Preliminary reports show that Black and Hispanic Grade 3 students at CMS have the fewest number of students on track in English.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, North Carolina — Third-grade students at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools continue to fall behind in English language arts despite returning to class.

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

Preliminary reports show that black and Hispanic CMS third-graders are still not on track to be college and career ready based on English scores.

Some board members were visibly disappointed that in-person learning did not increase scores.

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“Thank you all for spending time on this data which I find very devastating,” Board Chair Elyse Dashew said, rubbing her head as the discussion ended.

The district’s goal is to increase the combined academic and career readiness scores of Black and Hispanic language arts students from 15.9% in October 2021 to 50% by October 2024.

“That was our goal, to be able to get students in and be able to assess them and know exactly where they are so that we can prescribe treatment that meets their needs,” Winston said of the scores.

He admitted the scores weren’t a complete shock.

“We must recognize that these intentional decisions that we made in an effort to protect public health and our families had academic consequence,” Winston said.

CMS spent most of the 2019-2020 school year and part of the 2020-21 school year entirely remotely or in hybrid courses.

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

“I think it’s important to know that a lot of our students haven’t had the opportunity to learn some of those basic reading skills that they typically learn in the early grades,” Winston said.

Winston also said chronic absenteeism contributed to the low scores.

“I know in a lot of ways, you know, us — I thought 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 impacts students, it has impacted our staff as well.”

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

Proposed CMS solutions

Winston outlined a five-step plan to remedy low scores.

  1. The first is to move from a universal approach for “all students” to one intentionally centered on the school experience and academic progress of Black and Hispanic students.
  2. The second provides access to literacy training such as state-subsidized training that teaches the skills needed to master the fundamentals of teaching reading.
  3. The third, small group, targeted instruction in daily literacy blocks to tailor instruction to specific student needs.
  4. The fourth, working with elementary and K-8 schools to incorporate at least 30 minutes per day into their core schedules for literacy interventions.
  5. The fifth monitors intervention arrangements and the preparation of teachers to provide interventions to 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 staff increases, new buildings and school resource officers.

Winston wants to ask Mecklenburg County for $24.7 million in new dollars for employees, $6.4 million of which would go to increasing pay for people like teachers and principals. Another $7.7 million would be used to increase the existing supplement for county teachers. This is the extra money qualified teachers receive from county dollars on top of their salaries.

In total, the superintendent is proposing that the county award CMS an estimated additional $41 million. This budget proposal will be discussed over the next few weeks before being presented to the county in May.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.