Making the Grade: Closing achievement gaps and addressing reading scores in our local schools

Reading scores have been lagging for years. Community leaders have a reason why scores have not been increasing.
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 8:14 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Read Charlotte and Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) are teaming up to help increase test scores.

The latest test Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) scores show how the pandemic impacted teaching and learning.

Reading scores dropped across all races. In 3rd-8th grade - Black students are 16.2 percent college-and-career-ready in reading, compared to 54.3 percent of White students.

Reading scores have been lagging for years. Leaders from Read Charlotte and BCDI have a reason why scores have not been increasing.

“What I think we have is systematic failures,” Read Charlotte Executive Director Munro Richardson said. “To sit down and look at where our children are - at what do they have and what do they need and how do we engage with what I call the radical application of common sense - to be able to support those children and support the adults in their lives to be able to help them move forward.”

BCDI’s approach is to start academic achievement in the home.

“We believe that you start with the people who are closest to the problem,” BCDI President Dr. Devonya Govan-Hunt said. “And what I mean by that is - we start with the families who are raising these children because children don’t exist on their own...There are things we can do to make sure that they understand how to tap into the power that they hold - to push their children forward and that they don’t have to rely 100% on the system to understand how to grow their children in literacy.”

BCDI and Read Charlotte will use technology and other resources to help parents and teachers help students succeed.

“We can put in the hands of adults the ability to have an independent individualized reading plan in 20 minutes,” Richardson said. “And a customized set of literacy activities that you can do that will meet the needs of every child and these plans can be updated every six weeks.”

BCDI has already identified 13 struggling CMS schools to assist. Read Charlotte will partner with 18 out-of-school programs that serve 34 elementary schools. The goal is to reach 50 elementary schools.

“We’re going into the third academic year where the pandemic has disrupted children’s learning,” Richardson said. “And we don’t even know yet how this virus is going to impact classroom instruction this coming school year. We’ve got to do everything we can.”

The groups believe CMS should accelerate efforts with students who are failing.

“You have a child that comes in - they’re behind you’re totally focused on remediation,” Richardson said. “And so yes you need to remediate, but you also need to expose them.”

Both groups believe it will take everybody to do their part to increase test scores but they also admit that many people are working in silos and not working together. That can hold things up.

“We have the district working over here doing whatever they are supposed to be doing and what they can do,” Govan-Hunt said. “Then we have after-school programs that might be making the mark and might not be making the mark in terms of delivering really hard evidence base high-quality tutoring or instruction...And then we have our families over here who think they are in this thing by themselves.”

Govan-Hunt believes CMS should be the driving force to coordinate all the entities so everybody will be focused on the goal. She says the district has the funding and the manpower to do this.

WBTV asked Govan-Hunt is CMS making the grade coordinating community, parents, and other entities.

“From where I sit,” she said. “Not necessarily as cohesive as it should be and can be.”

BCDI and Read Charlotte believe if everybody gets on the same page -reading scores can increase. Their goal is to have at least 80% of third-graders proficient in reading by the year 2025.

“We need to be as serious about solving this problem of education and early literacy as we were about solving and finding a vaccine for the coronavirus,” Richardson said. “It’s amazing we came up with a vaccine in less than a year and did something people said couldn’t be done...They didn’t make excuses about the coronavirus - we need to not make excuses about solving this virus of literacy that has been plaguing our community for far too long.”

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