Busy Night

Big meetings tonight:

I don't have time to write all that I want to say aboust these right now, but I'll try to post an update later...



I was at the School Board meeting tonight and I found it quite discouraging. The room was, in my estimation, at times bristling with hostile energy, much of it along lines of race. Gloria Faley accused Michael Kelley--in these terms, and angrily--of pursuing an agenda of "white male privilege." A representative from the NAACP implied that those opposing the elimination of advanced language arts in the 7th grade were seeking racially segregated education. Relations between the two new board members and the four old members in attendance were, at best, stilted and frosty.

Very disheartening.

I tried to find the meeting on cable--couldn't WAS it televised? I needed to behome...but would have liked to watch it. Ususally channel 18 carries it, but they had some National discussion in Iowa going...



How did the vote go down?

I think it is unfortunate that the board has not made more of an effort to explain their rationale for eliminating a advanced standing curriculum. In the eyes of some, advanced standing is the same as tracking (college prep vs. workforce). I would assume that this is the basis for the racial tension Eric describes--since tracking has always been seen as a way of keeping minority kids out of college (and, at one time, girls out of math and science college majors).

In looking at the curriculum revisions, I'm hoping that when an advanced standing course, such as Advanced Language Arts 7, is replaced with English/Language Arts to "accurately reflect that there is only one curriculum for the two courses" the intention is to raise the expectations of kids who had previously been in the lower/average tracks kids and not to bottom out the expectation on the more academically gifted kids. The decision to delay implementation until 2006, I would hope is a recognition that implementing such a change right away would penalize kids who are already in the advanced track.

Will those kids who would have been in the advanced track be penalized under the new curriculum? It's hard to say...but it could just mean that they have more time for non-academic interests such as the arts and maybe even a little free time in which to be kids.

I really have no problem with ditching "advanced" LA--and both my kids went through it. Actually, both of my kids would have qualified for the "self-contained" gifted programs--back when they existed, and I chose NOT to put them in it. (Not bragging--just pointing out that I would have HAD a dog in this race, even though I no LONGER do.)

I KNOW it is possible to do differentiated education--my kids GOT challenged. At Carrboro Elementary AND Estes Hills (after we moved.) And the course of study my older guy had the year he was at McDougle (they didn't do Advanced courses there then) was just as rigorous as the "advanced" classes he got at Phillips the following year.

Math, as I said in my previous post, was a different story. Does anyone know how they plan to handle the math groupings?


Jamezetta Bedford moved to have a separate vote on eliminating the Advanced Language Arts 7 program. That motion carried by a 4-3 vote. (It was actually quite amusing: the members of the board split 3 to 3 on the question, which meant that Superintendent Neil Pederson had to cast the tiebreaking vote. He didn't look happy about it!)

The board then took up the question of just the Advanced Language Arts 7 program, and voted 4 to 2 to eliminate it. Bedford and Kelley voted no.

The rest of the proposed curricular changes then passed unanimously with no discussion.

Melanie--all the proposed curriculum changes were listed on the agenda for last night's meeting which was on the website. But the CHCCHS website just went down and won't be back up until Tuesday. From what I remember, one of the revisions (that must have passed unanimously per Eric) was to combine 2 courses into one and one of those courses was pre-algebra. But that's all that I remember.

How--interesting--that the site "went down" after such an important vote. OK, OK. I'll admit to a little paranoia. I'm sure they just decided to take advantage of the MLK holiday. Wish there had been something in the paper this morning...perhaps I should go look again. Sometimes the school stuff gets hidden.

I'll report if I find anything.



4-2 in favor of elimination of the program. No further details available.

Source: Robin at Chapel Hill Schools. I got sent to voice mail of another person who should know more.

I have a child in sixth grade at a school that lost advanced classes. I have met with more parents and adminstrators about this than i can count. Let me write a few observations that I have made..

1- Dr. Tomlinson (the district's consultant in differentiation ) describes it as a vital but difficult skill that requires years to master and should be integrated in planned steps into a curriculum. Even then there are students whose needs, for a long list of reasons, cannot be met by that system. It simply increases the number of children whose needs can be met without outside services. Our district has children from many extremes and so many more accomodations are necessary to met their needs. ESL, IEP's,PEP's, AVID etc. The highly gifted students are no different. They may have educational needs that are farther from the norm than children with IEP's. That is certainly true in my home where my son has an IEP, a PEP and almost more services than I can keep track of, but who is much closer to the level being taught in his class than my daughter is in hers. Her needs are much farther from average but as a child breaking in the new program she receives exactly zero services. By services I do not mean special fun classes. I mean claases that challenge her ability to think in a complex manner and help her understand that her intelligence carries a responsibility with it. It is not allowing her to be a child longer to leave her bored in class and feeling that she is in a district that does not respect her. Feeling like you do not matter is not a gift for longer childhood.

McDougle may do a better job of meeting the needs of the majority of its students, but the teachers were hired for that paradigm and supported it. I was at a conversation with Ms. Faley in which she volunteered that the teachers at Phillips and Culbreth had not been adequately trained in differentiated instruction and that she blamed the teachers. She felt that the advanced courses had to canceled to force the teachers to learn the new program. When I objected to the fact that they cannot learn it that quickly, I was repeatedly told that if the teachers were not performing up to task that it was the parent's responsibility to challenge the teachers. Our children and our love for our children are being openly used as a weapon against teachers the adminstration perceives as recalcitrant for not having already learned this complicated technique. So is it a surprise that my daughter now comes home saying she is bored or focusing on non-academic interests like gossip and clothes? Or that she says that homework and projects are sometimes differentiated but instruction is not. The question is not what is and is not possible. The question should always be what is the reality for the child? If differentiation of Instruction is the goal then it requires concrete planning and comprehensive implementation by an adminstration that takes responsbility for its programs.

I understand now why Ms. Faley reacted so angrily to my first address to the board in which I referenced a quote from Ms. tomlinson that poorly done differentiation served no one. It was the only time I saw a board member respond directly to an audience member. I realize now how big a nerve I hit.

