‘It’s troubling:’ Faith community urging CMS leaders to take direct action to improve low performing schools, test scores

The data showed changing trends for graduation rates, ACT and ACT WorkKeys, and college and career readiness rates based on end-of-course/end-of-year exams.
Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Members of the faith community are calling on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to combat disproportionate learning outcomes.

Several members of the African American Faith Alliance for Educational Advancement met Friday to express their concerns for the recently released 2020-2021 Preliminary End of Year Results.

CMS presented the data on Sept. 1.

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

“It’s troubling as a parent and it takes away trust,” said Keshia Williams who has three children enrolled in CMS.

The data showed changing trends in graduation rates, ACT and ACT WorkKeys, and college and career readiness rates based on end-of-course/end-of-year exams.

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.

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.

Members of the Faith Alliance say the pandemic isn’t an excuse, and that these disproportionate outcomes for Black and Brown students have existed for years.

CMS leaders say it will take a multi-year approach to help students bounce back from the pandemic.

“Changing student outcomes requires an all-hands on deck approach. That is our focus, and all CMS staff are committed to the work of assessing individual student needs and providing student-by-student support to make sure every student in the district has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential,” Winston said in a statement.

“They need to be talking to principals and instructional leaders on a weekly basis, monthly basis until we get it turned around,” said AAFAEA member Dennis Williams.

CMS is reporting 42 schools are low-performing with D or F grades. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake says this is a community problem too.

Leake represents District 2 which she says includes a majority of the failing schools.

“I’m here pleading for this community to reach out and make sure that we hold elected officials accountable,” Leake said.

“We look to the faith community to expand the reach into communities to assist with meeting the needs of families that we have not been successful in engaging. Students benefit when there are strong and aligned relationships between houses of worship, community organizations, families and the school system,” Winston said in a statement.

Williams says there should be a reinforcement of IEP plans and CMS’ social-emotional, and outside-of-school academic support.

“We need advocates in the school, as a parent standpoint, we need someone that’s going to promote these plans,” Williams.

CMS addressed next steps after the scores were released. This includes the following action steps already in place or soon to be implemented:

  • 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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