Education

New Goal For CMS Seniors: Build A House

Nov 14, 2012
Michael Tomsic

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system gave its seniors a new goal Wednesday to accomplish before graduating– build three houses. CMS is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to encourage students to get their hands dirty.

Hard hats, tool belts and wooden boards were set up in front of the bookshelves in Independence High School's library as CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison announced the partnership, called Senior Buildup.

Morrison said it's all about giving students a well-rounded education.

Teachers regularly evaluate their students.

Now, the tables are turned. Students evaluate their teachers.

Last year was the first in which students throughout North Carolina completed official evaluation forms of their teachers. In fact, evaluations by students in high school, middle school and even elementary school have picked up steam across the country.

The concept is the brainchild of a Harvard professor named Ron Ferguson. In this report, WFAE’s Lisa Miller talks to him about how the surveys work.

CMS

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system is reorganizing its leadership, starting with the people in charge of human resources and communications. That’s after audits released Tuesday showed those departments weren’t doing a good enough job.

Last year, Davidson College named its first female president, Dr. Carol Quillen, from Rice University. A former history teacher, she brings strong opinions about the role of a liberal arts education in today’s world, especially one that is so interconnected and changing so quickly. We’ll talk about higher education, its role in the Global Economy, and her vision for Davidson College and its students, when Charlotte Talks.

Schools across the country perpetually struggle to find qualified math and science teachers.  North Carolina is doubling one of its programs aimed at luring engineers and scientists into the teaching profession.  

Greg Stolve has been an industrial engineer for the past fifteen years.  But that’s not the career he planned on in college.  He wanted to be a teacher, until an academic advisor told him engineers make more money and finish school faster.  So that’s what he did.  

“Well, honestly, my work in industry has gotten to be not very rewarding,” says Stolve.  

Lisa Miller

The two major candidates for governor both stress linking businesses and schools to make sure students graduate with the skills they need to land a job.  Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Walter Dalton also want to strengthen education in the early years.  But they favor different paths to get there.

Campaign season is full of promises even to the smallest constituents.  These Charlotte pre-schoolers have big plans for their futures.  Dalton sits cross-legged among them.  A few of them tell him they want to be Batman and Spiderman.  

Bill Friday Helped To Found WFAE

Oct 18, 2012
University of North Carolina

On October 17, generations of North Carolina leaders gathered in Chapel Hill to remember UNC System President Emeritus Bill Friday. Friday is widely credited with creating the 16 campus state university system. And, for the last three decades, he was in the homes of UNC-TV viewers as the host of “North Carolina People.” But Friday also had a hand in the establishment of WFAE.

Two CMS creative art magnets could combine next year and become a school open to students year-round.  The board was expected to launch that effort Tuesday night.  But Superintendent Heath Morrison decided the district needed more time to study it and get input from parents. 

Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton campaigned in Charlotte Friday to pitch his education plan for the state.  If elected governor, he says he'd push to restore education funding lawmakers cut in recent years.  That includes pre-kindergarten programs that prepare needy children for school.  It also includes raising teacher salaries over four years to the national average of $56,000.   

Leaders of nine CMS schools on Charlotte's west side are considering going to a year-round school calendar, but they want to get the go ahead from parents and teachers.  The schools are part of Project LIFT, a public-private partnership to improve student learning at these schools.  Project LIFT is holding three community meetings over the next two weeks to gauge whether parents support the idea.  If the answer is an overwhelming no, Project LIFT's community engagement coordinator Brandi Williams says they'll drop it. 

About 15,000 kids a year drop out of North Carolina schools.  In Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the number is about 1,500.  School social workers have long made house calls to many kids who simply stop showing up at school.  They try to figure out why the child left, get them help, and show them ways they can catch up. 

This is a sensitive situation.  Imagine you're a kid who has given up on school and then a social worker shows up on your doorstep. 

"I've had families look through the blinds and not come to the door," says Heidi Berger, a CMS social worker.  

This week on Morning Edition, WFAE’s Lisa Miller took a look at the charter school movement. We will be seeing a lot more of those because the legislature has lifted a cap that had limited the state to 100 charter schools. Now, 25 are getting ready to open next year. Seven of them are in the Charlotte area.

This is the second in a two-part series that takes a closer look at the charter school movement.

North Carolina will soon see a rush of charter schools opening.  Last year, state lawmakers lifted the cap that only allowed 100 schools.  Twenty-five more charter schools are scheduled to open next year.  But this year, for the first time, the state closed a charter school for academic reasons.  

That school was Highland Charter, an elementary school in Gastonia.  Kids there failed to make the grade on end-of-year tests two years in a row. 

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools offered the first round of data last night on the impact of closing 10 schools last year.  The closures will save the district money, but it's unclear how they've affected academics. 

Two years ago, the CMS board voted to close the schools, saying it would save money and create better learning environments.  Last night, the district provided a whole slew of information to begin to see if that was the case.  Superintendent Heath Morrison pointed out the academic data isn't straight-forward. 

Lisa Miller

This is the first in a two-part series that takes a closer look at the charter school movement

Big changes are underway for charter schools in North Carolina.  Last year state lawmakers lifted the 100 school cap.  And now 25 groups are scrambling to open charters in time for next school year.  Seven are in the Charlotte area.  That same law made it easier to close a charter school by requiring they meet certain academic standards.  The state closed one charter this summer and more could close next year.  

UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp Announces Resignation

Sep 17, 2012
UNC.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp is resigning. The announcement comes just a few days after UNC’s Board of Governors said it still supported Thorp despite a series of troubles during his tenure.

Thorp kept his job – and the support of his bosses – during a two-year stretch that included a football scandal, an academic scandal and, finally, a fundraising scandal.

The Northwest School of the Arts is the first high school in North Carolina to have the rights to put on a high school production of the Broadway musical "The Color Purple." The play is based on the 1982 Pulitzer-Prize winning novel of the same name by Alice Walker, centered on the story of a black woman’s struggle to find her identity while overcoming abusive family relationships. 

Mekhai Lee, a junior at Northwest, plays the male lead of Mister. He sings from inside a shop set in rural Georgia in the early twentieth century.

New Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison has said improving teacher morale is one of his top priorities.  He's hired an outside consultant to survey employees about morale in schools. 

Morrison has gotten an earful about low teacher morale in the district since he arrived.  He's asked teachers to come to town hall meetings to get their perspectives.  Now, he wants all employees to take a survey that attempts to answer these questions. 

timlewisnm/Flickr

Students across North Carolina already are used to taking standardized state tests at the end of the year to measure their progress.  This school year the state is adding a couple dozen tests to measure how effective teachers are at getting students to learn.

High school students will be tested in 22 areas, many of them new, including Geometry and Chemistry.  Kids in grades four through eight will be tested in social studies as well as science most of those years. 

The state plans to use these tests to track student growth and tie that to teacher evaluations. 

State lawmakers approved a budget last week and Republicans praised it by pointing out that it sent more money to schools this year without raising taxes. But some Democrats said, "No, it actually cut schools budget." So who's right?

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