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Despite a return to in-person learning CMS 3rd-graders falling behind

Preliminary reports show Black and Hispanic 3rd graders at CMS have the lowest amount of students on track in English Language Arts.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools third-graders continue to fall behind in English Language Arts despite returning to the classroom.

This was revealed at Wednesday night's school board meeting in a mid-year progress report on college and career readiness in schools in the district.

Preliminary reports show Black and Hispanic third-graders at CMS are still off track to be college and career ready based on English Language Arts scores. 

Some board members were visibly disappointed that in-person learning didn’t increase scores.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Black and Hispanic students at CMS offer insight on how to improve scores in advanced courses

"Thank you all for spending time on this data that I find very devastating," Board Chair Elyse Dashew said as rubbed her head at the end of the discussion. 

The district's goal is to increase the combined scores of Black and Hispanic students’ college and career-ready scores in Language Arts from 15.9% in October 2021 to 50% by October 2024.

"It was our objective, to be able to get students in and be able to assess them and find out exactly where they are so that we can prescribe a treatment that meets their needs," Winston said about the scores. 

He admitted the scores weren't a complete shock. 

"We have to acknowledge that those intentional decisions that we made in an effort to protect public health and our families, they have had an academic consequence," Winston said. 

CMS spent most of the 2019-20 and parts of the 2020-21 academic school year fully remote or in hybrid courses. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: CMS launching nationwide search for tutoring and learning support services to help students whose learning was disrupted due to COVID-19 pandemic

Only 5.9% of Black and Hispanic third-grade students combined were projected to score College and Career Ready in English Language Arts this spring. At the end of the 2021 school year, 15.9% of these students were college and career ready.

That's a 10 point drop.

“I think it's important to know that many of our students did not have the opportunity to learn some of those foundational reading skills that they would typically earn in the earlier grades," Winston said. 

Winston also said chronic absenteeism contributed to the low scores. 

“I know in many respects, you know, we -- I thought that this year would be a lot better, a lot more normal than previous school years," Winston said. "But we know that chronic absenteeism not only impacted students, but it also impacted our staff."

CMS said 43% of students not projected to score College and Career Ready this spring were chronically absent at some point during the last 18 months. 

CMS proposed solutions

Winston outlined a five-step plan to address the low scores. 

  1. The first is to shift from a universal approach for “all students,” to being intentionally focused on the school experience and academic progress of Black and Hispanic students. 
  2. The second provides access to literacy instruction training such as state-subsidized training that teaches the skills needed to master the fundamentals of reading instruction.
  3. The third, small group targeted instruction within daily literacy blocks to tailor instruction to students’ specific needs.
  4. The fourth, working with elementary and K-8 schools to build at least 30 minutes daily into their master schedules for literacy interventions. 
  5. The fifth is monitoring intervention provisions and teacher preparation to provide interventions for students. 

CMS budget recommendations

Winston also presented his budget recommendation to the school board Wednesday night, saying the district needs millions more in funds for teacher raises, new buildings and school resource officers. 

Winston wants to ask Mecklenburg County for $24.7 million in new dollars for employees, $6.4 million would go to increase pay for people like teachers and principals. Another $7.7 million would go to increasing the existing county teacher supplement. That’s extra money qualified teachers get from county dollars on top of their salaries.  

In total, the superintendent is proposing the county give CMS an additional approximately $41 million. This budget proposal will be discussed over the next few weeks before its brought to the county in May. 

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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