The Politics of Education

To continue the discussion started in this thread about about endorsements and this thread about the school board race, let's discuss the politics of education in southern Orange County.

Many people including the local NAACP have long complained about the stratification in our schools, asserting that there are really two systems: one for affluent and/or gifted children and another for low-income and/or African-American students. (I know everyone doesn't fall into these categories, please allow me this generalization for the sake of discussion.)

I've heard countless examples of how these less-favored children are treated poorly by teachers and administrators. I have seen the school system make decisions based on politics and expediency, often at the expense of those who need the most help. But I will readily admit that I don't know much about our school system. The issues are way complicated, and I'm not a parent. (Although I am the child of a former C.H.H.S. teacher, and I was called a "G/T" student when I was at Carrboro elememtary.)

So what is at stake here? What are the current policies, what is their impact, and why do you like them or not? What is "differentiation?" Who is PAGE?



Little Fish,

To clarify the professional development situation. Each school schedules professional development opportunities for their teachers. In addition to the PD provided by each school, there are also district-wide training opportunities. The first line of the McDougle PD section clearly states that the district will provide PD to "Improve instruction in literacy, mathematics, and exceptional education." That doesn't address science or social studies, but science isn't tested and I'm not sure if social studies is.

It will take someone besides the student's family and those of us who have been trying because no one is listening. I have been to a dozen meetings with administration officials from Dr. Pedersen down and I have bone bruises on my skull from banging it against a brick wall. It is easier for the administration to demonize those who question parts of their policy than to listen and consider that there is some chance that something they say may have some validity. I actually asked Dr. Pedersen that directly. I asked if he felt there was any validity to the concerns being voiced by the parents of gifted children. He did not answer the first time. The second time he said that a concern is always valid if a parent has it. Translation: No, but I have to at least pretend to listen.

None of us have all the answers. At least those of us questioning aspects of policy know that.

Several of us wrote letters to the editor talking about what happened at the time, but it didn't help. Meetings don't help. Letters don't help. Creating parent advocacy groups doesn't help. Going to Board meetings doesn't help. Voting doesn't help.

I am open to suggestions.


I am astounded that the people of our community allow this kind of thing to go on. I am even MORE astounded now that I read SkyWriter's post about what is actually offered at the many professional development days we have throughout the year. I naturally assumed that these were days on which teachers were learning more about their subjects, or more about how to teach their subjects. Now, with the help of SkyWriter's link I find that NO academic professional development is given whatsoever. Instead, almost every session is devoted to what they call Equity, which I guess is where these tapes are being foisted upon teachers. Shameful. It really is shameful, especially as none of this is explained to the public. Pedersen should at least label the calendar "equity training day" instead of presenting the ruse we have been laboring under.

I feel betrayed by the system.

just confuse'em with smoke and static

make 'em think you're enigmatic

----barry manilow

Even if state law doesn't require it, ethical practice does.

I wonder if board members also assented to the equity training abuses and exploitations detailed by both Savant and Tracy. You would think the first job of the board would be to keep its own students safe and free from harm.

It is my understanding that one Board member offered a personal apology. The board as a whole would not agree to a policy to prevent abusive uses of recordings nor the official apology. They continue to support the same program and refuse to understand that even the most charismatically led program must be rationally evaluated for its benefits and costs. The program has a nice idea as its foundation but like much else that the BOE and Dr. Pedersen support, the devil is in the implementation and in the interpretation of the data supporting it. In this case there is NO data, and the implementation is damaging our district.



No they did not sign a release. Dr. Pedersen stated that state law did not require they obtain permission of the recorded party.

i will go look at the other thread.



If the student's parents did not sign a release to use their underage child's voice/words for any purpose, let alone one that was negative and potentially harmful to the child's reputation, is at minimum unethical. A newpaper/media outlet that did something like this would be highly criticized by the community. A similar issue is being discussed in another OP thread (Is Chapel Hill Fractured?).

On student surveys presented to all students in middle schools in the district, students at McDougle Middle school reported more than the other middle report more positively to the question - "I find my courses challenging and interesting". -gf

This is interesting. I did not know about this. given our system's emphasis on learning styles and other disaggregations, I am wondering if these surveys were sorted to match the members of the groups they were surveying. For example, I would like to know how each of the following groups answered the statement "I find my courses challenging and interesting"

learning disabled children

tactile learners, spatial learners etc

average children

above average children

gifted children

children working several grade levels beyond target

below average children

children working several grades below target

nonenglish speakers

other groups you want to break out and measure

This would really give us a lot more information than if "students" were the only category. Since CHCCS wants to work to target specific groups, it makes sense that our surveys should focus on specific groups.

we also need a question for each course. Not just "my courses are challenging" but "my math course is challenging" etc.

