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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools provide preliminary test results from 2020-21 school year

The results indicate the existence of significant educational challenges due to the wide-ranging impact of more than a year of COVID-19 pandemic conditions.
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 6:50 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced the preliminary test results from the 2020-21 school year.

With the majority of the school year under remote learning, CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said this assessment indicated lower end-of-course performance among all demographic subgroups in almost all grade levels and subjects.

The results also indicate the existence of significant educational challenges due to the wide-ranging impact of more than a year of COVID-19 pandemic conditions.

“After more than a year of disruption to public education in our community, these results are not unexpected, but they must serve as a signal that even while the pandemic tries to keep a tight grip around our lives, we must find innovative ways to help our students reach their full potential,” said Winston. “We will improve student outcomes by focusing on individual student needs because every student arrives at the start of this school year in a much different place than pre-COVID.”

CMS parent and equity committee member Dee Rankin says the results aren’t surprising.

“The pandemic and everything that came along with it only exacerbated what we already knew, that Black and Brown kids are not receiving the services and the foundation that they need,” Rankin said.

Data showed a decline in the four-year graduation rate for the 2020-2021 school year. Additionally, there was a decline in the graduation rate for Black students and students for two or more races.

Results for the 2020-2021 school year include some bright spots, according to CMS officials.

CMS students in many subgroups performed better on Math 3 assessments. CMS results also show improvement in the percentage of students scoring 17 or better on the ACT exam. The ACT results for CMS students show a higher percentage of students scoring 17 or better, 61%, than the statewide percentage.

Students in 9-12 grade in Math 3 saw a nearly 3% increase in college and career readiness during the 2020-2021 school year. Compared to the state averages and other larger districts including Durham, Wake, Guilford, and Forsyth, CMS out-performed in Math 3 college and career readiness.

In contrast, 2020-2021 scores show less than 5% of high schoolers in Math 1 are college and career ready compared to 16.4% in 2018-2019.

“So yes you did well in Math 3 but what about Math 1? That’s saying a lot to where the kids are - are they being prepared in Math 1? There’s something there that needs to be shifted,” Rankin said.

CMS leaders echoed N.C. Department of Public Instruction officials in cautioning that due to atypical teaching and learning for most of the past 18 months, results are not directly comparable to previous years, according to district officials.

However, results demonstrate challenges that must be addressed.

District officials say that while not useful in comparing year to year, the results will be helpful in guiding response and recovery steps and informing teaching and learning.

“We believe in our strategic plan and in the ability of our teachers, support staff and administrators to help our students accelerate learning,” said Winston. “We know getting back on track to make sure our students are ready for college and careers is going to take a multiyear effort, and we have already begun implementing actions to help us get there.”

School leaders say this will be a multi-year approach to help students with recovery, Rankin hopes community organizations take part.

“Whether it’s tutoring, whether it’s mentoring programs, whether it’s just leadership programs that can really just give all of the support our students need as well as our families need to make sure that they put themselves in positions to be successful,” Rankin said.

Rankin agrees it will take a village and he hopes school leaders implement culturally responsive teaching practices to address the needs of Black and Brown students.

Among action steps already in place or soon to be implemented are:

  • Using as much as $50 million of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to provide additional teaching and support for students in CMS’ 42 lowest performing schools
  • Ensuring all schools have adequate social and emotional learning support staff to help students as they process the effects of disrupted education and other impacts of the pandemic; this includes having school-based mental health centers at 130 CMS schools
  • Focusing additional staff on support for students and families for whom English is not the first language; this includes 34 bilingual advocates and five full-time translators at schools where such needs are greatest
  • A dedicated effort to combat chronic absenteeism, with expansion of programs at three high schools with acute need
  • A continuous improvement approach to teaching and learning, reviewing the success of actions implemented and revising course as necessary to help improve outcomes

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