This adminstration has so abrogated its responsibility that it will not even agree to provide written instructions on clustering to the principals. I mean that. Last spring they claimed to be training the principals and that clustering was vital. Now, it seems it is too complex even to write down and the principals are supposed to figure it out on their own. Small wonder that we have school after school where clustering happened poorly or not at all. Not that that would make a difference everywhere. At my daughter's school the teachers have consciously chosen not to organize advanced students to work with their peers = EVER. The entire pupose of clustering appears to have been completely misunderstood. The tremendous body of research showing that these children need some time every day where they work their academic peers be, is just ignored. Not only does it not happen every day, it has not happened all year. This too was taken to the adminstration which nodded sympathetically and offered no help at all.

I could go on (obviously) but the point is that the problem lies with an adminstration and some Board members who refuse to deal with the reality of the situation or who chose to use children as weapons in their philosphical battles.

The idea that these objections to what is happening are based in racism is pattently false and ms. Faley and those who claim so do so without any first hand knowledge. In other words the accusations are based in a prejudice of its own that assumes they can know the motives of people they have never met. That is never a good idea. Nor does it stand a minute's scrutiny. Speaking for myself and my family, we did not land here by accident. We chose to pay higher taxes and a substantial surcharge for housing so that we could be part of a successful diverse public school system. Had we wanted a segregated education we would have saved a great deal of money and lived in a different town. I have been advocating one point only for the last year - ALL THE CHILDREN MATTER. Ask me to pay twice the taxes to eliminate the gap and you can have the money tomorrow. Ask me to figure out how to insure that children are not tracked or segregated and i will write you a book today. I will sacrifice time, energy, and money to the goal of a successful diverse public school system where my friend Carla''s gifted African American Son and my developmentally disabled son can both feel respected and valued along with their siblings. Both Carla and I would tell you that my son feels far more valued and respected than her son or my daughter. Children are complex. We need to build a tapestry of education that creates a place that comes at least close to fitting the needs of every child. Carla has spoken of how hard it is for her son to have to choose between being challenged and being with African American friends because we do such a bad job of identifying and fostering our gifted minority students.

As usual, Ms. Faley misses the point. Parents are not angry because we do not want minority students to succeed. When was the last time you heard a huge public outcry against AVID? Parents are angry because they have been lied to, their children are being used as weapons, the district has done an abominable job of implementing differentiated instruction at the older middle schools, and by report at Smith, and because their children feel isolated, ignored and disrespected. They know that these problems could have been prevented, or solved even now, but Dr. Pederesen appears to be a master at having the blame land everywhere but at his feet. That is what needs to change. He is responsible for the horrible job he has done and he needs to be held acccountable.

It would help if those who seek to polarize our district recognized just how much damage they can do. I have never met the member of the NAACP who implied that my saying it was wrong to cancel seventh grade advanced language arts was based in racism. I accept the origin of his/her anger. While it may be intended personally, I do not take it personally. It clearly reflects much more on the him/herself than on me, but he/she would do everyone some good if they agreed to have a cup of coffee with me and talk about the actual issues.

I would start with the fact that it was not necessary to vote before next year. What responsible governing body decides to expand a program without evaluating the first phase? How can that failure to evaluate the first phase be explained when implementation is not scheduled until 2005-2006, and voting did not need to happen until next year? Voting this year just served to prove who still had the majoity on the board at the price of taking the time to look responsibly at what worked or did not work in the sixth grade changes. Instead the vote was rushed and the decisions made without even basic evaluations or accountability. THERE ARE SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THESE CHANGES. We need to be honest and look at them. Children are being hurt, majority and minority. They all deserve to be cared about and none will be helped by turning this into a racial war. I do not mean that race has no role in how we need to structure that tapestry of education. I mean that it is possible to disagree with what has been done without being a racist. The forces in the district who equate opposition and disagreement with racism will only hurt the children. Dr. Pedersen and his adminstration cannot refuse to accept responsiblity for challenging 40% of our students - majority and minority, without consequences. The consequence are less racial segregation. than they are class segregation. Do we want to force all the families who can afford to, to place their children in private school? How many can we lose before we are on the path that leads us to one more failed public school system no longer supported by those who live there? I am available to talk.

I will sacrifice time, energy and money, but not my daughter. If this district continues to insist that her only value is in how her presence or absence in a class affects the education of others - we will be forced to seek her education somewhere where she matters in her own right. Still, even if they force my daughter out, I will continue to demand accountability from those who are supposed to be entrusted with the education of the children who remain. I will continue to advocate for our district to accept responsiblity for the decisions it makes. I will do so with a clear conscience because I know what they have done and are doing, and I now how much adminstrative incompetence has created this mess. Others may choose to presume they can know why I speak, but I suggest that they talk to me first if they truly value the well-being of the children.


If anyone has questions about differentiated instruction, here's a good reference:


Great points Tracy--you should have run for School Board!

Were the teachers at Smith also chosen because they understood/new how to differentiate? Because I've got a friend with highly gifted kids at Smith--and she is VERY happy. And Smith does NOT have advanced classes.

As I understand it, Culbreth and Phillips have (I guess now it is HAD) advanced classes and Smith and McDougle do not. Is this an attempt to align the curriculum at all the Middle schools?

Tracey, I'm sorry you feel your daughter won't be getting what she needs. I have to tell you, however, that I was NOT all that impressed with the "advanced" LA classes at Phillips--as a whole. It all seemed to come down to which team you were on and what teachers you had. I know MY kids had more/interesting work on the teams THEY were on than some of their friends--because for whatever reason they ended up on one of the "tougher" teams. This is not idle speculation--I saw the work everyone was doing.

And DON'T get me started on "honors" level courses at East--that is TOTALLY teacher driven. My younger guy worl=ked harder in 8th grade than he did all last year as a Freshman--and he suffered the first quarter of htis year because of it. He's back up to speed--but I'm not convinced he learned ANYTHING last year.


The school board received a request last night that was relatively simple compared to the complicated ssue that is being disucssed here.

The mother of a homeschooled boy who is a good baseball player requested that her son be allowed to try out for the McDougle Middle School baseball team. He lives in the district, there would be no extra equipment costs for the school (and his mother pays property taxes anyway so there should be enough dough there to cover the minor expenses), and the NC State High School Athletic Assoc. regulations clearly state that:

"Alternative or extended day school students who meet all other eligibility requirements may participate in athletics for the school to which they would normally be assigned, provided the alternative/extended day school has no athletic program.”

