New numbers show poverty is on the rise in Charlotte Mecklenburg school system (CMS). This year the district reports 54% of the roughly 144,000 students live in poverty.
At Berryhill Academy, the number this year rose to 90% of its student population go home each night to poverty. The principal, Paul Pratt, tries not to look at students that way.
"I don't see anything in terms of poverty," the principal said. "All I see is kids."
Pratt admits there are some challenges when leading a high poverty school. He says parental involvement is absent at the school.
"We deal with a blue collar population," Pratt said. "They are hard working. They don't have time to come up here and spend all day every day in the school."
Since there is no Parent Teacher Association, Berryhill depends on the community and McKee Elementary for support. McKee only has a 13% poverty rate at the school and now has adopted Berryhill. It gives items to Berryhill that makes a difference.
"Box tops for education," Pratt said. "Book drives, sometimes book bags, back packs with materials and supplies - sometimes student incentives, faculty and staff appreciation."
Despite the high poverty rate, test scores are improving at Berryhill. The principal says now about 74% of the students are on grade level. Pratt believes that is because good teachers don't mind working at a challenged school.
Teacher Ashley Giblin likes working at Berryhill, but she claims she has to find new ways to engage students.
"I don't give a normal 2 + 2 math problem," Giblin said. "It has to be related where they will see that in the future."
Giblin also admits teaching at a high poverty school, you have to learn how to control the kids.
"You are never really taught how to handle discipline," Giblin said. "I never learned how to handle discipline in college, but you have to build the relationship where students respect you."
We asked the teacher if teaching at a high poverty school is harder that teaching at a low poverty school. Her response.
"I wouldn't say easier," Giblin said. "But I would say it's a lot more rewarding at a school like this. It's very rewarding to watch the growth from one year to the next."
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