Leaders react to latest Project LIFT scores with frustration and celebration

Leaders react to latest Project LIFT scores with frustration and celebration

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Project LIFT leaders are explaining about nine schools whose recent test scores were released. Project LIFT Community Superintendent Denise Watts says she was disappointed and frustrated when she saw the scores.

"We cannot spend a lot of time feeling sorry about where we are," Watts said. "It's about the action in moving forward."

Project LIFT started about five years ago. The community chipped in more than $55 million to help struggling schools succeed and to give students extra resources to make the grade.

The latest scores show some dips and some increases. When it comes to reading, Project LIFT schools experienced a decrease of 1.6 points. Only 31.2% of students are considered proficient. In Math, there was a seven-point drop. Now only 33.9% of students are proficient in Math.

The goal was for 90% of Project LIFT students to be performing on grade level at this time. We asked leaders why it's taking so long to turn things around.

"There is not an immediate response or answer or resolution to something that has been embedded and been done over a long period of time," Watts said. "You have to unwind it - just like it was wound in the first place."

Project LIFT schools did see a bump in English II and Biology. There are 39.8% of students who are now proficient in English II. That's a six-point increase, and there is a seven-point increase in Biology. Now, 36.6% of students are proficient in that subject.

Leaders are also pleased with West Charlotte High School's graduation rate. This year, the high school has an 88.1% graduation rate. Five years ago, the graduation rate was 54%. West Charlotte High School is also pleased in five years the school is being recognized from the state as making the grade.

"It earns a C grade," Watts said. "It exceeds growth and it is no longer deemed low performing."

Three Project LIFT Schools are now considered an "F" school. Thomasboro Academy joined the list. It went from a "D" school to an "F" this year. Four Project LIFT Schools are considered "D" schools and two are considered "C" schools.

Watts admits much more work needs to be done. She says her team will continue to press, support, and push to get the results needed. Watts responded when asked if the community got its return on their investment when looking at the test scores.

"In some ways, yes," Watts said. "Because everything that we've done and all the successes we've had cannot be measured in data. There are other things that demonstrate success but if you look at these numbers - then the answer could very easily become a No, they haven't. It's not where we want it to be."

Watts believes teachers and staff are working hard to get better results. She knows teaching and learning happen inside the schools.

"This is a test that they take one day a year," Watts said. "And it doesn't necessarily demonstrate what has happened over the 179 days of the school year."

Project LIFT is to end soon as funding will run out. There are talks to find the money to continue parts of the program.

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