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CMS Board tackles student reading in discussion on improving outcomes

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board is dedicating time at meetings once a month to improve student outcomes for Black and Hispanic students. The focus of Tuesday’s meeting was on improving third-grade English Language Arts performance.

Right now, CMS has 50 low performing schools -- they received ‘D’ or ‘F’ grades from the state -- just two weeks ago, and the district says less than a quarter of CMS third graders read at grade level.

“We all know the pandemic had a devastating impact on CMS and in students across the country,” Chair Elyse Dashew said.

Dashew said now is the time for board members to roll up their sleeves and get to work at improving student outcomes.

CMS hopes that by 2024, 50% of Black and Hispanic students will score at college and career-ready levels in English Language Arts. Last October’s level was 15.9%. The goal for this year is 36%.

The Board is calling its goals aggressive but some members of the community want to see more.

“Show me a sports team that starts off saying we are going to win 36% of our games this year and call it a success,” said Rev. Jordan Boyd of the African American Faith Alliance.

The goal of 36% is proving hard to reach. According to data presented to the board, 13.5% of Black and Hispanic third-graders attained college and career readiness in English Language Arts in the 2021-2022 school year. The board was told a dramatic increase is needed and the district is more than 1,500 students away from hitting its target.

“If we don’t do our job well, our students will receive an education that is less than what they deserve,” Dashew said.

The superintendent wants highly effective teachers in the second- and third-grade classrooms. He’s also cracking down on unexcused absences, eliminating the leeway that was provided during the height of COVID-19.

“Elementary, we will be working hard with our social workers going to families, calling on them to find out where students are at,” Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh said.

While COVID-19 had an impact on students, several people told the board they don’t want to keep hearing it as an excuse.

“Even before COVID, we can’t really blame COVID. COVID just added to the problem that was already there,” parent Leslie Scott said.

“COVID, COVID, COVID,” Boyd said. “That’s the mask and refrain we are going to hide behind to continue to blame and use excuses for the abject failure that has happened to Black and brown children.”

According to a report presented to the CMS Board, Paw Creek Elementary and Berewick Elementary schools improved student outcomes in English Language Arts. The district is looking to apply lessons learned from those schools.

Click here to read the full report:

From the report:

Evaluation of Current Performance In 2021-22: “13.5% of Grade 3 Black and Hispanic students combined attained CCR on the Grade 3 ELA End-of-Grade exam. If that CCR rate does not increase dramatically this school year, we will be below target. At the conclusion of the 2021-22 school year, we were 1,563 students short of our 2022- 23 year-end target.”

Planned Next Steps: “Strategies have been identified for the 2022-2023 school year that, when enacted, will support the ability of CMS to achieve the goal outlined in this report, officials said.”

The strategies include:

  • English Language Arts (ELA) Core Instruction. Second- and third-grade teachers leverage district curriculum to implement standards-aligned, culturally responsive instruction in an engaging, affirming and meaningful way, using current student data to inform teacher decisions.
  • Intervention: second- and third-grade students are screened to determine if they need interventions (academic, behavior, attendance). Black and Hispanic students in need of intervention will receive it.
  • Highly Effective Teachers: Second- and third-grade students will have greater access to highly effective teachers.
  • Professional Development: Targeted PD based on role, school needs and individual growth needs, which includes all second- and third-grade reading teachers, instructional leaders, school and district leaders is provided.
  • Social and Emotional Suppothird-gradeand third grade students will be prioritized for SEL support.
  • Student Engagement: Identify, prioritize, and direct resources to second and third-grade students who have a history or current status of being chronically absent.

Items Needed from the Board

Staff asks three things of the board to support our pursuit of this Grade 3 ELA Goal:

1. Encourage timely student enrollment in school and supplemental programs such as pre-kindergarten, extended day and both out-of-school and in-school tutoring programs.

2. Advocate for programs and messaging in the community that encourage student attendance on a daily basis, reminding stakeholders that attendance requirements have been reinstated this school year.

3. Advocate with NCDPI staff and state legislators for the removal of human resource barriers to CMS’ ability to staff CMS schools with skilled teachers.

4. Encourage the timely enrollment of students in pre-kindergarten programs such as the CMS program Bright Beginnings.

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