

D before E

Have you ever wondered if diversity really trumps education in Wake County? I mean, honestly... you can read my posts from the past two years and listen to my opinion but I'm sure you've thought: 

"Yeah, yeah. You're just political and hate this School Board" or 

"My kids are fine. Diversity is a good thing (as long as we don't get reassigned)." or 

(in a whisper...) "That woman is crazy."

Well, I feel your pain. This School Board has not made it easy. In the past 3 years, they have made many damaging decisions (like going through 4 superintendents in 2 years) and many non-decisions (uh, after 3 years and whole lotta talking, still no assignment plan?).

But, are they really so focused on creating diversity in our schools that the educational needs of our students run a far second?

Here's some clarity. 

Last week, the N&O had an article about the WCPSS School Board ending a successful and effective program that was running at 5 low-income schools in Wake County.  While Mr. Literal, aka School Board Jim Martin, tried to berate the N&O and claim that the Board never canceled this program, the reality is the funding has ended and this program, one that has helped thousands of low-income children, is over. Don't let Mr. Martin's patronizing twist on the truth make you believe otherwise. 

In the end, the program was ended because this Board doesn't like helping all sorts of poor kids together in one school. In the Board's opinion, it's wrong for poor families to choose to attend school together and then have the school system provide extra resources to help their children. The success of that program isn't what's important to them. The diversity of that school is important. Diversity over education.

But, do you care? After all, not my children.

So, let's talk about something that you might care about. Something that really speaks to the Board's one and only concern: diversity.

At their last work session (the meeting before the official Board meeting), there was a discussion about the placement of the new schools that will be built from the 2013 bond money. You know, the bond you voted for last year because "it's for the children".

WCPSS staff has been working to identify areas to build schools around the county in order to best serve the growing population of Wake County. To make it easy, I'll recap that discussion for those of you who live in SW Wake. 

Here's what your unsympathetic and magnet-focused School Board member Susan Evans had to say:

"We've been having various other conversations about student assignment and the magnet program and I think this is probably a good time for us to put it out there on the table. We have to be forward thinking about all of that stuff and I don't know what the decent answers are but, I've said this before and I'll say it again."

Here it comes, people...

"While I understand that the density of new neighborhoods is strong along that Western corridor and will be strong along the most Southern corridor, so that looks like that's our immediate need, I have a concern from a long-term perspective that, in 20 years when those neighborhoods have aged up and we've got a bazillion schools around the perimeter of the county, is that going to serve us well? We need to think globally about the positioning of schools with long-term in mind and build more towards the center of [the county]."

Globally? Uh, ok. So, even though we have been recognized as the fastest growing area of the county...  And, even though you have been told by Susan Evans that you matter and she will work for your family and your children...  And, even though you honestly believed that your support of the 2013 school bond would result in new schools in your crowded neighborhood...  Even though there is an "immediate need" (her words, not mine) for schools in our district, we're not going to get them.

As quoted in the N&O, "It’s easier to assign children to schools in the central areas of the county to balance population and diversity than to send them to schools farther away."

Let me say that in plain English. 

Schools will be built closer to Raleigh so diversity will be easier to achieve. And your kids are the next pawns in that system.

So, the joke's on you. Do you care now?


Read more here:

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Suburban Imbeciles

I just watched the WCPSS Strategic Plan meeting...aka #wakevision.

(If you want to waste 2 hours of your time, you can watch it here.)

This meeting was held at Memorial Hall on May 30th to kickoff the development "of a five-year strategic plan that will guide the school system moving forward." (BTW, this meeting cost you at least $2,422.85.) (And...the last five year strategic plan was done just two years ago. But, whatever.)

The speaker hired by WCPSS, some guy who calls himself a futurist, was actually okay.  Engaging, sounded pretty knowledgeable, had some interesting ideas.
A little nutty but tolerable, I guess. In a nutshell, his message was that we need to be teaching for our kids' future, and not from our own past. And how important this is - now more than ever - because the world is changing at a faster rate than it ever has. 

Good message. But, considering this crowd and that School Board members and Supt. Merrill were in the room, it probably floated over their heads and right out the door.

But, the absolute best part of this meeting (and well worth watching at 1:51:55) was when one parent, Becky, stood up to ask a question. Little ol' Becky was pretty confident in her if she already knew the answer. Here's what she said:

"I am the parent of two students at Martin Middle School. One of the stronger points of the Wake County Public School System has been the long-time commitment to having diverse schools. What do you say to parents, and I think this is part of the visioning process, guys - who are so adamant that the worst thing that can happen to their kid is that they could be reassigned to a different school the next year?"

