Bridging the Education Gap: Taking Another Look at Student Assignment

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Does your child go to an A+ school or one that is failing? It's no secret the answer depends many times on your zip code. That's why a special task force along with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education is talking about making changes to student assignments.

The talk right now is how to bridge the gap between low performing poor schools and high performing wealthier schools. One way leaders are considering is bringing those students together under the same roof by creating more diverse classrooms.

From the classroom to the streets - the struggle to get ahead is real.

"As far as my family wise, nobody back then finished high school, so we're the first generation for finish high school," said Temeka Leath who lives in North Charlotte.

Leath is now pushing her seven kids to raise the bar even higher.

"I do want them to go off to college, finish college, and get a good job, and raise a family so they won't be struggling," said Leath.

Two of her kids go to a school that got a failing grade from the state. That means students aren't learning what they should. The issue, however, goes beyond the ten schools that got a grade "F". Take a look at the graph from the CMS’ report card released Wednesday. It shows a huge performance gap between Asian and White students and their fellow African American and Hispanic classmates.

"That's a gap we have to address. We've got to get better on," said Eric Davis, a member of the CMS Board of Education.

Davis says part of the problem is the segregation of kids in poverty.

"When schools have high concentrations of at risk students, it's incredibly hard as a system to staff those schools. A lot of turn over. A lot of teachers in the early years in their career, a lot of challenges in keeping the kind of leadership those schools need," said Davis.

Dee O'Dell, co-chair of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force wants to address the forces that cluster poor people together.

"Charlotte has housing patterns here that reflect systems and structures of the past that has left us with some pretty segregated neighborhoods. That's a contributing factor," said O’Dell.

But will the solution include "busing" to diversify schools by sending students from one part of the city to the other? We asked that question specifically, but nobody seemed willing to answer it.

The task force will start holding forums for public comment this December.

The school board says the earliest we could see big changes to student assignment will be in the 2017-2018 school year.

To see the research the Opportunity Task Force is doing, click here.

For more information about upcoming school board meetings, click here.

Here's a letter the Opportunity Task Force sent to the CMS Board of Education regarding student assignment.

August 14, 2015

To the members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education,

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force began this past May to investigate why, according to national research, Charlotte ranked 50th out of the 50 largest U.S. cities in economic mobility and to offer solutions to improve economic outcomes for more of our residents. Support for the Task Force is a collaborative effort of Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, Foundation For The Carolinas, J.M. Belk Endowment, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

We are still early in the explorative phase of our work, but it is already clear to us that education fundamentally impacts economic opportunity. Local and national education experts have made clear the difficult challenges facing our children assigned to schools where poverty is highly concentrated. We have seen convincing evidence linking the current CMS student assignment plan, an increased number of high poverty schools over the last decade and significant negative impacts on the economic futures of our children, especially among those who are the most vulnerable. We invite you to learn more on the Learn/Resources section of www.opportunitycharmeck.org and to share this site with your constituents.

We understand that you will examine and explore options for CMS’s student assignment plan and that you will discuss the values from which that plan is derived. Because of the strong correlation between education and economic opportunity, we strongly urge you to actively engage the community and consider the impact of student assignment on economic opportunity in your decision-making. In so doing, you could help dispel the notion that the futures of Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents are forever tied to their zip codes and perhaps embed an economic opportunity lens in other critical community conversations.

We appreciate the challenges you face. Ultimately, we believe our community will be strengthened through an open process in which people can learn about the issues, express and discuss different points of view and appreciate the full impact of the decision(s) at hand. Further, we believe active engagement can yield critically needed support for difficult decisions within the municipalities you represent and among residents across Mecklenburg County.

We offer our assistance as fellow citizens and as a task force who share your commitment to our community’s children. Please let us know if, when and how we can be of best support in the coming weeks and months.

Sincerely,

We, the undersigned members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force

Mrs. Crandall Bowles

Retired CEO, Springs Global

Dr. David Chadwick

Senior Pastor, Forest Hill Church

Mr. Jeff Conway

Franchise Owner, Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Mr. Esteban Echeverria

Attorney-at-Law

Dr. Michael Friedland

Founder, Friedland Foundation Physician, Carolinas HealthCare System

Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown (Co-Chair)

Physician, Senior Vice President of Community Outreach, Novant Health

Mr. Dale Gillmore

Chief Financial Strategist, Make an Impact Consulting, Inc.

Dr. Tisha Greene

Principal, Oakhurst STEAM Academy

Mr. Alvaro Gurdian, Jr.

Vice-President of Operations, La Noticia

Ms. Grazell Howard

Strategic Business Consultant, King Kairos

Ms. Marianne Lyall Knusel

Senior Coordinator, Adult ESL, Central Piedmont Community College


Mr. Ron Leeper

President & Owner, R.J. Leeper Construction

Mr. Matt Martin

Regional Executive, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Rev. Clifford Matthews

Senior Pastor, St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church

Ms. Felicia McAdoo

Chief Deputy, Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office

Ms. Symone McGee

Educator

Mr. Dee O’Dell (Co-Chair)

Senior Vice President, US Bank

Mr. Andrew Plepler

Global Corporate Social Responsibility Executive and Consumer Policy Executive, Bank of America

Mr. Barry Sherman

Social Worker, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Dr. Ricky Woods

Senior Minister, First Baptist Church West