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CMS Board Changes Approach To Creating Equity

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools board is changing how it judges whether schools are giving all students solid opportunities to learn. The board voted on revisions to the district's equity policy last night. The equity policy aims at ensuring every student gets a good education regardless of race or income level. Up until now, it attempted to do that by specifying what the district calls baseline standards for student/teacher ratios, supplies and facilities. CMS parent Pamela Grundy asked the board not to get rid of those requirements. "If you have a check-list you go through and you make sure that every school has at base this, this, and this," says Grundy. "There's not a whole lot more of this key thing like, for example, computer technology at one school when there's almost none at another. That's how you make sure kids have equal opportunities." But the board voted 6-to-3 in favor of general guidelines for achieving equity. The new policy focuses on outcomes. The board wants to use test scores and school quality reviews to measure how well its strategies are working to achieve school equity. Here's school board member Rhonda Lennon. "The school board's vision and the strategic plan talks about effective teachers in the classroom and effective leaders," says Lennon. "It's not about counting things. It's about making sure you have the right personnel in place and are deploying the right programs." Another big change to the policy is that it no longer requires the equity committee. That's a citizen's group that makes sure the district is doing its best to keep up with the needs of all its students. It also monitored how well CMS was meeting its baseline standards. The board narrowly voted to strike the equity committee from the policy. School board member Richard McElrath urged the board not to do away with it. "I can think of no better way to see to it that the rights of parents who are protecting their children under the constitution could be handled any other way except through a parent organization or a citizens organization who's watching what this board does," said McElrath. Lennon and others argued there's still room for a citizens' advisory group, but that it should be better aligned with the board's new direction. They did not say how the group would form. The CMS board also decided yesterday to throw out a set of district priorities compiled last month and start from scratch. The board agreed the priorities and goals should be crafted with an eye to providing guidance on making student assignment decisions.