Sorry Scores in US History: JLF Time to step our teaching of Social Studies, particularly US History. In an exclusive Carolina Journal report from the John Locke Foundation (click here), proficiency scores from two years worth of End-of-Course test data show students scored under 70% proficient in US History. In addition, achievement gaps are present, and that goals between these EOCs and the recently-released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are not the same.

An excerpt from the report:

Effective history standards, according to the Fordham Institute, are ones that “acknowledge the key issues and events that comprise the whole American story” while remaining free of presentism as well as overt and covert ideological agendas. The authors concluded that two of the most important reforms would be to teach history as a separate academic subject rather than as a component of social studies and to require teachers have a bachelor’s degree or higher in history, not in education.

North Carolina’s standards, like those of more than two-thirds of the states, promote the notion that the most important thing that students should learn from social studies is to “use their own life experiences” and an “individual and cultural identity” to solve America’s problems.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.  The debate over standards and the disdain for which many educators hold history is reflected in comments by a senior administrator in Durham Public Schools who said that school systems are struggling over what to teach. She said that a curriculum consultant recently told DPS administrators and teachers that much of American history is irrelevant today, advocating that they integrate a more global perspective. To illustrate history’s irrelevancy, the consultant asked them to name a single fact from U.S. history that they use every day.

E.C. 🙂


The silliness has indeed started

Officials at Greensboro’s Grimsley High School have tightened security after some reported incidents this week. We’re also reading published reports of some gang trouble at Southwest Guilford High School that occurred this week.

1. Grimsley High School has tightened security by curtailing hall passes between classes and increasing police presence there following an assault in a school bathroom yesterday, according to a News & Record report (click here to read it). The incident also follows a melee earlier this week in which three students were arrested (click here to read about that incident).

2. The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. A poster on the News & Record’s Chalkboard blog reports in to say that there was some reported trouble at Southwest Guilford High School a few days ago involving some gang activity and several cop cars on the scene.

Once again, folks, this is a system that has real problems and is dealing with real issues. Let’s all be alert, let’s not let our guard down, maybe (just maybe), our school board and our leadership will get serious and deal with this problem this year.

E.C. 🙂

Grier’s Raise: Garth Speaks

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. School Board member Garth Hebert speaks out in defense of his “yea” vote to give Dr. Grier an 8% raise this week, reluctantly saying the man “met all of his goals for the year.” He wrote in to the News & Record’s Chalkboard blog and said:

The goals were pretty lame. I had to honestly admit that he did meet them. ( I note that SAT scores went down slightly, but if I were to be truthful with myself, he accomplished more for our community at the cost of improving the score, by enticing many kids who would normally not consider college entrance even a remote possibility to take the exam. Had he not done so SAT scores also would have improved modestly) I cannot with-hold his contractual agreement’s stated benefits because standards were set in such a poor way. The percentage is based on the prior years increase of teachers pay, not the current years. It is not Terry’s fault he did what the Board wanted him to do. He should be applauded for this, I believe that we have the right to expect the same achievement if the Board were to give more pertinent goals. I will treat him the same way I would want to be treated in his position. He was given a contract with stated goals and incentives, though prior to my Board membership, he must be treated ethically.

I am not defending Terry, I am being honest. My frustration with our Schools’ performance is real and I guess I do expect more from a high paid executive than most. I really would have expected much more improvement and achievement from this position, but there were some rays of light with staff talent. Maybe when surrounded by better, motivated staff we can get more in the remaining 3 year contract. I also expect more from myself and the Board, our schools are not making ground. Our students are not better prepared. Instead of improving our best, we ignore them and try for mediocrity. Our goals are all oriented towards the lowest common denominator, not excellence as the letterhead might begrudge.

Maybe we should be discussing what goals the School Board should set for itself and for Terry and for our children.



One response he’s had to this:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The goals remain the same as they have since 2/10/04:

1. Overturn the Board membership.
2. Get Grier Outta Here.

Until these goals are reached the students and taxpayers of Guilford County are the losers.


…and that’s why I’m running. I’m a straight shooter, so I’m about to give this to you straight…to use someone else’s words on the Chalkboard: lame goals=lame results. They tell you in teacher school to teach “higher order thinking” and to have “high expectations” for your students. Well, how can we have high expectations for them when we don’t have high expectations for our school’s leadership?

