The new elephant in the room

Dec. 10, 2015
Meeting materials here

Listen in as Policy Committee chair Tom Tate tries to summarize a discussion of goals for student assignment that members had offered at today’s committee meeting:

The four “goals,” as the policy committee left them Thursday:

  • Reduce high-poverty concentrations in schools.
  • Do no harm or minimize harm.
  • Don’t assign children to more than one failing school in their CMS career.
  • Promote access to varied school options.

The Committee returns to this and other subjects next week. But today, the members present (Thelma Byers-Bailey and Ruby Jones were at a state policy committeee meeting) sounded like they were talking about naming goals, then returning to the as-yet-unfinished guiding principles for student assignment. It seemed possible that the four “goals” would become a preamble to the “guiding principles.”

But when some sharp-penciled person attaches these four goals to the top of the existing guiding principles, their head is going to explode. The goals contravene much of the substantive content of the guiding principles that resegregated CMS schools beginning in 2002 and led to the creation of high-poverty schools. This is the new elephant in the room. Perhaps the committee will address its two trunks and five legs next week.

This is the conversation that should have begun last March, when the Policy Committee opened this review of student assignment. But now is not too late to begin the confrontation with reality: If schools that concentrate poverty are bad policy and don’t work for children or teachers or taxpayers, it would be nice to say that one goal of student assignment is to reduce the number of such schools.

It would be even better (and might leave board members less vulnerable to going to jail for violating the N.C. constitutional requirement to give all children access to a sound basic education) if the goal were to eliminate high-poverty concentrations in schools.

Here’s a bit of context for that second goal to do no harm. The speaker is Eric Davis.

“Goal No. 2 for me is don’t mess up what’s working today while we accomplish Goal No. 1…. So many of our parents and students are getting a good result and are liking what they do, in fact will vehemently defend what they have.”

The vehement defense will certainly become noisier as Tate’s committee gets closer to producing a policy statement.

– Steve Johnston

After this meeting, Ann Doss Helms wrote a blog post for the Charlotte Observer suggesting that, at an all-day session in January being proposed by McCray, the board could suspend either the superintendent search or the student assignment review to focus on the other. Text cache here.

Below is a window to the CMS video of the entire meeting. As posted Dec. 10, Thursday’s committee meeting begins at 00:48 but ends at 1:40:52. The remaining 50 minutes on the feed is of various earlier committee meetings.