CMS releases equity report: Results show still much work to do

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg School District (CMS) released its equity report called "Breaking the Link" Friday morning at Renaissance West STEAM Academy. The last time the district produced an Equity Report was back in 2010. The report will determine if there is a link between demographics and outcomes in schools.

The district used data from the 2016-2017 school year to come up with its findings.

The report shows the district has a ways to go to ensure that students, especially in high poverty schools, are making the grade. Those high poverty schools lack the resources and access to a great education.

"It's frustrating," CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said. "But I think the thing is we can't lose sight of is, this is a problem happening nationally."

CMS leaders say the schools didn't get that way overnight so they won't be able to fix all the problems in 24 hours. The district did say after reviewing the data there will be steps made immediately to give all students the same chance at success.

"I wouldn't come to work everyday if I didn't believe it." Wilcox said.

There were three broad questions CMS tried to answer in the Equity Report. The district looked what are the differences in schools based on their racial and socioeconomic status.

CMS also looked at how have students academically performed based on race and socioeconomic status, and the district examined what resources and access there is for students to get a great education based on their race and socioeconomic status.

In the 2016-2017 school year, CMS had 170 schools. The data shows there were 57 CMS schools that were considered a low poverty school, meaning less than 25% of the student population qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Fifty-seven CMS schools are considered a moderate poverty school meaning 25-50% of student population qualify for free and reduced lunch, and 56 CMS schools are considered high poverty schools.

Those schools have more than 51% of student population qualify for free and reduced lunch. The report shows schools that are high poverty have majority black and Hispanic students. Schools that are low poverty are filled with mostly white students.

The report shows students at high poverty schools struggle to perform on grade level. In grades 3-5, 79.7% of students in low poverty schools are reading on grade level.

In high poverty schools, only 38.7% of students are reading on grade level. In grades 6-8, 78.1% of students are reading on grade level compared to only 33% of students in high poverty schools. In grades 9-12 in Math, 77% of students in low poverty schools perform on grade level, while only 31.6% of students in high poverty schools are on grade level.

The school district emphasizes there are many factors outside the school environment that contribute to the academic disparity, but the district recognizes there are some things that are in their control.

"The conversation must move from just speaking to action, and we're ready," CMS School Board ViceChairperson Rhonda Cheek said.

CMS admits there are other needed resources to turn things around for some students but for the report, it focused on three things: time in school, access to great teachers, and access to advanced coursework.

The data shows the average daily attendance of students decreases a little as you go from low poverty schools to high poverty schools.

In grades K-5 96.1% of students in low poverty schools attend school regularly. In high poverty K-5 schools, 94.5% of students attend school regularly. In grades 9-12, 94.8% of students go to school in low poverty schools and in high poverty schools that number drops to 88.9% of students attend school regularly.

When it comes to effective teachers, depending on what type of school a student attends determines what chances a student has to get an effective teacher.

In 2016-2017 there were 960 CMS teachers who were deemed as exceeding expected growth in their classrooms. Data shows 153 CMS schools had one or more of those highly qualified teachers.

If a student was in a low poverty school, that student had nearly a 20% chance to get an effective teacher.  If a student was in a high poverty school, there was a 13.8% chance of getting a teacher deemed qualified.

Many could say these numbers prove CMS is failing some students.

"Partner with us and hold us accountable to make sure that we are taking effective steps," CMS School Board Member Ericka Ellis-Stewart said. "And that the strategies we are implementing are moving the needle and you can see that change."

When it comes to students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in CMS, data shows you are more likely to get that academic rigor if you attend a low poverty school.

In CMS, students in low poverty schools on average have an 84.5% chance to have access to an Advanced Placement course opposed to a 44.9% chance to an AP course. If students do well in the Advanced Placement classes, they get college credits.

CMS says on average students taking AP exams at a low poverty school passes a rate nearly 10 times higher than a student at high poverty school.

CMS recognizes all students need to be challenged and supported in their schools. CMS is working on how students, no matter their school, can have access to more challenging courses. The school district is also working to train and develop teachers into highly effective teachers.

"We are going to begin the change process today." Wilcox said.

The school district plans to take this report to the community to be transparent and for the community to hold the school district responsible. There will be an equity report every year and CMS leaders expect to see a change in the 2020 school year.

To see the full report click here.

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