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CMS father weighs in on achievement gap, creating goals for his son

Glen Stephens shares his concerns about the achievement gap and the plans in place to help his son.
The conversation around the achievement gap in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools continues.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 6:57 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The conversation around the achievement gap in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools continues.

Glen Stephens’ son John is nine-years-old and is in the third grade at Endhaven Elementary School. On the outside, they are a transracial family, Stephens and his wife are white and their adopted son John is Black, but their race doesn’t change the love and support they have for John.

In the past, Mecklenburg County leaders discussed alarming statistics regarding the achievement gap including that 70% of Black third graders were not reading on grade level.

“As a parent of an adopted child who is African American, and you start hearing these statistics where not just a majority of African American but the vast majority of African American children in the third grade are going to fail to reach the read to achieve goals for the state of North Carolina you’re obviously really concerned,” Stephens said.

The conversation around the achievement gap in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools continues.

In March, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools released a report estimating less than 6% of Black and Hispanic students in the third grade would score college and career ready on their English Language Arts exam.

Stephens and John spent their Tuesday evening reading over John’s homework assignment. Line by line, john pronounced each word, almost with ease. Stephens says he’s right on the cusp of reading at grade level, but he realizes not all Black children can say the same.

“You start making plans as you start hearing about these statistics on how you’re going to work as a family as you’re going to help your child specifically overcome those achievement gaps,” he said.

Stephens and his wife are working closely with John’s teachers and other school staff to make sure his son’s Individual Education Program has specific goals and benchmarks to help him succeed not just in elementary school, but as he marches ahead to graduation.

“Fortunately for John, we do have a plan in place. We have a plan in place that goes through the fourth grade, goes into the fifth grade, and believe it or not part of that plan was as simple and as complicated as getting him a new pair of glasses,” he said.

The Stephens family re-evaluates the IEP on a daily basis.

“Part of that plan includes frequent communication with his school, with his case manager, with his teachers to one make sure his accommodations are being fulfilled and that his goals are frequently reviewed,” he said.

Stephens is already talking to interim superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh. He believes this change in leadership along with the district’s commitment to student outcomes-focused governance will be a big step to close the achievement gap and help more Black students make the grade.

“That’s what this is about, this is about the students, this isn’t just about the goal, this isn’t about the district, this isn’t about staff, this is about students like John,” he said.

Click here to read the district’s 2024 Strategic Plan.

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