Interestingly, the school board is recommending that students be allowed to attend other schools & community colleges as part of their new package of reforms, so there is nothing amiss with getting different educational experiences from different schools

in the eyes of the school board.

Will they do what is in the best interest of the child? Should they take a rigid, defensive posture and deny him access to this community program?



Gosh. Sounds like I missed some real excitement at the SB meeting. Thanks to Eric Muller for the report.

I'm confused as to why the presence of advanced classes in language arts or math is racist. Those who scream "racism" seem to assume that minority students have no need or use for these more challenging classes or could not possibly place into them. Now THAT'S racism -- "the bigotry of low expectations."

Mike Kelley is a really decent and intelligent guy and it is really distressing to hear that he was smeared as reported by Muller.

While it sounds like the SB meeting was ugly and an embarrassment to our "tolerant" and "progressive" community, it is useful that the public school nastiness that I have been alluding to for months is getting some scrutiny. Anything that affects 10,000 children deserves no less.

Great discussion Ruby. Funnily enough, covering the school board is, for every journalist I've known, a tedious nightmare... "dull issues that nobody but a few parents/educators cares about." The exchanges here are very helpful. I hope more people will read and contribute. Maybe if everybody visiting this site today told 20 friends and neighbors to visit...

My kids are too young to understand the issues presented from first hand experience.

However, reading the link about differentition makes it sound incredibly demanding on the teachers. If the link is accurate it seems like asking a lot from the teachers. Given how little teachers get paid I wonder if this is reasonable to expect.

Also, playing the race card about honors/AP seems like a low blow for a community that is supposed to encourage diversity and tollerance.

Curriculum alignment .. so that schools are similar in the same district seems a more valid argument.

Gang? I'm telling you, this is NOT about AP classes. EXCEPT that (at East anyways) you have to have taken Honors English to get into AP. (Correct me if I'm wrong--that is my understanding.) And to get into Honors HS English--you have to have been in advanced MS English...I wonder what they do with the kids from McDougle that end up at East?

When I was in HS all you needed to take AP's were the cojones to take 'em.

This seems like a MUCH more important issue (as far as numbers of people affected) than the HS kid who wants to play baseball...WHY hasn't this been in the paper? The HS'er got a fairly large article--but not a WORD about this.


I'd like to add a note about "differentiated eductaion". The best teachers do this instinctively. Over the years my kids have been priviliged to be taught by several professionals who did just this. They've also been taught by some lousy teachers, and we tried to supplement at home. It has ALWAYS been thus in public schools. (At least that was my experience, AND my mother's back when SHE was a student.) Should it be this way? No. BUT until we PAY teachers a professional wage, and then TREAT them like professionals this is what we will have.

When you have good teachers, Make certain yo let their principals know. Make certain you let THEM know. Particularly at the higher grade levels.


I disagree that teachers will be more able to differentiate their instructions if they are paid more--although I definitely agree that teachers should be paid a professional wage. The issue is whether we want to treat education, and the individuals who work in education (including teachers, principals, aides, media specialists, etc.) as a profession. To me that would mean kicking legislators out of the business of dictating education policy, investing in our schools at the same level we invest business, and ensuring that our school leaders reflect the values of the community.


Sometimes if you want your issue covered in the paper it is necessary to alert the press and give them some background. The homeschooler who would like to have fair access to the athletic program story did not get printed because an intrepid reporter sleuthed it out.


P.S. Before charges of racism were voiced at the meeting, two groups of students (they were introduced as successful examples of "differentiated" learning) recited feel-good poems that were about accepting and celebrating diversity. So there was all kinds of differentiation going on.

I have a correction to make and additional information to add. I have been advised that Michele Laws represented the NAACP at Thursday’s school board meeting. I do have an indirect connection to her. Other parents and I wrote a letter to the editor replying to an op-ed she wrote at the beginning of the school year. I sent her a copy of the letter in advance and made a personal plea to let me buy her a cup of coffee and talk about this before the behind the scenes whispers she references start to tear our district apart. I sent it to the contact information provided with her op-ed piece. The letter is copied below. She never replied to me.

Chapel Hill Herald Letter to the Editor

Concern for education is neither elitist nor racist

We read with concern Michelle Laws' column on the “'New Chapel Hill' far from home” [Aug. 18] in which she described attending a meeting where a “professional who works in the system” remarked that “Chapel Hill has changed and is continuing to attract people … who represent an elitist mentality. They are only concerned about what is best for their child and feel that because of the high property taxes they pay that the district's first priority should be THEIR children.”

Like Mrs. Laws, our experience is radically different from that described by this professional. We see a district that enjoys tremendous support, in time and effort, for the ideals of public schooling. These parents work within the system rather than outside it because they are committed to public education.

Yes, many parents have concerns about their children's education. Unfortunately, a disturbing stereotype has developed in which concern about children not being engaged in school is considered evidence of an elitist or even racist attitude.

Many parents, especially the one-third whose children are fast-paced learners, have experienced the effects of this stereotype. Teachers, administrators and even other parents often respond with significant hostility if a parent dares discuss their child's need for more challenging schoolwork, or ask why promised differentiated-education programs and academic clustering are not carried out.

The educational needs of children in our district should never be pitted against one another. We must work together to make the ideal of public education a reality. If we cannot succeed in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, where then can public education succeed?

Tracy Burger

Chapel Hill

September 2, 2003

Joseph Burgo, Teresa Burke-Siegemund and Liz DeLong also signed this letter.

"WHY hasn't this been in the paper? The HS'er got a fairly large article--but not a WORD about this."

(M. See)

Good question. About one year ago, there was an SB meeting where the fate of French language instruction was discussed. Perhaps 10 or so people spoke to keep French. This was reported.

At the same meeting, a petition signed by over 1,000 people asking for the retention of advanced MS classes was presented. As I recall, this got no ink.

As Mark M. pointed out, adequate coverage on school issues isn't a given. On this topic, we all might learn more from OP and HHN than from the local papers (and precious trees will be spared).

