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Making The Grade: Did the CMS summer-learning program serve its purpose in helping students catch up?

The six-week summer program rolled out in mid-June with the goal to help students catch up with unfinished learning over the last year and a half due to the pandemic shutting school doors in March 2020.
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 8:17 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 8:24 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The six-week summer learning program Camp CMS came to a close on July 29, but did it serve its purpose?

Available courses included math, science, language arts, and enrichment courses like African American studies and art.

As of August 3, CMS reported 30,432 students were enrolled in Camp CMS, 19,575 of them are considered at-risk students.

At a July Board of Education meeting, 32,511 students were enrolled in the program, 20,963 of which were at risk.

CMS leaders said more than 2,000 students withdrew from the program - some choosing to spend time with family or pursue other learning programs.

Jani Hendon is a tenth grader at West Charlotte High School, like thousands of other students in the district, she spent last year learning behind a screen - something she says was a challenge that she wanted to overcome by going to Camp CMS.

“Throughout my first year of high school in ninth grade, I would say I struggled with math mostly, and learning it from Zoom made it more difficult for me to actually comprehend,” she said.

The six-week summer program rolled out in mid-June with the goal to help students catch up with unfinished learning over the last year and a half due to the pandemic shutting school doors in March 2020.

Karrigan Khalid is a sixth-grader at Northwest School of the Arts where she’s majoring in theater. She previously attended Trillium Springs Montessori School. Karrigan says she struggled with virtual learning this year because it was different than the Montessori style of teaching. She said the lack of interaction made it hard to pay attention.

Khalid did Camp CMS for three weeks and also had a math tutor. She says Camp CMS helped revive the social aspect of in-person learning but she feels the lessons weren’t advancing beyond what she already learned during the school year.

“It was like we had to watch the same videos we had already seen these videos. The teacher was just like ‘okay we’re going to move on to this video’ and we had already done the work so we were learning nothing in science class,” Khalid said. “In math, the stuff she was teaching us was just the stuff we had already learned it’s just like everything we were learning was stuff we already learned.”

CMS enrollment data shows that during the sixth week only 18,712 students attended their classes.

During a July board meeting, CMS staff said they made concentrated efforts to connect with families whose students weren’t attending.

“Schools are employing a variety of methods to reach out, personal phone calls, teachers reaching out specifically. Our student services teams are reaching out and making some home visits to try to find the students that are not yet showing up,” said Tangela Williams, the Southeast Learning Community superintendent.

Data from CMS shows West Charlotte High School - where Jani attends - received a D grade for the 2019-2020 school year.

According to the CMS performance dashboard, 1,332 students were enrolled at WCHS during the 2019-2020 school year.

While thousands of other students withdrew or didn’t come to class, Hendon stuck it out. She attended all six weeks at the WCHS site completing assignments which she says helped her feel more confident starting the new school year in person.

“I would say after Camp CMS I understand all of the materials that I’ve learned and I do feel more comfortable in preparing for this next school year in knowing the environment I’m going to be in,” Hendon said.

When it comes to student performance and retention, school leaders say they are now assessing students for “unfinished learning” and encouraging teachers to help students review previous material while also staying on track this school year.

“Basically they’re catching up and moving forward at the same pace that we would want them to without having to teach last year’s standards to stay at pace with the current year’s standards,” said Matt Hayes, the Deputy Superintendent of Academics.

To see the full report on Camp CMS enrollment, attendance, and outcomes click here.

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