I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree. With me, the buck stops here. And it starts with the leadership of this school system. We spend entirely too much money for mediocre results. I’m tired of it, the taxpayers of this county are tired of it and it is time for a change. And change is inevitable.

And I know people say I’m harping too much on Grier’s alleged behavior with the state team at Andrews, but to me, that is an important thing and he was not held accountable for his bad behavior at all in that incident. I have a big problem with that. And I’m sure Judge Manning would have a big problem with that also…of course, Judge Manning says state teams are a waste of money, so you are starting to see the tide turn with state teams, in general. And apparently, Judge Manning’s words are starting to have some weight in this state.

Garth is right in the sense that staff carried Grier’s weight. It’s a lot of weight and it is a lot of staff…overpaid staff, in my opinion. We apparently have a lot of money to burn in this county. We need to start thinking more conservatively…fiscal conservatism is my priority.

Garth HebertDarlene GarrettAnita SharpeThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Dr. Nancy R. RouthDr. Walter Childs, IIIThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Kris B. CookeJeff Belton



Garth also said that it is time the Board start thinking of what goals it can set for themselves. How about setting higher goals for our children? How about getting back to basics. Less race-baiting and more educating? Let’s set some real priorities. My mother-in-law, who watched the first hour of this week’s Board meeting on TV, said it has to be about priorities. Tennis courts aren’t a priority as much as supplies and books. How about more innovation…and I’m not talking more pet programs that don’t work. How about more public-private partnerships? Wake County is working on a 9th grade academy inside an ex-KMart store. It’s bold, it’s innovative. How about supporting the “Discipline Task Force” when its work is complete and use their final report to create some real policies that keep our schools and our school staff safe (and NOT getting rid of our SROs) and work to provide students who need an alternative setting, a real alternative setting.

Those are real goals. Will this Board step up to the task and create those goals? Probably not, but we can only hope.

Next year’s elections will be interesting…I can hardly wait.

E.C. 🙂

Headlines & Potpourri for 9/28/07

1. Here’s a link to today’s News & Record story on the mentor/youth summit that will take place this weekend at the Coliseum’s Special Events Center. Potential mentors can come tomorrow from 8:30-1pm. Youth can come Sunday from 4-6pm to share their experiences.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The time is now for our community to end the debate, discussion and hand-wringing about the negative outcomes realized in the lives of too many of our youth, and to replace talking with action,” said School Board member Amos Quick, who’s also the director of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs of Greensboro, in the N&R story.


2. The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. GCS got its federal magnet grant to begin putting together an aviation academy at Andrews High School.

In addition, GCS will create a science and technology magnet right next door at Welborn Middle School, along with creating IB programs at Northwood Elementary and Hairston and Ferndale Middle Schools. See today’s story in the High Point Enterprise.


3. The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. With Supt. Terry Grier’s raise this week for having some of the best schools on the planet, he now makes more than the Guilford County manager. Today’s High Point Enterprise says:

“At $235,000, Grier earns more than County Manager David Mc­Neill at $179,306 and High Point City Manager Strib Boynton at $157,500 following a recent 5 per­cent raise. The Guilford County Board of Education gave Grier an 8 percent raise. Greensboro City Manager Mitch­ell Johnson earns about $174,000.

Commissioners promoted Da­vid McNeill to county manager in January at a salary of $174,000 on a 7-2 vote. Earlier this month, the Guilford County Board of Commis­sioners voted 6-3 to give McNeill a 3 percent raise to boost his annual salary to $179,306.”

Hey, it’s only money, right?

E.C. 🙂

Two Views on the NAEP

When is spin…not spin?

First, the spin…from State Supt. of Public Instruction’s June Atkinson:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. North Carolina fourth and eighth graders are above the nation in
mathematics and the same as the nation in reading, according to results from
the Nation’s Report Card released for all states and the nation on Tuesday.
Another bright spot – North Carolina is the state making the most gains in
math since this assessment began. The Nation’s Report Card, also called the
National Assessment of Educational Progress, is the only state-to-state,
apples-to-apples comparison available to us. It is given every other year to
a representative sample of students across the state, so only state and
national results are available. To read more about North Carolina’s
performance, please go to and look under

June Atkinson

Now, let’s deconstruct the spin…from this week’s NC Education Alliance newsletter:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Recent data place American students on an upward academic trajectory. Results from Tuesday’s release of the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” reveal reading and math gains for both elementary and middle school students. Earlier this month, North Carolina announced 2006-07 ABCs test results, likely touching off mirthful back-slapping and high-fives among state officials: 71.8 percent of state public schools made high or expected growth (.pdf), a substantial 17.5 percent increase over the year before.