Fasinating issues here. I can't help but think about the roots of this inequity in our social order with its class structure and our inability to realize how important it is to pay people a living wage so that they can focus beyond survival and more on their kids. The schools are asked to deal with the reperecussions of these problems and there is a general taboo against discussing these root issues. That's why this stuff never gets figured out in any satisfying and conclusive way. That's why we will have Blue Ribbon Task Forces from now on until we get down to the real reasons for these tensions and conflicts.


I have been hesitant to weigh in here, as don't feel very well-informed about school issues in general. The last time I was a student in the CH-C system was 25 years ago when I was a 3rd grader at Carrboro Elementary. However, I must stick up for the NAACP. Those of you that accuse them of "screaming" have no idea how many quiet negotiations they have tried, how many times they have been outraged but bit their tounges. Now they have found that trying to be patient in the face of racism is gone, it is time to bring issues out in the open. This can be sensitive and even painful, but it is truly neccesary if we really want to address the education gap.

I didn't vote for Mike Kelly, but if I had known about him in November what I know now, I would have specifically told people not to vote for him. Not only is he not a friend to black students... I get the sense that he would really like them to shut up and get out of the way so that all the smart white kids can get their top-notch public education.

Considering the ongoing problems that many not-so-high-acheiving students are having in our district, I think a reallocation of resources to support them more is quite justified, and I support the School Board's decision to do so.

I also meant to reply to Melanie and the question of whether advanced courses actually accomplish that much. To me it is a matter of degree. The description the teacher and AG specialist gave at my daughter's school was that they were starting with the advanced course material and then adjusting it down for the new non-advanced course. That isn't an interpretation - that is what they said.

I absolutely agree that the teacher is more important than the name on the course, but that any given teacher can do a better job of meeting students' needs by limiting just how extremely divergent those needs are. As it stands now, the same curriculum is supposed to teach my son and my daughter - who are more than five standard deviations apart in IQ testing. Probably more as my daughter's IQ is a minimum estimate. That has nothing to do with race and is obviously an unreasonable burden on a teacher.

I volunteered in centers for my son's second grade class last year. I would have four children. A typical day would be math center with my son - who couldn't follow what was being asked because it was too abstract and switched concepts too frequently. Two children who would be at about the level of the assignment. One child who would blast through it in five minutes. The eternal answer for the blast through it child was that he/she should go read a book. That was what they would do much of the day - five minutes of work and 25 minutes of reading. The parents of one of the children were told by the teacher that she could not teach their child. Period - end of discussion. I would try to give that level child more complex problems I would write out, but that was hard to do when the other children needed to have points explained. Also sometimes the middle of the road students would want to be told that they were doing well enough for their own problems too. You could see the eagerness on their faces. so I would be trying to write out problems for them without letting them know they were not as hard as the blast through child but still harder than the worksheet. That was with four children.

Having said that, if I was allowed to design the framework on which to hang the curricculum I would choose an entirely different path than either of the current choices. I would have a fully aligned core curriculum offered at two class levels that are OPEN enrollment. One would be the core course alone with high expectations. The second would be the core course plus an integrated elective that is chosen for its ability to inspire minority students to chose the more demanding class. It would not be more demanding because the core curriculum is more demanding. It would be more demanding because the work would be compacted to make room for the elective material that would extend the core material in an engaging and challenging way. For instance the elective material could involve studying great African American or Hispanic writers. Any child chosing to take the course would understand before hand that more would be expected of them, but the course would have engaging material that would make it worth while.

The core course alone would be extensively clustered to maximize the ability of support services to help children who may need to be there such as my son and the ability of the majority of the class sections to maintain very high demands. I also suspect that there should be one section that still has the same label but that is aimed exclusively at children with serious learning problems. I only write suspect because I do not have experience with these children at the middle school - "I don't want to be different in any way" stage. I defer that part to those with more knowledge.

The advantages of this are many. Any child who wants to do the work would be free sign up. A child who for one reason or another wants to focus their energy on the arts or athletics or other interest would still receive the same high expectation core curriculum but without the added pressure of compacted material and an elective. If well designed it would help encourage minority students to choose to challenge themselves. With the support of AVID, a large percentage of the children might chose the more intense option. Because the core curriculum is the same in any section, there would be no prerequisite for the following year's course with an elective. children could move back and forth between the sections at will. there would be no tracking by intent or because of pre-requisites.

I have spoken of this to Dr. Bowling who spoke positively of it and said it had been done elsewhere, but that it is not being considered here. I spoke of it to Gloria Faley who rejected it as lacking equity. She thought there could be a separate elective but that the core course had to remain one size fits all (my words not hers.)

Dr. Bowling also mentioned many other established techniques for meeting the needs of academically gifted students in the context of fundamentally heterogeneous classes. Various meetings have seen all of those options dismissed as well. Any opportunity for the children tospend some educational time with their peers is unacceptable.

It is also worth mentioning that not all academically gifted children have the same needs. The district breaks it down into the "many", the "some", and the "few". The few have markedly different needs that cannot be routinely met in a standard class. so yes an actually differentiated class should serve the many. A well differentiated class should serve the some - most of the time. Differentiation is unlikely to serve the few. These are children who are able to work several grade levels above their chronologic grade. A tapestry of educational services needs to recognize that gifted children are not all the same any more than every child with an IEP receives the same services.

I completely disagree with Ruby about Michael Kelly and I consider the posting above little more than a personal attack on Michael. Further, I do not think that gifted education is a racial issue. I have spent time in several classrooms in the past years and I have some idea of the challenges as a teacher myself.

I find the racializing of the issues surrounding gifted and even academically challenging education to be destructive to all involved. I'm frankly embarrassed by Gloria Faley's remarks and even by Ruby's post above.

All children need to be challenged and encouraged. Race is not the issue for those advocating for more challenges.

