MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Black and Hispanic Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students saw progress on their English test scores at the end of last school year, but are still behind.
CMS says between September 2021 and May 2022, students testing at college and career levels went from 3.1% of students to 15.9%.
The school board wants at least 36% of all Black and Hispanic CMS students to test at the highest levels of end-of-year exams this school year.
"COVID, COVID, COVID," Jordan Boyd a CMS parent, said to CMS Board members, during public comment. "That's the mask and refrain that we're going to hide behind to continue to blame and use excuses for the abject failure that has happened to Black and Brown children.”
Boyd is also a member of the African American Faith Alliance For Educational Advancement. The Charlotte faith-based organization is critical of CMS due to its achievement gap between its white students and Black and Hispanic students.
Despite the short-term growth, CMS says not nearly enough Black and Hispanic students are scoring high enough on the end-of-year tests.
"These are very aggressive goals; I know these goals made staff nervous when we didn't bring them down," Elyse Dashew, CMS Board Chair said. "So we've got high expectations for our principals and teachers out there. But you all have high expectations for us."
When students were tested in September 2021, scores showed only 3.1% of Black and Hispanic students being college and career ready.
This was a dramatic plummet from test scores reflective of the 2020-21 school year, released in October 2021, that showed 15.9% of Black and Hispanic students were college and career ready.
The next time students took an end-of-year test, in May 2022, it showed the scores rose to 13.5% of Black and Hispanic CMS students being college and career ready.
"There's so much more than just the test that can affect children and how they show up that day, whether they're hungry, they're housing insecure, they're just many, many factors that are out of the hands of our children," CMS At-Large Board Member Jennifer De La Jara said.
CMS laid out these six strategies to increase the scores:
● English Language Arts (ELA) Core Instruction. Second- and third-grade teachers leverage district curriculum to implement standards-aligned, culturally responsive instruction in an engaging, affirming, and meaningful way, using current student data to inform teacher decisions.
● Intervention: Second- and third-grade students are screened to determine if they need interventions (academic, behavior, attendance). Black and Hispanic students in need of intervention will receive it.
● Highly Effective Teachers: Second- and third-grade students will have greater access to highly effective teachers.
● Professional Development: Targeted PD based on role, school needs, and individual growth needs, which includes all second- and third-grade reading teachers, instructional leaders, and school and district leaders is provided.
● Social and Emotional Support: Second and third-grade students will be prioritized for SEL support.
● Student Engagement: Identity, prioritize, and direct resources to second and third-grade students who have a history or current status of being chronically absent.
One strategy may prove a problem due to a teacher shortage.
"At this particular point in time, where we're bringing students back is a perfect storm and the pool for qualified teachers is shallow to none," CMS Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh said.
The district wants to put the hardships of the pandemic behind them and focus on accountability. In its reports, CMS says if scores don’t increase dramatically this school year they won’t reach their 36% target.