Maybe the survey already has this kind of detail.

Gloria--another question. When the decision was made to do away with advanced courses in favor of mixed ability classes, did the Board hold a public hearing (#9 in the process)? If not, why? If so, were the issues raised in this discussion presented at that hearing? What steps does the board take if there is significant public dissent at the end of the process?



Melanie - I am glad you want to work for solutions. I have posted possibilities. I am happy to consider others, but first you have to tell me how to get through to an adminstration and Board that would believe that labeling a student a racist was ethical or moral behavior.

Savant’s posting on the events at the Phillips Middle School Beyond Diversity/Glen Singleton training session was entirely accurate and guilty only of not including all of the extremely disturbing details. As the veracity of the account has been called into question I will provide more detail and allow the readers to judge the events for themselves.

A student who had attended Phillips spoke at the two canceling advanced courses forums last spring. He spoke of being in heterogeneous classes where he was not only not receiving differentiated instruction, he was required to sit at the back of the class and teach himself. There was absolutely no mention of race directly or indirectly. He simply questioned whether it was right to expand a program that was already failing in the classes he was taking. No one who heard him at Culbreth or at Phillips perceived any racism in his remarks. I was at Culbreth. My husband was at Phillips and spoke with Ed Sechrest and Lisa Stuckey after the meeting. They specifically talked about what the student said and neither Board member mentioned perceiving anything racist in the remarks.

Fast forward to the Beyond Diversity/Glen Singleton training session at Phillips where three examples of racists in the district were shown to the teachers who were then required to agree or were told, “to get real.” One example was a letter to the editor. One was a videotape of a parent speaking at a BOE meeting on redistricting. The parent was making a plea for neighborhood schools. He said that he felt it was wrong for any child to be bused – white or black. The third was the audio tape of the student speaking at the forum. The principal leading the session stated that referring to students who did not want to be in the class WAS referring to African American students and that therefore the student was a racist. This was a student that teachers in the audience had taught. Other teachers had attended the forums and knew exactly who the student was as well as who his siblings were. Some teachers challenged the characterization of the speech as racist. I know for a fact that the students he was referencing were actually white. It is actually possible to have students misbehave who are not African American.

One of the teachers was so outraged that she went straight to her computer and sent me all of the details – along with her request that I not release her name. She did not send the name of the student, but did know that he was recognizable. Having been at the first session, I knew who the student was and I, personally, notified the family. The family filed a complaint with the BOE and with Dr. Pedersen. The father met with Dr. Pedersen. Dr. Pedersen absolutely refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong with what was done. He never agreed to the apology requested by the father and never agreed to prevent such actions in the future.

I personally met with Dr. Collins-Hart over this and the structure of the Beyond Diversity training as a whole. (The use of the Alfie Kohn article which is a 20+ page diatribe blaming the parents of gifted students for actively working to prevent minority students from being allowed to achieve. It claims they did not defend challenging course because their children need them, but because they are racists who want to prevent anyone else from accessing their privileged position.) Dr. Collins-Hart also defended the use of the tapes in the training. She insisted they were appropriate to encourage the courageous conversations that are part of the program.

I said that actions like that and articles like the Alfie kohn one were creating and fostering a divisive atmoshere that was damaging our district. I spoke at length about how the idea of honest conversations is good but mass group therapies with explosive material led by psychologically untrained principals was an invitation to exactly this form of abuse and was extraordinarily dangerous. She acknowledged that this district had a longstanding hostility to gifted education, and that principals may not be capable fo leading such sessions, but she did not agree to change any part of the system. That system continues now.

Dr. Pedersen is leading an adminstration that believes that doing this to a student is justifiable in the name of equity. It is a small wonder that they see nothing wrong with refusing to acknowledge that there are problems with their educational system. Any behavior, any policy, is acceptable in the name of equity.

QC wanted to know why I hold Dr. Pedersen personally responsible for the actions of his adminstration. I hold him responsible because he is responsible. he knows what is happening and approves of it.

We keep trying to offer rational criticism and suggestions, but how do you find a middle ground with people who believe that doing that to a student could ever be justified?


Gloria--quick question. Is there is difference between "gifted education" and advanced courses, such as the Advanced Language Arts course? I know there is a difference in some systems, but I'm not sure how they are/if they are distinguished here. If they are different, I'd also like to know how students are placed in each (broadly).



I don’t think that you are picking on me. We are in the process of discussion.

