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Making The Grade: Experts discuss how students are progressing through Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

“Everybody in the family wants the child to do better. Nobody sends a child off to school as a babysitter.”
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 9:11 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The doors of opportunity for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools black and brown students are slowly closing, even more each school year.

The proof is in the declining test scores for its black and brown students.

CMS leaders knew this was coming.

“These results were not unexpected. But I will also tell you, they are not acceptable,” Superintendent Earnest Winston said.

Dr. Suzanne Barchers agrees with Winston. She’s an education advisor and a seasoned former teacher from Denver Public Schools - a district similar in comparison to CMS.

When asked if it was fair to say that there’s even more a concern for the student populations who were already falling behind, Barchers said “absolutely.”

“It, it boils down to realizing that not only do we have a normal range of academic achievement in the classroom with all kinds of variations on it, but this has certainly been exacerbated by the pandemic. And it takes time,” Barchers said.

She added that time doesn’t have a track record of being on CMS’s side.

“If they speak English, better. If English isn’t their first language, if they can read and write and hold down good jobs, in the long view that benefits everybody,” Barchers said.

The educator noted that getting a solid education for black and brown students can break generational pipeline patterns.

“Everybody in the family wants the child to do better. Nobody sends a child off to school as a babysitter,” Barchers said.

Breaking this cycle for CMS’ black and brown students, Barchers says, isn’t just the task of the CMS Board of Education.

“Take the opportunity and rethink how education can become a broader collaborative process with the community, the legislators with everybody who has a say in this,” she said.

Calls to action from the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners is something the Board of Education is no stranger too.

Previously, commissioners were withholding $56 million from the school district, demanding the district create a clear and executable plan on closing learning gaps.

Settling the dispute, CMS Board of Education leaders agreed, increasing their focus on improving student outcomes through the Student Outcomes-Focused Governance model.

District officials said they will work with a consultant on putting those plans into action. Barchers says the pandemic should force CMS and Mecklenburg leaders to take another look at their plans.

“It’s fluid, and it should be, but I think it’s also a great time to be opportunistic and think ahead,” she said. “What’s going to happen if we’re all homebound again?”

Barchers says CMS has the data. CMS leaders say they have the blueprint. Making it happen to break the cycle is the missing piece.

“It doesn’t happen easily. And it takes people being willing to put their egos aside and listen to another point of view,” Barchers said.

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