Good grief. 

Could Becky possibly be any more condescending while gnashing her teeth?

Uh, yes, she could. And she was:

"I'm sorry - but if my child is going to have 5 to 10 different careers, God forbid that they should have to go to 4 or 5 elementary schools. I mean, it seems like preparation for living to me."

OMG. 4 or 5 elementary schools?! 

Becky is either the worst kind of parent or she represents the epitome of a smug, patronizing, and arrogant magnet parent who thinks us "suburban" parents are idiots. 

Maybe that choice is one and the same. :)

And Becky didn't stop there:

"We don't close our schools because the population shifts; we shift the kids around. And it has worked really well - except that parents get so irate because their children, in spite of the fact that they are all digitally connected, that they are losing that connection."

Fortunately, the futurist stopped Becky from babbling and making herself look even more foolish. His response, however, was brilliant. 

He said:

"I will say that if all the schools in the district are equal quality, there shouldn't be a problem. So, that's the first thing. If the school system can stand up and say "You're gonna get the same education", that's a true statement."

And we all know WCPSS isn't about educational equality. If it was, Becky and her buddies would be very upset over losing their magnet goodies and sharing them with the rest of us imbeciles in the suburbs.

And then the futurist said something incredible:

"The other thing is... the word 'diversity'... Diversity is a loaded, social, emotional word of about 50 years standing that, if you want diversity, you have to let go of the legacy thinking of what the word diversity means and create what is diversity in this school district in 2014. Whatever that is... face that diversity, rather than some formulaic thing. But, the first thing is to make all schools good. Then, it doesn't matter."

So, was it worth the $2300 for the venue and god-knows-how-much for Mr. Futurist to tell the irate parents of Wake County what we already know?  

For those last two minutes, yes. Yes, it was.

Do you think Becky, her magnet friends, and the WCPSS School Board actually listened to those comments? 

Not in a million years. 

Understanding this simple concept would require parents like Becky to change. Parents like Becky have it too good in the magnet system. Parents like Becky have absolutely no understanding of the effect of reassignment on a child - not to mention 4 or 5 of them. Parents like Becky may understand that the reassignment of our children allows her magnet children to remain safe, secure, and untouched at their school. Parents like Becky are ignorant and offensive. Sadly, there are plenty of them in Wake County.

Even worse, they are also on our School Board.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Repackaging Tata's vision

What we are witnessing today on the Wake County School Board is politics at its best.

In 2009, the School Board removed quotas for diversity in the WCPSS assignment policy. After all, there was decades of data that showed the busing scheme in Wake County - that is, using the assignment of poor children to fill quotas at each school - did not work. It did not improve academic outcomes.

However, as a result of that simple change, the liberals went wild. 

They packed the Board meetings, protested anywhere they could, chanted and sang, encouraged students to get arrested, and proudly crossed the security barriers to physically take over the School Board seats. C'mon, we all remember it. Overly-dramatic candlelight vigils. Yelling, singing, and praying during Board meetings. Years of hateful statements, speeches, and name-calling.

Fast forward to this past week...

New Superintendent Merrill and WCPSS staff presented a new academic formula to the School Board. This formula could be used to better identify the needs of struggling schools - how to place resources properly - rather than simply using diversity busing to address educational problems. Sadly, it does include the ability to reassign students to "improve" performance. But, it's no longer the be-all and end-all as this Board and their liberal friends so desired.

This new formula is divided into 5 areas - yet "diversity" is no longer the most important factor. In fact, "demographics" (which it is named under this formula) is similarly weighted to 3 of the other 5 factors.

And, shockingly, the left remains silent. No outrage. Silence. Crickets.

Let's not forget... the end result of all that hubbub from the liberals was the buyout of the contract of a very effective and very successful superintendent. With the support of the 2009 Board, Tata managed to change the conversation in Wake County. Not an easy feat.

So, I can only believe that either Merrill is treading on very thin ice with this Board by basically dismissing diversity busing as a solution in education. Or this School Board is filled with a bunch of liars and hypocrites.

In a nutshell...

A vision and leadership from a superintendent hired by a Republican-majority board?
Bad, bad, bad.

The same vision from a superintendent hired by a Democratic-majority board?
Hmmm... seems OK.

Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't set in stone. The Board has to approve this new formula that puts little emphasis on diversity busing. And, in the long shot that they will vote in favor of it, I wonder if the outrage will return.
I'm not betting on it.