Let look at a posting on the “busy night” thread.


22 classroom teachers

13 support faculty for special needs:

7 reading/resource teachers

1 Speech/Language Pathologist

1 OT

1 School Counselor

1 Family Specialist

2 AG teachers*

In this post, it stated that a very small amount went to AG students.

Actually, this is not exactly true. The assumption here is that there is only one person who servers the needs of the AG student - AG teacher. (By the way, AG teachers actually teach small groups of higher level students in ability grouped clusters). However, the needs of an AG student are more than just his or her academic performance. AG students have many other needs including family intervention and specific types of counseling (addressed by resource teachers, school counselors, and family specialists). Gifted students have a various psychological issues that need support. Can we do more? Absolutely! Please refer to these links (especially the last one) about AG students.

It is important to understand the history of AG concerns in this district. At least 8 years ago, a parent advisory taskforce was developed to come up with strategies for improving the gifted program. A system-wide instructional framework, differentiation and adding 2 AG specialists were the recommendations that emerged from that committee. This committee had many parent members with many of the same concerns raised today. If you will note, the recommendations from this taskforce have been exactly what the board approved over the last four years.

Regarding implementation, you are right the system needs to improve the process that it takes in implementation. I think that we have taken good steps, but there is room for improvement.

We have improved our decision making process so that we gather as much information and feedback as possible (this was passed before I left office). Can we do more? Absolutely!!! Please see

We must be more focused in initiatives (do less better rather than more). However, the curriculum management initiative is a good example of how we have improved on focusing and gathering data. Can we do more? Absolutely!!! Please see:

Little Fish

McDougle Middle School has recieved the honor of "School of Excellance" longer and more often than other 4 middle schools. This is the highest honor that the state can give a school following the ABC criteria. That means that they are judged not on just End of Grade test scores, they are judged on growth index. That means that children who are followed (this is called cohort studies) over a period of time have grown faster and more in their overall performance than the other middle schools.

On student surveys presented to all students in middle schools in the district, students at McDougle Middle school reported more than the other middle report more positively to the question - "I find my courses challenging and interesting". That means that they felt challenged by their course as well as liking their courses.

Data taken of children from McDougle, Phillips, and Culbreth as travel into and through high school suggested two things.

The curriculum looked at data following students from middle school through high school. There was no difference in high school test scores between children who took advanced language arts classes and children who took regular classes. However, children who took advanced math class at Culbreth and Phillips tended to less well in Calculus. It is important that children have a mastery of Algebra. If they do not have that mastery, they do not do well in more advanced math classes such as Calculus. Algebra is important building block.

You might find folks telling you about examples of their children. But, I am giving information about all of the students.

If you question my information, I am sure that Lincoln Center can give you a copy of that information.

Little Fish---below you will find my answer to your challenge. which was as follows:"I would say that someone could make quick work of debunking "SkyWriter's assertion that middle schools are not particularly academic. Just post in the details of what professional development opportunities being offered this year by Smith Middle School, as called for in the Smith Mission Belief Statement , which in part, reads as follows:"

Sorry, don't know what smith is doing, but you can see on the mcdougle website at

that there are eleven staff development opportunities this year. Sadly, math is not mentioned. Science is not offered. Language Arts is not touched on and I see no evidence of any social studies opportunities either. See for yourself what is planned and underway. I think this list, which as far as I can tell is exhausitve, will surprise people.

"I don't believe we have to maintain "advanced" classes to meet those needs...clearly there are people posting who do." ---MS

Who has experience with both advanced classes and not-advanced classes in the same school? Please let us know if you have found any difference (in level of difficulty) between the two. I would also like to hear from anyone who has been in Smith Middle or McDougle for awhile and can tell us how the programs work(ed) and whether their children have felt engaged by the lessons and have made significant progress academically. Smith and particularly McDougle should be pretty good at this kind of teaching by now, so there ought to be a lot of success stories out there.

SLF--That's why I had it in quotes. I did not view these children as the other end of the spectrum EITHER. Sorry for the misunderstanding. And yes, BRILLIANT people often have "learning disabilities." There is a great deal of speculation that Da Vinci was dyslexic.

The children I worked with most frequently were those who had been in, or were in, the foster care system, and needed additional adult time. I was also a substitute in Carrboro Elementary's BEH room.

Sorry my post threw you. But can we focus on the MEAT of my proposal? Can we, as a community, address the needs of all our children? Because THAT is what this all boils down to. I don't believe we have to maintain "advanced" classes to meet those needs...clearly there are people posting who do. I just wanted to throw out the suggestion--to see if we could quit HARPING at one another and come up with some SOLUTUIONS.


