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CMS Equity Report Highlights Poverty, Racial Disparities

Jessa O'Connor/ WFAE

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools report released Friday shows that not all students are receiving the same quality education. It quantified the disparities in terms of school attendance, access to effective teachers and participation in academically rigorous courses.

The “Breaking the Link” report shows an achievement gap that correlates low performance to schools with high concentrations of poverty.   

That’s long been the case for CMS, says Superintendent Clayton Wilcox. He says it’s not the fault of the students.

“We are not as a school system serving all of them as well as we would like,” Wilcox said. “In fact, we are not giving them the education they need to be successful in the twenty-first century.”

CMS’ equity report looks at the reasons behind the system’s educational disparities. 

In the district’s presentation, Chief of Accountability Frank Barnes made a distinction about how the district views equity.

“Equality is not necessarily equity,” Barnes said.

Equality, Barnes said, is giving students the same amount of resources and equity is giving students what they need to succeed. Sometimes, that means giving them more highly effective teachers to reduce achievement gaps, and more access to challenging classes, according to the report.

But right now, students in high poverty schools, many of them African American and Latino, are getting less than their counterparts.  For example, students at high poverty schools are much more likely to have first-year teachers than those at schools with fewer low-income students.

About 20 percent of students at low poverty schools have at least one class with a first-year teacher. In moderate to high-poverty schools, about 35 percent of students do.

There is also significantly lower participation in advanced placement courses. 

In high-poverty schools, only 25 percent of graduates completed a college-level course. In low-poverty schools, it 61 percent of graduates have completed a college-level course. 

CMS board member Margaret Marshall represents South Charlotte. She says the data doesn’t surprise her. 

“We’ve torn the Band-Aid off, you see it,” Marshall said. “So now we’re going to look at the levers we can use to move the needle so to speak.”

Wilcox says the report is just a first step. He expects to present the data to various community groups and leaders so, together, they can develop a plan for action.