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CMS board will try again at crafting academic goals for pandemic recovery

CMS students saw a big drop in math scores in 2021, after a year spent mostly in remote learning.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will hold a special meeting Tuesday to continue working on academic goals to reduce racial disparities and address pandemic setbacks.

The board has been working for months to update its strategic plan, which was created in 2018, to narrow the focus and acknowledge the massive drop in test scores in 2021, after a year of mostly virtual learning. The board has gotten reports on reading and math, and earlier this month members discussed proposals from Superintendent Earnest Winston for revising the goals.

For instance, the initial plan called for 65% of Black and Hispanic third-graders to have reading scores that indicate they're on track for success by 2024. This year's goal was about 40%, but in 2021 fewer than 20% of those students hit the mark.

Winston proposed moving the goal to 40% by 2025, but members disagreed on whether that was the right target. They'll revisit the discussion, with new proposals, on Tuesday.

This summer several Mecklenburg County commissioners publicly demanded that Winston and the board create a better plan for addressing low-performing schools and racial achievement disparities. They voted to withhold $56 million from CMS until the district produced a better academic plan. CMS prevailed in mediation and got the money, but district leaders said they were already working on an improved plan.

Test scores released in September revealed the scope of academic loss, in CMS and across North Carolina.

Students saw drops in scores across the country and across all demographic groups. But a recent WFAE analysis showed CMS students lost more ground than counterparts in surrounding districts where students got more in-person class time last year.

Also Tuesday, the board will vote on school improvement plans for each of its 180 schools. Those plans are required by the state.

The public meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, and will stream on the board's Facebook page and YouTube channel. The board will meet in closed session starting at 4:30 to discuss Winston's annual evaluation and other matters exempted by law from open meetings.

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