NotSoStupidLittleFish postulates as follows:

step one: when a school system develops a reputation for being unresponsive to any one group of constituents, new members of that group stop seeking out homes in that area.. . .Bye bye tax base. . . .

I AM SORRY! I helped with this! A friend of mine called me last year to check out the schools here. She wanted to move south and could relocate to the area of her choice.

She was coming from Westerville, Ohio. Great schools reputation, but bad schools. Why? The way she put it, the school system's message is "we want every child to be happy". So they give meaningless awards to children who are not really achieving, which robs children of wanting to work hard for a real award. This is just one example of how that school system is not pursuing academic rigor, although they say that they are.

I told this lady, to think twice about moving here if what she wants is good schools. I sent her Ted Vaden meterials about school issues to give her an idea of what kind of climate we have here. She was horrified by what she read and wanted nothing to do with this place. That family might have bought a house in Chapel Hill, but they chose a different NC city and that is where they happily live now.

S.L.Fish (have difficulty referring to another poster as stupid) has nailed what I see as the chief dilemma. There was an article in the N&O a couple of months ago that basically described the same phenomonon in Wake County schools. Also, Kulik at the University of Michigan and Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution warn us that certain reforms can negatively impact higher readiness learners.

What parents have seen going on in individual classrooms is a perfect microcosm of this dilemma. A teacher has children with a variety of educational needs -- ranging from those who might be several grade levels ahead to those struggling to achieve grade level proficiency. The political muscle is behind ensuring that the struggling kids achieve grade level proficiency on the EOG test. If this requires intensive efforts on the part of the teacher, the rest of the kids, by necessity, get less time. Again, I don't dispute the differentiation model in theory. However, in practice, this model's support of each and every child can be blown away by NCLB or any other political winds of the day.

Did not someone recently point out that LD and top percentile can be one in the same and that indeed she (the poster) has both conditions? If you were working with "kids with LD's and behavior issues", you were not working "withg the kids at the "other" end of the spectrum..." after all.

This is not a two ends of the spectrum thing according to what I have been reading in these posts.

Yes, Little Fish--that's the problem. The intent of NCLB to make sure that those who have historically been left behind have equal access to resources is wonderful and an intent that I imagine everyone here supports. This conversation has gone back and forth between whether we should support advanced programs (not necessarily the same as gifted education) and criticizing the CHCCS BOE adopted strategy for responding to the local achievement gap. The BOE believes that differentiation is going to solve the achievement gap, while doing away with the unacceptable practice of tracking--in the long run. And in theory I agree with them. But what happens to the school experience of those smart kids (or ones from families who invest effort/resources into supplementing their kids education) between now and the "long run?" Vouchers aren't going to solve the problem of equalizing opportunity for ALL kids, regardless of race or SES or family support. In my opinion, for us locally, vouchers would simply stratify our community even further.

But what happens to the school experience of those smart kids (or ones from families who invest effort/resources into supplementing their kids education) between now and the "long run?" --- T

What happens? I can tell you step one: when a school system develops a reputation for being unresponsive to any one group of constituents, new members of that group stop seeking out homes in that area.

Bye bye tax base. . . .

Here's a RADICAL idea. Instead of focussing lots of negative energy trying to maintain the "advanced" classes--let's ask the TEACHERS how we can help make differentiation WORK. Do they need volunteers to help with one group or another? What can we, as a community, do to help the system over this bump? To make certain that the 97th-99th percentile kids get their needs met? Since that is the population that everyone seems to be so worried about.

I'm throwing it out there. I'll even re-enter the trenches--though goodness knows I've put my time in at the schools. Though generally, I worked withg the kids at the "other" end of the with LD's and behavior issues.

Actually--in my experience, it's NOT the really bright kids, OR the troubled kids, who get underserved and neglected in this community. It's the "average" kids. Who I think would REALLY benefit from the program that is currently being castigated...

Melanie See

Here is how the federal laws are affecting the local elementary school behind the woods near my house (which is not specifically mentioned in this article, by the way). I do not know very much about gifted children, or gifted education, but I do not like to see one group targeted for loss of services.

Article reads in part: To abide by the law, schools are shifting resources away from programs that help their most gifted students. Because "all the incentives in No Child Left Behind are to focus on the bottom or the middle," says Stanford University education professor Michael Kirst, "reallocating resources there makes sense if you want to stay out of trouble."