This sounds like good news all around. But is it really? Are students making genuine strides academically? The answer is yes … and no. As is so often the case with statistical data, the devil is in the details.

When it comes to NAEP, national achievement gains are real, albeit small. Math scores for fourth graders have risen two points since 2005 (NAEP is administered every two years to a representative sampling of students around the country). Eighth grade math scores went up three points. Both grade levels posted higher math gains than in any previous assessment – clearly, a meaningful increase. In reading, fourth grade scores were up two points from 2005, while eighth graders boosted performance by one point.
Here’s the cautionary note, though: despite a modest uptick at the national level, we’re still far from where we need to be. A majority of American students still lacks proficiency (defined as “solid academic performance for each grade assessed”) in both of NAEP’s main content areas. In 2007, just 33 percent of fourth graders (.pdf) and 31 percent of eighth graders (.pdf) scored at or above proficient levels in reading. Students fared slightly better in math, with 39 percent of fourth graders (.pdf) and 32 percent of eighth graders (.pdf) meeting or exceeding proficiency goals.

Significant, lasting gains in reading performance are proving particularly hard to come by. This is unwelcome news to the lawmakers who cheered sizeable spending increases on reading programs. Although it has “seen the greatest investment of federal and state education spending over the past several years,” (according to Education Week), reading literacy is one tough nut to crack. Clearly, more money alone isn’t the answer. Amanda Avallone, a member of NAEP’s governing board, summed up the disappointing trend: “The NAEP data for 2007 – and indeed over the past 15 years – suggest that substantial improvement in reading achievement is eluding us as a nation.”

Closer to home, North Carolina’s 2007 NAEP scores went up minimally; however, these increases were not statistically significant, meaning performance has essentially stayed flat since 2005.

What’s most disturbing about the recent raft of data is the unmistakable disconnect between NAEP state numbers and North Carolina test results. According to Terry Stoops, education analyst at the John Locke Foundation, discrepancies between the two measures can vary as much as 60 points. Currently, a whopping 88 percent of eighth graders are deemed to be proficient or better on state reading tests, while only 28 percent scored at or above proficient levels on the recent NAEP exam. Researchers have caught on to our ongoing grade inflation: a 2006 Education Next article by Paul Peterson and Frederick Hess gave North Carolina a grade of “F” for lax state standards. And a June 2007 report (.pdf) from the National Center for Education Statistics mapping state proficiency standards onto NAEP scales placed North Carolina consistently near the bottom of the heap.

What does all of this mean? Any way you slice it, NAEP data provide a valuable benchmark for student performance, showcasing legitimate academic gains and illuminating areas needing attention. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of our state assessments.

It’s time to replace North Carolina’s exams with an independent, nationally normed achievement test. Doing so would interject genuine accountability into our state’s testing system and put an end to our self-made academic delusions. After all, high state test scores may make us proud, but they aren’t fooling anyone else.

E.C. 🙂

An SRO predicts gangs in schools will get worse: Jamestown News

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.A school resource officer (SRO) spoke candidly and recently to the Jamestown News about the situation of gangs in schools and why it is now a recognizable problem that should be taken very seriously and why it may get worse before it gets any better.

An excerpt:

Corp. [L.G.] Welch has been on the vanguard of the gang problem since 1994, shortly after the first evidence of gang activity revealed itself in Guilford County. He was one of five officers selected to start the school resource officers program in Guilford County. Currently he is the School Resource Officer at Southern Guilford High School and is a past president of the N.C. Association of School Resource Officers.

A subtext of Welch’s message of convincing the local populace that it has a serious gang problem is dispelling myths associated with youth gangs; namely, that it is an inner-city problem, that it is predominantly disadvantaged minority kids, that it is exclusively males, and that only a handful of gangs have infiltrated the area. All those assumptions are false.

