The continuing lack of progress that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have made in closing the gap in the test scores of students of different races has school system officials and education advocates looking for answers. State officials released test and graduation results this week, which also showed a decline in CMS’ graduation rate.
According to the end-of-year results, only 45 percent of all CMS African-American students and 49 percent of Hispanic students were proficient on state exams in reading and math. That’s compared to 84 percent of all white students and 78 percent of Asian students. This concerns Dee Rankin, chair of the Black Political Caucus’ Education Committee.
“It reiterates we have a lot of work to do within CMS, especially when it comes to minorities,” Rankin said. “We have to figure out what’s wrong there. Is it the curriculum? Is it the system? Is it the teaching? Why can’t the system figure out how to educate students, other than just whites and Asian students?”
Rankin called on CMS officials to assign their best teachers to schools that have large enrollments of students of color, and raise the expectations of students and educators.
CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox has talked in the past about the need to make the curriculum for all students more rigorous, but also more diverse to better connect with students of color. Wilcox reiterated that belief this week when the test and graduation results were released.
“[We have] to make sure that our black and brown kids can see the contributions that their culture has made in our curriculum,” Wilcox said. “We are no longer a community that can afford a Eurocentric curriculum, where kids can’t aspire to jobs and industries because they can’t see people like them in them.”
There is also a racial gap in the district’s graduation rate. Nearly 93 percent of white students and 90 percent of Asians graduated within four years from high school. But African American and Hispanic student percentages were 84 percent and 73 percent, respectively. Overall, the district’s graduation rate dropped by more than four percentage points to 85.1 percent.
School officials blamed the drop on schools being held accountable for the first time for the on-time graduation of transfer students and students who can’t be tracked. Tammy Howard, the state education department’s accountability director, agreed with that and said it varies by school.
“If the community where the school is located does not have a lot of new students coming and students departing, then their graduation data would not have as much impact by this [new] rule,” Howard said. “But if it is a community where more students are more mobile throughout the year, you will see some of the larger dips.”
Howard said schools can only leave unaccounted-for students out of their numbers if they have documented evidence that the student is attending another school, left the country, is deceased or incarcerated.