Meanwhile, Fairview Elementary in High Point, N.C. — 85% black or Hispanic and 95% from low-income families — has raised its proficiency rate sharply by intensively tutoring low achievers. Only one segment has lagged. "The group here that did the worst was our academically gifted children," says Carol Forsyth, a third-grade teacher.

You may see this at:

Vouchers will put the Feds in the picture to the extent that Washington might tell us what the schools should serve for lunch or choose for mascots (The Estes Hills Free Marketeers!!). Vouchers would make the NCLB problems appear negligible in the public schools that were still standing. However, I suppose vouchers would be great for private schools. Private school tuition would go up (so maybe at least those teachers could get paid more).

The state is responsible for a lot of our funding so they will be involved whether we like it or not. I suppose the key is learning state legislators' philosophies about the balance between state and local control and voting accordingly. The problem is, those who are ideologically comfortable with the idea of local control might also be the ones who are tightest with the state's bucks. The cost of local control might well be paying more of the tab.

Vouchers are the means to end public education. Elections are the means to gain local control of your schools.

By what means should I use the voting booth to get the federal government and the state OUT of public schools so that we can have local controL?

You learn that what is currently being touted as accountability is not and that vouchers do nothing to make schools more accountable. Private schools, or market driven education, is going to resegregate schools, make tracking very much the norm, and in my opinion, kill public schools. You learn the difference between standards and curriculum manipulation and then you vote for state and federal candidates who answer your intelligent questions. You vote for school board candidates who are responsive and answer your questions, based on all that you have learned.

. . . . .teacher education candidates all of whom are very upset about current federal policies and the threat to public schools from advocates of vouchers. --T

I support vouchers. I think that the problems in US education stems from the fact that we don't have local control of schools. We SAY we have local control, and we THINK we have local control. But we do NOT have local control.

What we have is a system where teachers know what to do and they want to do it and they try to do it. But the school has a slightly different idea. So the teachers have to fit to what the school says. Then the school has to cow-tow to whatever the flavor-of-the- month from the local school board is. Right now, for us, it is this differentiation thing. I don't know teachers who want to do it, but they are told they have to. So they do it. Or not. Then the state comes in and totally messes everything up by making all kinds of demands (usually unfunded) on what is allowed and what is not. Then once we have that all straight, the Federal government decides not to pass out any more money unless the state and the board and the school and the teacher follow some OTHER directive, which is probably going to be at odds with some project in progress somewhere down the line. For example, NCLB is not really directly on point to what NC was trying to establish with the eogs accountability thing, and NC and Chapel Hill-Carrboro really have different goals too.

What does this make? A big mess in which no one can get anything accomplished. I support local control of schools and right now the only way I can see to get there is vouchers.

As a young child, Monet hated to remain in school. He passed the time drawing caricatures of his teachers in his copybooks. When he could, Monet avoided school and spent his time along the cliffs, beaches and jetties. Monet later said of the sea, "I should like to be always near it or on it, and when I die, to be buried in a buoy."

In light of the above, I am confused by Marcoplos's mention of Monet.

Actually, your definition of about the student who made comments at Phillips is not accurate. Your comment about the consultant (you refer to) is also inaccurate. I won't debate that point with you. Yet, the identity of Savant appears to be clearer to me.

Your comment about "white male privilege" is inaccurate. It was not connected to curriculum or any of the parent's comments in any way, but it was connected to the equity training workshop.

I have no idea whether you attend this board meeting or not. I suspect that you may have been quite close to the board table.

The comments that were exactly made as stated:

"The board began the equity training workshop three years ago to allow the system to begin to have honest conversations regarding discrimination. From bus driver to board member, those who participate in these workshops come to try to understand some of the every day challenges faced by fellow human beings. It is a time and a space to open one's heart, open one's soul, and open one's heart. It is not a time to defend a position of white, male privilege".

I made those comments because several very hard working individuals were deeply and profoundly troubled by the comments that I defined above. Several of these individuals contacted me with great sorrow in their hearts. But, enough said about those comments. I hope the board member will begin to open his heart to suffering of children and adults that are not like himself.

But, enough said.

I wish well you in the ice storm and take care, Savant. You, your wife and your children

(sorry to be so long winded)

Not long-winded at all and what you said makes lots of sense.

If our education establishment can be respectful to and honest with parents, I think parents can be much more patient. Change is seldom pretty and we can't expect everything to work for everyone at the outset. This could take years and I have not given up on the model they are pursuing. But, with a community of bright and dedicated parents, we have every right to a more open and welcoming process. After all, we are closest to the ultimate stakeholders, our children.


I look forward to your upcoming information about specific examples of racist remarks made to parents around the issue of curriculum alignment.