(Speaking for myself alone)

Tracey, all I can tell you is that I've had a kid in BOTH kinds of classrooms and his needs were as well served at McDougle as they were at Phillips. McDougle used to have a constellation project that the 6th graders all did. Youchose your constellation, researched it, and then had to make a SCALE MODEL including all the major stars. What constellation did MY kid choose? DRACO. What a nightmare--we had get hold of a MOVING box to do the model....but he certainly made sure that the project was "complicated enough" for himself! He's a freshman Physics major--so perhaps that was just a preview? I think THAT sort of behavior is what my mother had in mind when she said "truly gifted children are seldom bored..."

I hated that project.

Terri--I didn't mean to imply that merely PAYING teachers more will automatically allow them to be bette able to differentiate. What I MEANT to say (and obviously didn't) is that good teachers differentiate--and that paying them like the pro's they should be might draw more good people to the profession. Then one could weed out the slackers (like last years "advanced" freshman English teacher...oy. Or the "advanced math" teacher my younger kid had as a 6th grader--had him take pre-algebra AGAIN in the 7th grade because we weren't certain he'd "gotten it" the first time around.She left after that year...)

Now, I know I should keep up with everything the school board is up to, at all times. I should. BUT--it's kind of difficult to do that AND be involved with other things...and the last few weeks I've been involved with the changes they are talking about making at the HS. Honestly, we focus on what will affect us most--and I no longer have kids in MS. I care--but it's not at the top of my radar. Nor do I give two hoots about the Homeschooled ballplayer--I've always thought that missing out on sports, art classses, etc. (or finding proivate alternatives)was the price one paid for CHOOSING to home-school.


Responding to Ruby,

I believe her that many quiet negotiations failed and that racism problems must be addressed. I also support reallocation of resources. The only places that have come close to solving the achievement gap are programs like the Kipp programs and the armed services whose requirements for parental participation cannot be repicated in a public school system. We also need to make a concerted effort to identify our minority gifted students. One member of our organization PAGE/CHCCS has completed an assessment of research in this area. We raised the issue at a meeting with district administrators, but it was dismissed.

Regardless, the member posted information to one of our listservs today that I think needs to be spread as far as possible as quickly as possible because the next three year gifted services plan is being written now and we cannot leave these children stranded for another three years.

There are many problems that need to be addressed. I believe that all the children will be better served if those of us who care are talking to each other and not about each other. Please don't presume to know what my motives are if you have never talked to me. No one who has has ever left telling me I am a racist. No one who knows me has ever said that what i am doing is racist. Maybe Ms. Laws missed my email response and my letter, but one of the parents who spoke last night talked with her afterward and offered to send her my posting and say that I really think it would help to talk. i am not perfect. I mess things up sometimes and talking can only help make sure that the likelihood of the children being hurt from adults messing up goes down.

Here is what our member wrote:

I urge all of you to DEMAND the following 2 things described in my email below from the district and sign this online petition (your name can show as 'anonymous' and it takes 30 seconds to complete the petition online):


(1) Specific ways to identify all intellectually gifted children properly are desperately needed. This does not mean to simply identify those who already know the material, but also those who have the potential to learn it quickly. If the identification is done properly, it will capture the same ratios of whites, asians, african americans, latinos, etc. into the gifted database that are in the district as a whole. Giftedness is inborn and not specific to any one race.

The current way that children are identified in this district leaves out many of the under-served minorities and makes the majority of the parents of this district's identified children appear "very white". Those of us who are not racist don't care if their child's intellectual peers are black, brown, yellow, pink, green, or white. We chose this district to have our children participate in a diverse community of children AND to have their child's intellectual needs met (kept challenged). Now that we have committed ourselves to houses and taxes here, we cannot and should not stand idly by while our district attempts to paint us into the corner of appearing racist when, in fact, they are causing the problem.

The fact is: the school's own identification process is flawed and, inadvertantly or not, causes institutional racism. This MUST be fixed. We, the parents, did not cause this.

The new gifted plan (in draft form; not yet implemented) for the district calls for a non-verbal test (the "Raven's Test") ONLY if the teacher nominates the child for it. The Raven's Test has indeed been proven nationally to help identify gifted children of color and gifted ESL (English as a 2nd Language) children. However, the test needs to be made MANDATORY for all under-served minorities in order to capture them or we are only slightly better off than before, if at all.

The school board's action to eliminate 7th grade advanced language arts deprives underserved gifted minority children of the proper learning environment as well as gifted whites and asians. The school board's action implies that giftednesss is limited to whites and asians and that there are NO GIFTED AFRICAN AMERICANS OR LATINOS. This makes their action a racist action.

====> PLEASE! DEMAND MANDATORY RAVEN'S TESTING OF ALL UNDERSERVED MINORITIES. WRITE TO YOUR DISTRICT ADMINISTRATORS TO INSURE THIS HAPPENS. SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION HERE: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/429692467 (it only takes 30 seconds and all of your personal information can be withheld).


(2) The district is cancelling services to the gifted without giving clear training or direction on how to keep them challenged otherwise. Where options do exist, they are watered-down and/or difficult to implement. The concept of differentiation in classrooms with larger than 12 kids is, indeed, a romantic vision in most cases. Differentiation can work with the right kind of grouping, however. Grouping children within the classroom and across the grade by ability helps. Clustering highly gifted kids has been proven in studies to help tremendously. You can read details on creative grouping strategies that have been proven to work in the PAGE/CHCCS Grouping Strategy Team's extensive research report (if you haven't rec'd it and want a copy, please ask). Research shows that grouping the children properly not only helps the children be challenged at their level, it raises their ability level. Grouping properly also makes things easier on the teachers so that they do not have to !

teach to a "Noah's Ark" of kids who are spread across the ability spectrum.



PLEASE forward this email to anyone you know who isn't on the PAGE listserv.

You can also send emails to the following individuals:

District Administration:

Dr. Pedersen

Superintendent of CHCCS


Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart


Denise Bowling


Sandra Page


School Board Members:

Bedford, Jamezetta


Carter, Elizabeth


Didow, Nick


Foushee, Valerie

E-mail Address(es):


Kelley, Mike


Sechrest, Ed


Stuckey, Lisa


Thank you for your time.

And one more thing. School funding is limited, even in Orange County. So please stop saying that 'education is not a zero sum game.' There is only so much money to go around. There should be more school money to go around, but there isn't.

