Project LIFT making gains, but still not there yet

Project LIFT making gains, but still not there yet

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's year five for the Project LIFT Initiative. There is growth and experts believe Project LIFT is headed in the right direction, but some Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) schools that are part of Project LIFT still struggle.

Project LIFT supports nine of CMS' lowest performing schools. The schools feed into West Charlotte High School.

Kate Shaw is the Executive Director of Research for Action, a company that examined the latest test results. It is convinced the community is getting a return on its $55 million investment.

"After multiple years of strong implementation of the LIFT model, we are beginning to see that investment in time and effort and talent," Shaw said.

After year five, many thought most of the students attending some of CMS' lowest performing schools would be on grade level.  The project was to last five years.

"I think that LIFT is right on target," Shaw said. "I know that people are impatient for those indicators to go up, but educational reform is complex. This is a big ambitious initiative."

Project LIFT leaders are encouraged by the latest test scores and pleased there is enough money to extend the program for another year. They admit the work is far from being over.

"We are eager to get there like everybody else, but we are excited about the momentum we have going forward," Project LIFT Superintendent Dr. Denise Watts said.

The presentation was made to Project LIFT Board members and to CMS school board members at the Foundation for the Carolinas Building. They were encouraged, but CMS school board chairperson Mary McCray questioned what the strategy to help those schools that didn't see much progress was.

Project LIFT staff told her they will conduct more coaching for staff and do other improvements. Over the past several years, test scores have been up and down, but the latest test scores show an increase and closing the achievement gap.

"I am excited that we have persevered and we are beginning to see the impact and outcome of our work," Watts said.

The encouraging news is welcome, but there are some concerns. Research shows Project LIFT is not making a huge difference with students in 3rd through 5th grades.

"Our results suggest that there should perhaps be additional attention to the elementary grades, just to determine where the initiative might be strengthened," Shaw said.

Watts said she will soon meet with her staff to figure out what more needs to be done with the elementary students.

"It illuminates something we need to take another look at," Watts said. "And I think that is the purpose of research and data and evaluations. It doesn't worry me, it excites me because it gives me a place to start."

The research also shows Project LIFT students in high school are benefiting from the initiative. The experts are telling the Project LIFT staff for year five and six that they have to continue to prove what works.

For a copy of the presentation, click here.

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