Do you have an opinion about the comments (I just reported) made by a recently elected school board? These comments were heared by multiple people at a public meeting. I have cited only a few of several comments made.

Do you consider these comments to demeaning to the minority population?

Do you consider these comments to productive or constructive to a dialog?

"And by the way, how did you know that my first name is Luke????"

I didn't. I was just playing with your screen alias, or I assumed it was an alias. I didn't tap into the power of "the Force" or anything like that.

This article is supposed to do two things for those reading this list. Number one, give some dimension to the problems faced by the parents of the gifted. It seems clear that a lot of people posting think gifted means something like "sails easily through life, finds everything a breeze, will be okay in school no matter what/will learn more than his share/ will get a great job one day/will live happily ever after after". When in reality, those who are at the top end of the IQ scale present problems every bit as challenging as those who find themselves at the bottom of the IQ scale.

Number Two, give some hope that there can be a positive resolution for a gifted child, despite the fact that schools just don't want to be bothered with this particular minority of children at risk.

Melanie wanted to know:

I am confused by Pontine Leveque's post----what isthe significance?

Thanks PL. That makes things clearer. Trust me, I KNOW raising kids in the 99th percentile is no breeze. I've raised one and are hoping to get the other through HS in another 2.5 years. I just haven't found the CHCCS uncaring and "not wanting to be bothered." Ive found them quite the opposite--which is why I am so puzzled by all of this brouhaha.

I say I, but my husband raised them too. And their teachers... Credit where credit is due.


Patience, Ms. Faley. I'm back. I needed to prepare for the threatened ice storm. The bad memories of 13 months ago linger still.

The point of my post earlier today was it was time to stop racial finger pointer. However, you have asked for concrete examples of people being attacked as racists and I cannot bear to disappoint a loyal fan like you.


Last January, a "Roses and Raspberries" piece on the editorial page of the CHN characterized parents who wanted to maintain advanced courses at Culbreth and Phillips as having racist or elitist motives. The paper owes an apology to the trees that gave their lives so that our fellow citizens could be viciously insulted.


Last January, I attended a meeting a Phillips MS which addressed curriculum alignment. The public was invited to speak and a student discussed some of the problems of heterogeneous grouping, both for advanced and struggling learners. Nothing he said was remotely racist and I saw no attendees react as if he had said anything inappropriate. Of course, he did not.

I later learned that his comments were audiotaped and his comments were used in an "equity session" as an example of racism. Again, I personally heard what this child said and find what was done to him to be completely unconscionable for three reasons.

1. It was a deliberate and complete distortion of what the child meant.

2. I guess public comments make one "fair game" but this was a child. Even if he had said or done something truly egregious, like read from Mein Kampf, it is inappropriate to put a child in this position.

3. I understand that attendees at the equity session were able to determine the identity of the child so he has to attend school in a system that has labelled him (inaccurately and unfairly).

You have discussed your interest in protecting children in several of your posts. I think this kid needed to be protected. Are you aware of anyone who said "This is wrong" or stood up for this kid? Probably not, because I understand that this policy has not changed. Apparently, anything you say (or don't say in his case) can and will be used against you.

Maybe I'm just overly sensitive, but I strongly object to having my tax money used to hire a West Coast consultant ($275/hour) who comes to town and teaches educators how to beat up our children.


"Quick Comment" initially played the race card but has become more constructive. This is a great example to follow to get the discussion back on track. QC, I now look forward to your comments, quick or not so quick.

Oblique references to new school board members who said things and how people felt about the things that the new school board members said.


Three words: "White Male Privilege"

No specific use of the word "racism" or "racist" but it has a certain connect-the-dots quality to it.


Your concerns about things said by some unnamed new board member at the last school board meeting are of interest. Savant has dear friends and close family members who do not suffer from "melanin deficiency" as I do. I would be aggrieved to learn that someone on the school board made racist comments. I would be doubly aggrieved if I had voted for such a member.

You have my assurance that, if I can determine who this unnamed member is, this potential offender (innocent until proven guilty) will be vigorously queried and castigated, if appropriate. If apologies are in order, they will be demanded. The offender will be watched carefully and will not enjoy future electoral support from Mr. or Ms. Savant if this offender, whoever he or she might be, does not mend his or her ways.

On this issue, I will also be back. Best of luck with the ice storm.

Savant et al,

I have not heard any racist remarks in this discussion and I haven't heard any directly racist remarks in other discussions on any of the current school turmoils. But then again, I personally distinguish between supporting policies and practices that have a racist history/potential and individuals who are promoting practices that serve their children.