And until you go advocate for developmentally disabled children, remedial reading, headstart etc. please, please don't talk about whether this is a 'zero sum game.' It makes you sound foolish.


Quick comment

Sorry that you dislike the district numbers but they are reality. Sorry that you don't want to address anything except the presence or absence of advanced classes. The other 95% of the conversation has real value. Sorry you haven't been able to read most of what i wrote as the response shows that you have missed most of the discussion including rather central points.

I think it would help if you went back to the begining of the thread and had the opportunity to be aware of what most of the conversation is about. Otherwise there is not much more to say. It is difficult to join a conversation when it is this far along.

Advocating for developmentally disabled children. That would make you think differently about what is said? Advocating for remedial reading makes one better able to understand the complexities of this question? Am I understanding that correctly?


Tracy, you wrote:

"This is a district where 40% of the children score in the top 4 % in the state. the number of children who are capable of working grades ahead is - according to district documents enough to fill a class at each middle school in every grade. The idea that those children have no different need than my son is preposterous. "

First of all, it seems like kids that operate at the next grade level should be IN the next grade level. The claim that 40% of the kids are gifted is one of the problems. A number of sources cite numbers like 40%. Special academic resources are definitely needed for some kids - but very few kids. MANY parents want to believe that their kid is so blessedly special. We all want to believe that our kid is in the top 1%. But only 1% of kids are in the top 1% of kids. I've got no problem with targetting different resources at kids who are truly exceptional. Most kids are kids and they don't need to be broken up into state sanctioned groups telling them who is smarter.

You all want to characterize my comments as reactionary, knee jerk etc. How many of you have looked inside yourself? One of the biggest problems that America has is its failure to understand that the word 'racism' is not an insult. Racism is the exercise of racial privelege. It is typically inadvertent and not perceived at all by the person doing it. That's why it is important to point it out. So that you can think about it and confront it.

Statements pointing out how many non-white kids are in advanced classes demonstrate nothing. The point is that you are seeking a school that is bifurcated. Even if it is merely bifurcated by social status rather than race, it is still the same issue. Some kids are branded as being better, others worse, right? No no I'm sure you are all more well-meaning than that, but it amounts to the same thing.

I don't know how the hell we should structure our schools, but I do know that 1) lots of brilliant minds have done great things in this world without the benefit of advanced classes and 2) lots of kids are poorly served by our schools.


PS, as for the possibility that Margaret's fictional kid may commit suicide because he can't take ALA7, I ask you, who is being a little simplistic? Furthermore a first grader who reads at the fifth grade level is not going to fit in no matter what the classroom arrangements are. Sorry if that seems overly pessimistic to you.

Time for a story:

A parent has a child in 5th grade. But, the school system demands that he spend everyday in a first grade class. Don't ask why yet. Read on.

Although his language arts skills are testing at the 5th grade level, the reality is that he must sit in the same room with children who are still receiving training in phonics everyday. He politely sits and watches while the children around him are asked to read a sentence on the board. Meanwhile, he is reading at a 5th grade level and is put in a corner to do read by himself during a small portion of the day. Nobody is listening to his reading to see if he is saying the words properly nor or they working on his reading comprehension except in possibly one or two short sessions per week. The rest of the children in the class are given definitions of words and asked if they understand them and taught how to say them.

The spelling tests are a joke. When this boy is able to spell words like 'encyclopedia', the rest are being tested on words like 'what' and 'to'. The boy learns that being polite and just putting up are what makes him liked, and that doing less is more. When he is finally challenged at his level and makes a mistake, he cannot stand it because he used to getting 100% on everything else. He can't take the advice constructively. He hasn't learned the skills of persistence and struggle like the children around him who have this emotional growth everyday. He learns that life should be easy and after a while starts to underachieve so that he will have guaranteed 100% grades on everything. It's doubtful that he is learning the skills of a future leader or even of a good follower given this paradigm.

Who is being served here in this story?

The majority of this story is actually true and occurs in CHCCS today. The part that is not true is that the boy's chronological age is indeed of a first grade level.

Would you have it on your head to remove an advanced class that might be one of the few chances that this boy might have to learn how to struggle and persist? The teachers are great, but they don't have a lot of time to spend on a child this far from the norm. Would you have it on your head to remove Tier1 services so this boy can remain unchallenged, bored, and taught to underachieve? If so, what is school supposed to be about, then, for this kind of child? Is it supposed to be years of simple torture? Are there no solutions? If not, then why are there solutions for those whose IQ is well below the norm??

Would you have it on your head that this child becomes perfectionistic due to this paradigm? Would you have it on your head that the rest of the students in this child's class cannot relate to him and he becomes lonely and withdrawn?

Now, time to go to sleep and dream about a better place where people don't accuse you of racism simply because you care about your own child's emotional and academic needs.

The very child in this example is real and was born this way. It is the same situation as the child who is born with a low IQ, but this high IQ child receives little to no sympathy for his plight in life. Perhaps he should go off in middle school and start shooting a few people when he gets frustrated enough so he gets noticed? Or, just take his own life because there's no hope? Would you have that on your head, too? Of course, you can just say taking away options for gifted children is not a big deal, go ahead. It's much easier to say that.

With a minority gap to close, the administration should be looking into the way they identify underserved gifted minorities and get them "found" early on. Then, we can all have a mix of races in our advanced classes that matches the ratios of the entire district.

I agree with Tracy and I vote for eliminating arbitrary solutions to the gap that are based on gut instead of data and fact, at the expense of those who are also in need. I want gifted african americans and latinos to be properly identified in this district so that they can stop pointing the finger at the innocent parents of white children as somehow causing the inequity. Right now, our district identifies giftedness based on achievement almost exclusively, not on IQ or potential. No wonder we have inequities; it's because the administration is causing it, inadvertantly or not.

At the end of the day, we want our public schools to educate our children to the best of their ability. The view that one child's education demeans some other child's education is a view that sees education--and perhaps by inference, life--as a zero-sum game. It's not a view I want my policy makers to have. We in Chapel Hill are fortunate to have a district with both financial and intellectual resources. I refuse to believe that the best we can do is the morass we currently have. It's hard for me to see why there needs to be two sides here. Why not argue for doing the best for all of our children, for setting the same high standards and expectations for all of our children and for letting each child learn at the highest level that he or she can? We can do this, there are other districts that do this (yes, in the real world!). Let's move past the idea of our curriculum as a zero-sum game--it's a view that causes us all to lose.


