CMS to identify causes of low-performing schools

by: Paige Hansen Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools plans to use hundreds of thousands of dollars for outside researchers to identify where the district and certain schools need improvement, CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison said Wednesday.
 
The new Beacon Initiative will focus on long-term efforts to turnaround low-performing schools.
 
The district said doing more research on the front end is what makes this program different from past efforts.
 
Instead of making quick changes to fix chronically underachieving schools, CMS said Wednesday it wants to get to the root cause of the problems that make schools and students underperform.
 
"The pursuit of figuring this out is one we should continue," Denise Watts, the community superintendent of Project L.I.F.T., said. "The vitality of our city depends on how well-educated children are, all children."
 
Two Project L.I.F.T. schools will be among the 14 Title I schools involved with the Beacon Initiative.
 
The district picked the 14 because all constantly struggle with achievement and performance based on proficiency and growth.
 
CMS will pay outside researchers upwards of $400,000 the first year and $600,000 the second year to find the causes of the problems then develop plans to fix them.
 
"This is about going slow to go fast," district Chief School Performance Officer Kelly Gwaltney said.
 
The district will partner with University of Virginia researchers who will assess both the district as a whole and the 14 Beacon Initiative schools.
 
"When you do your own needs assessment, sometimes you overlook things because that's the way you're used to seeing your business run," Gwaltney said.
 
The plans will be individual to each school but many face similar issues.
 
"When I think about what a turnaround school looks like and feels like, for teachers it's about catching kids up," Watts said.
 
The district is in contract negotiations with UVA right now and a contract is expected to be approved next month.
 
The plan will be implemented next school year and will be paid for using local dollars and Title 1 money.
 
The district said it came up with the word "Beacon" for its initiative because it wanted participants to think of light and hope.