I attended a conference today called Let's Talk Race put on by the UNC Teaching Fellows. During the small group discussion, I had the honor to be part of a group of teacher education candidates all of whom are very upset about current federal policies and the threat to public schools from advocates of vouchers. Based on what I have learned here at OP, I asked how they would feel about vouchers if any of them had their own children in a school that was not performing up to par--would they be willing to wait 3-5 years for new practices/teacher training to kick in, to the detriment of their own children? They were all honest enough to recognize that there is a difference in setting and enforcing policies that support society as a whole and family reactions to policies that negatively impact individual children. (This does NOT mean that I support vouchers!)

The ongoing discussion here at OP has led me to believe that the dilemma in this community is being treated as a choice between serving the needs of individuals and serving the needs of a larger society. Isn't there a middle ground or other options that truly benefit all and in the future?

Perhaps I've missed part of the larger community conversation, but it seems to me that the lack of community-wide *conversation* about how to deal with the dilemma has contributed to the name calling. Instead of the administration engaging the community in an honest and forthright discussion about alternatives (getting buy-in before making radical changes), they have made decisions that appear to leave those children who have, in the past, benefitted greatly from the gifted courses/ programs as outcast as the children of color have been in the past. Neither of those options is acceptable!

So now here we are with parents, teachers, and administrators pitted against each other as Tracy pointed out in the Busy Night thread. Seems to me that the current school administration and BOE needs to review the way in which they have chosen to adopt and implement a program that shifts the district philosophy of schooling so radically. That doesn't mean that I don't support the idea of differentiation--but new philosophies and practices may not live up to their full potential when their implementation is faulty.

I'm sorry Gloria--I'm not taking aim at you or any other individual from the administration or the BOE. Education in general never quite gets implementation right....What I would like to know is what we, as a community can do, when a new policy/procedure generates as much controversy and animosity as this one? What happens to the kids who get caught in the transition? Where is the protection for them?

(sorry to be so long winded)

I am confused by Pontine Leveque's post--as best I can tell, having followed the link to the article, this took place sometime around or before 1999. Is this supposed to have taken place inthe CHCCS? To a child PL knows? Otherwise--what isthe significance?

Please retrun and explain--


Mark-- Terri said it better than I ever could. Three cheers for parents who do the best for their kids--but there are parents who can't/WON'T--and in that case a state mandated education acts as a safety net.


Though we had been attempting to make changes in our 8-year-old son's school experience since the beginning, we were not very successful on the whole. By third grade, things had reached a more critical point. At their worst, I recall leaving my son's classroom one morning and lingering in the hall, reluctant - no, afraid to leave the school. Up until that moment, I had operated from the understanding that, even if I didn't always agree with my children's teachers, I could feel confident that they acted from their own belief of what was best for my children. But this day as I stood in the parking lot, tears welled in my eyes and I felt almost immobilized. I knew that the danger to my child was distinct and very real. That morning he had asked me in a plaintive and small voice, "Mom, have you ever felt like you just can't take it anymore?"

You can read the rest of the article at :


I would be interested in knowing what specific evidence you have indicating that the current curriculum/school philosophy are failing your kids. "A key source of frustration is that, for many children, this isn't working." From looking at the test data that so many people love, it looks to me like CHCCS students are doing pretty well--not all but the majority. I know you don't like the current system. That message has come across loud and clear--but I don't remember any specific reasons why in your earlier posts.

Mark--I hope you have not interpreted any of my comments as saying that I don't think children can learn outside of the public school system. My support for public education is based on it being the only vehicle I see for making sure that every resident of this country has a somewhat equal opportunity to an education. If a parent believes that he/she can provide a good quality education for their child and they have to resources to do so, I think it's great. But despite the fact that I support a parents right to chose the 'type" of education their child should receive, I do not support the right of a parent to deny their child the opportunity to receive a formal education.

4. Okay, maybe it failed but you should do a better job of advocating for your child. (Guess your kid is hosed if you are economically disadvantaged, work two jobs, single parent HH, etc. and can't "advocate" for your child.)

Savant, I can tell that you are a very clear thinker when you make statements such as the above.

The Chapel Hill Schools Power Structure really needs to get a grip on this concept. If differentiation only works if the parent is advocating for the child, then differentiation, at the end of the day, will be no better for our disadvantaged youngsters than ANY other system we have tried.

And by the way, how did you know that my first name is Luke????

"I would be interested in specifics on when parents were called rascist. I have not heard those comments."

Stay tuned, Ms. Faley. I'll be back.