According to the paper she just asked that her son be allowed to try out--and was told the kid had to be enrolled. I was hoping Mark, who seems to be so well informed about the case, would answer your question. I don't know that she was petitioning for partial enrollment. I know it is possible to DO partial enrollment---in some form--because that is what kids who go to the Hill Center do...though they ARE in school for social studies and science (I think) and electives. (I know.) As to making a political issue out of a misunderstanding--Terri said it, not me. ;-)


Frankly, I read the policy a couple of times and couldn't figure it out. Maybe if I had been homeschooled I'd have the intelligence to understand it - just kidding, folks. Anyway, I never heard of this ppartial enrollment thing. Don't know anybody that's done it and don't understand why it would be ok to partially enroll to play in the school band but not play on the baseball team.

It still seems so simple, once the knee-jerk reactions are over. IWe've seen that no-one can cite a negative effects. So just let the kid play. No big deal.

As far as the politicization charge - what was the misunderstanding that you think I politicized? My misunderstanding that the school sytem really does want to serve the needs of each and every child (see school system web-site), embrace diversity, and leave no child behind? Sorry, couldn't resist.


Who said letting home schooled kids play sports in the public schools is illegal? According to NC State law, which I referenced earlier today, the kid just needs to be enrolled part time in the public school. Curiously the part time enrollment cannot be for academic work--only for non-tested subjects (music, art, sports). In Virginia and in Florida (both states I have lived in), home schooled kids took part in sports and arts as well as dances and other social events and we all assumed it should be so. I don't understand why this is even an issue. As I asked earlier, did the mom who came to the school board meeting 1) request part time enrollment (as described by law....or the rule if you prefer), 2) challenge a denial of part time status for her kids by the would-be school, or 3) is someone trying to make a political issue out of a simple misunderstanding?

"Go ahead and dismiss this as an unfair characterization of what 'Advanced' is all about,t."

I certainly will. Anyone who would portray advanced classes or similar services as a means of creating de facto segregation needs to spend more time in classrooms. If someone thinks they are going to get a whitebread environment in these classes, they will be bitterly disappointed. As an example, the self-contained program at Glenwood skews heavily toward students of East Asian and South Asian descent. This is not whitebread . . . this is naan and kulchas. Additionally, many of the "white" students (who range from pink to light brown actually) have non-American born parents. These are some of the most racially/ethnically diverse classes in the system.

Dealing the race card from the bottom of the deck was a good strategy in the 1980's. The problem with this egregious overuse and abuse of race is that it anesthetizes people to genuine racism.

the 'quick comment' above is exactly the kind of unproductive and false use of race that i would warn everyone against.

Because you see this as a class issue?


And so quick comment takes us back to square one.

Faulty implementation - irrelevant. Actual performance of students - irrelevant. Choice to use students to force teachers to change rather than figure out how to engage teachers and support them - irrelevant. Proposed decline in perfromance - irrelevant. Needs of gifted minority students - irrelevant. Refusal to consider the many options that would help the children IN THE CONTEXT OF HAVING REMOVED ADVANCED LANGUAGE ARTS - Irrelevant. Ignoring the recommendations of the Blue ribbon Task force - irrelevant. Children who are two or three years ahead - get out and go to community college. Non-compliance with state law - irrelevant.

Refusal to recognize that there are many many ways to engage students with or without advanced classes that Dr. Pedersen and his adminstration are ignoring- QC misses the point of 95% of the discussion. Applying stereotypes to who is gifted - QC gets a perfect score. Lets avoid recognizing that gifted children come from our African American community. Refusal to acknowledge that there is a profound difference between arbitrary categories that do NOT predict educational need and the FACT that children have different educational strengths and needs and that NO one is better served for pretending one size fits all - this point is actually completely lacking in relevance. My two children do not have any overlap in what it takes to challenge and engage them in their education and they both have the same parents and are of the same SES class and the same race. I have to wonder how many parts of our lives respond well to one size fits all. Those who have been reading all this know that much of the discussion is about the need for actually planning what is going to happen rather than just ordering it. there are many best practices out there that could help even after you cancel advanced classes, but lets ignore that entire conversation also. Refusal to accept responsiblity for evaluating the successes and failures of decisions - business as usual.

No i think not. There are too many of us who are willing to look at this in a more complex manner. QC's analogy fails miserably. It is neither appropriate nor relevant. Or are we getting rid of varsity sports ?( that will take care of the other debate I guess). Lets try that substitution. Exercise is vital and ability in not innate but the product of effort so it is time for equity in sports. All teams will be open to all students. The coaches will be told to maintain the same expectation they had when they coached varsity. they will tell you they can't but that isn't part of the discussion. "gifted athletes" will complain that they need the challenge of working with other gifted athletes but will be told instead that they can follow a list of exercises on the sidelines and basically coach themselves - that will get them to the same place as working out with other varsity athletes. They will complain of being bored and not caring about practice any more, but that won't matter. Their mere presence will raise the expectations and performance of every other student and that is all that matters. Whether it actually does that will not be addressed. Gifted athletes will run the track three times as fast but then they get to sit on the side lines and do what ever they want. Shouldn't they be grateful for the free time? They will pass the president's fitness test anyway so what else matters. some will start causing trouble on the side lines but the connection to being bored and ignored will be dismissed. Some will focus their energy on social interactions and just float through practice. Actually as this is their first exposure to a team they will think they don't have to work because it comes so easy to them. When they discover in college that actually there are many gifted athletes in the world who actually learned to work out, they will either find the strength to fight through it or they will turn away and never work toward what might have been. But that isn't our problem now is it. After all they are gifted shouldn't they just be thankful for that and stop bothering everyone?

This is a district where 40% of the children score in the top 4 % in the state. the number of children who are capable of working grades ahead is - according to district documents enough to fill a class at each middle school in every grade. The idea that those children have no different need than my son is preposterous.