“People want to think that it’s a big-city, strictly urban problem, and that’s simply not the case,” said Welch. “It’s going on at Southern Guilford, and we’re the smallest school in the county. We see evidence of it all over.”

Here’s the scary part of this article:

“Middle schools are definitely the big recruiting area,” he noted. “ The majority of the youngest hardcore gangbangers in Guilford County are between the ages of 13 and 15. By the time they get to the 9th grade they’re full-fledged gang members. They might flirt with the idea in middle school, but there’s no such thing as a wannabe. If you’re hanging with them you’re just as much as in. They’re using you.

And one of our school board members still wants to get rid of our SROs? Do we have to name who it is?The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

And here’s another excerpt (watch out Jamestown):

In that gang rivalries are essentially battles over turf, Welch fears that Jamestown’s proximity to both High Point and Greensboro makes it a nexus of gang activity.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.“The problem is that the Greensboro gangs and the High Point gangs are big rivals, anyway,” he said. “They’re both fighting for territory and they both want to claim their school as their territory. I know Ragsdale has that problem and I suspect Southwest is the same.”

Scary stuff, people. Let’s please be on our guard this year, and let’s cut this nonsense about getting rid of SROs.

E.C. 🙂

Can’t trust ’em

Pardon the usage of slang, but it is appropriate for this post.

The News & Record has a story today on just why the level of distrust between the Guilford County School Board and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners is probably at its highest level since 2000.

Maybe it is because between both boards, the level of professionalism just isn’t there–you think a school board meeting is difficult to sit through sometimes, try watching a Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting; you’ll probably need to send your children away from the television.

An excerpt:

It wasn’t always like this, of course. It was once worse.

In 2000, the two boards deadlocked over a schools budget; the two were $7 million apart.

Unable to break the impasse, the school board sued the commissioners. Ultimately, the two settled for an extra $2.5 million for schools on the eve of a trial.

As part of that settlement, the two boards agreed to create a budget subcommittee made up of members from each side. The idea was to open up communication and talk about school needs ahead of time.

That worked for a little while. It helped voters — twice — say yes to $500 million in school construction bonds after 20 years of saying no.

But cooperation has waned in recent years. Talk about money has been particularly contentious this year. Commissioners have snubbed school board members three times this year at the bargaining table.

This is a sad state of affairs in Guilford County politics.

Another excerpt:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.[School Board member Anita] Sharpe attributed the friction to the county’s constitutional authority to fund much of the district’s expenses instead of letting a school system tax residents on its own.

Sharpe said this naturally pits the nonpartisan school board against partisan commissioners.

Uh oh! Code words here… sounds like she’s in favor of granting special taxing authority to the school board, something I VEHEMENTLY OPPOSE! I mean, can you imagine GCS having its own taxing authority?
More from the article:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Commissioners Billy Yow, a Republican, and Skip Alston, a Democrat, have their own theory: Guilford County Schools hides too much “fluff” in its budget requests and has botched construction projects, they said.

For example, Jamestown residents are still waiting for the construction of a new middle school that was promised to them during a 2003 bond but was postponed because of construction cost increases on other projects.

Yow, who frequently rails against what he perceived as district excesses, compared the school board to a “drug addict that can’t get enough.”

“How do you assure the public you will do the right thing when you haven’t done it before?” Yow said.

Yow has a point. Skip has a point. To me, this bond is in big trouble. But again, we’re left to wonder why Forsyth County’s two boards can get along? And it seems the two boards in Wake County also have a professional relationship.


[County Commissioner Carolyn] Coleman said some in the black community are frustrated about the lack of construction work going to minority businesses. School board member Deena Hayes, upset over minority participation rates, has said publicly she won’t support another bond.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.In my opinion, Deena singlehandedly sunk next year’s bond with her constant bad behavior.

Let’s try to make today, a Deena-free day.

With all this, my friends, it is time to continue to advocate for a complete overhaul to the school funding formula. It is not working and it is truly short-changing our children. It begins at the state level and it continues down to the county level. We need to start electing leaders who will put our children first and start devising a strategy to properly and adequately fund our schools. The job is not getting done. And the only thing this is doing is creating more bad-blood between two boards who should be working together instead of behaving badly.

E.C. 🙂