I am quite curious about the statement that parents have been called racist in the discussion of developing a quality curriculum. I have only heard people talk about the need to engage all children in education and not box them into a track. I have listened to many forums where parents were allowed to voice an opinion and

I would be interested in specifics on when parents were called rascist. I have not heard those comments.

I will admit that I was quite shocked when a newly elected school board member stated that he felt that historically black university were easier than the white colleges. This comment was made in very public meeting. I find that comment to quite demeaning to a large population of adults and children who have attended and enjoyed wonderful historically black universities.

I was equally shocked when a respected African American tried to explain how she felt watched at high-end stores (as if I were going to steal). The response by this same board member was that if this was problem, and then maybe that person should shop on-line.

We need to build bridges and not walls for our students.

I think Gloria Faley has done an excellent job of providing background on differentiated education and the use of Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Her posts are great for getting new players up to speed and we should recommend them for any new players who join us.

Intuitively, the Gardner Theory makes lots of sense (I see my own child as indexing high on spatial and linguisitic "intelligences") and I think the idea of tailoring education to each child is noble. However, I don't think that parents are restless because they are uninformed about the approach or even because they disagree with its goals. A key source of frustration is that, for many children, this isn't working. We need to remember that this approach is based on theories and the "best practices" ideas of educators. Theories and "best practices" are the way to go, until we get the new theories and "best practices."

That this approach does not work for every child is not reason enough for parents to be angry. Only the luckiest parents will avoid challenges in providing for their children's needs, including educational needs, and most parents understand this.

The real issue, and a justified source of the anger, is that our educational establishment is ignoring the warning signs. And, even worse, they are attacking the parents if the parents say anything. Many of the posts on the "Busy Night" thread (especially the older ones) were rehashes of the responses and attacks that were used on parents one year ago. (However, I will credit the denizens of with a swifter evolution of responses and attacks.) The attacks/responses (last winter and last week) fell into several categories.

1. The parents are racists/elitists. (A lot of apologies are due! Are you reading this, Ted Vaden?)

2. The parents just don't understand differentiated instruction. (A fair response and the district did an excellent job last winter of explaining what is being done at Smith. Ms. Faley also provided good background here on

3. The parents are wrong because the approach doesn't fail. Repeat #2.

4. Okay, maybe it failed but you should do a better job of advocating for your child. (Guess your kid is hosed if you are economically disadvantaged, work two jobs, single parent HH, etc. and can't "advocate" for your child.)

Do I think that heterogeneous grouping and differentiated instruction should be scrapped? I don't know. Maybe they can work out the bugs. This approach makes intuitive sense and sounds great. But regardless of whether this is the wave of the future or a fad that we will laugh (or cry) about in 20 years, the administration and BOE should be more willing to acknowledge the warts and be more respectful of parents. We're just not going to go away because someone calls us "racists" and responses #2 through 4 have long outlived their usefulness or credibility.

One of the great unschooled people of all time was mentioned - Leonardo Da Vinci.

Here is a partial list of others that show us that it is at least possible for a human being to be educated outside the institutional school system.

Francis Collins - one of the heads of the Human Genome Project

Pearl Buck

Benjamin Franklin

Florence Nightingale

Sally Ride

Charlie Chaplin

Clara Barton

Albert Schweitzer

Ansel Adams

Mark Twain

Booker T. Washington

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Orville & Wilbur Wright

Thomas Edison

Irving Berlin

Claude Monet

Agatha Christie

Susan B. Anthony

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Margaret Mead

Charles Dickens

Willaim Buckley

Alexander Graham Bell

Louisa May Alcott

George Washington


Yes, that is an intersting list--but lest our audience be decieved--both FDR and Buckley went to private, EXCLUSIVE prep schools for High School (FDR went to Groton, Buckley "attended a private boarding school in upstate New York) and FDR had a series of Governesses that handled his primary education. I didn't take the time to research Buckley's primary education. I don't think most of us have the economic resources to provide that sort of education for our children.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was CERTAINLY homeschooled--as many of the others may have been, but the inclusion of FDR and Buckley makes the list a tad--shall we say disingenuous? Also--I believe it was fairly common, at the time, for the very wealthy to have their children tutored at home and then send them of to places like Groton for their secondary education. Can we really claim such as being educated "outside the institutional setting?" maybe...for certain they never had to rub elbows with Hoi Polloi like myself!


"Putting one type of child in one room and another child in another room would be like having a rainbow with only one color. That's why, little fish, God made big and little fish in the one ocean".--gf

And we all know what those big fish do to those little fish when they are in the same ocean.



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