QC may chose to see children by their skin color but I will continue to see them as individuals who deserve respect and compassion. If we need to cancel advanced classes then we need to have the courage to do the work it takes to do it right. don't just order it because the teachers aren't behaving and don't refuse to accept responsiblity for evaluating what worked and what did not. Recognize that others have been there before and look at what best practices might still allow the high Ag students to be challenged. In otherwords show the ability to take responsiblity for your actions.

Or keep it simple. See it just as a race issue without all those messy complications and send the children away.

You'll have to forgive me if I decline the offer, but thanks for reminding me that some people just want things simple no matter what the consequences.


The fact is that the NC High School Athletic Association is far from clear on it's jurisdiction over middle schools.McCormick nor any one else was unable to cite any specific language.

A majority of states allow homeschoolers to participate on teams, with no problems. There's no need for layers of bureaucracy with partial enrollment or whatever. And I still don't know how the ringer loophole really works - you either llive in the district or you don't, where's the scam?

Lack of imagination, narrow thinking, a pre-determined outcome by staff, and the lack of integrity in regard to process marked this whole affair. I wouldn't choose any one of them to stand by me in a challenging situation.


Let's take a look at the basic argument advanced by the pro-Advanced Language Arts 7 (ProALA7) crowd:

Advanced classes provide a forum for meeting the educational needs of advanced students. By putting the advanced students in the same classes as the regular students, we are holding the advanced students back from realizing their full potential.

Now, let's just change the word "advanced" to "white" and 'regular' to 'black' and see what happens:

White classes provide a forum for meeting the educational needs of white students. By putting the white students in the same classes as the black students, we are holding the white students back from realizing their full potential.

Go ahead and dismiss this as an unfair characterization of what 'Advanced' is all about, but its not. The fact is that a very small percentage of students are TRULY advanced. The truly advanced students DO need special educational resources and they should get them through area community colleges and UNC.

Okay, maybe this really is just a class issue. If so, then let's try the statement one more time:

Middle Class classes provide a forum for meeting the educational needs of Middle Class students. By putting the Middle Class students in the same classes as the Lower Class students, we are holding the Middle Class students back from realizing their full potential.

Savant, are you starting to feel some pride yet? You shouldn't.

Ummm....yeah. Mark? YOU may believe rules are there to be broken, and I know my teenager probably feels that way, but I am not a huge fan of anarchy. If I had a HS kid whowanted to "play ball" I would probably challenge the rule. At whatever level I needed to challenge it at.

Savant--fair statement... in part anyways. At least I OWN my negative, unworthy sentiments. On the other hand--Mark has said just those things--and I was responding to HIS STATEMENTS...so please DON'T assume I was applying them to everyone. My Dad homeschools my half-sibs. And now that my hald-brother is reaching MS age they are looking at moving into a more formal school arrangement so that his son can play SPORTS.

I will now bow out--bloodied but not beaten. Have a nice day.


I stand by my depiction of Gloria Faley's attack on Mike Kelley at the board meeting the other night. Ms. Faley read all of her comments from a yellow legal pad. At only one point did Ms. Faley lift her eyes from the yellow pad and make sustained (as opposed to fleeting) eye contact with anyone on the board. And that point was toward the end of her talk, when she read the passage about white male privilege. When she reached that point, she reoriented her body to the left--toward Mike Kelley, who was at the left end of the table--and read the language she quoted above while staring directly at Mr. Kelley. She paused for a moment or two after finishing the line about white male privilege, and continued to stare at Kelley. Only then did she look down, reorient herself toward the center of the board again, and finish up her talk, inviting everyone to a chicken dinner she's sponsoring.

Mike Kelley's eyes went wide, he puffed out his cheeks, and shook his head slightly after Ms. Faley finished. It sure didn't look to me like he had any question about whether Ms. Faley's comments had been directed at him.

I'm just telling you what I saw, folks. And I saw this at a point in the meeting well before I began to appreciate the racial intensity of the discussion--so it's not like I went into the meeting looking for it. I'm enough of a novice at Chapel Hill politics that I really had no appreciation of the racially charged nature of the proposed curricular change.


Well, what can I say? You believe it doesn't harm anyone but it is simply AGAINST THE RULES. Wow. You are the type of citizen every totalitarian ruler craves.

One thing about sports - they have rules that make sense, they are fun, and no-one is going to walk in one day and proclaim that the rules will change and "differentian" or whatever will now be the order of the day.

It is worth noting that throughout this discussion no-one has come up with a substantive reason why a homeschooler should not be allowed to play in his or her district. Lot of opposition, but no reasons (except of course, it's just AGAINST THE RULES and we all know how successful that explanation is with our children). So the result is that some children have their opportunities narrowed. Quite a proud accomplishment for local school leadership.


"I have an immediate, negative, GUT response to the idea of homeschoolers participating in school extracurriculars. Perhaps because so many Home School PARENTS have the attitude that their children are in a much better situation not having to"deal" with the public schools. I will admit that this is, perhaps, an unworthy sentiment" (Melanie See)

I would agree that it is an unworthy sentiment, but am not surprised to hear it. Many in the public school industry have tried to hammer homeschooling and private education and the parents who opt for it. It would seem odd. Parents who use these alternatives are merely making a choice and reducing the need for resources for the rest of us. One possibility is that some public educators find these alternatives to be a threat. Maybe they don't like the inevitable comparisons.

It is also dangerous to attribute any particular attitude to these parents. The reasons for homeschooling are quite diverse. Homeschooling parents that I know DO NOT think that their children, their parenting skills, or their approach to education is better than that of other families. They do tend to believe that homeschooling is best for THEIR own families.

Mark M. often takes us to new and unexpected places, but I think his part of the discussion parallels the concerns raised by Tracy Burger and others. There is basically a public education orthodoxy that cannot tolerate internal or external dissent. When we skewer the homeschoolers or write off parents as racists for raising legitimate questions, we are doing the dirty work for "Big Education."

Superintendant is hired by the BOE. We (the people of the town) ELECT the BOE.


Actually, everyone within the DISTRICT, not just the towns, gets to vote for the BOE. Just to clsrify, and so I don't get jumped on.




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