Is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system now better academically than the Wake County school system?
As noted in today's article, Charlotte-Mecklenburg's black, Hispanic and low-income students are outperforming their peers in Wake on state tests. Plus, Charlotte's white kids are doing as well as their Wake peers.
Overall, Wake has higher scores. But that's attributable to Charlotte having more black, Hispanic and low-income kids, whose scores are still lower than their white counterparts.
"It's time that Wake stops talking about itself as the best school district in the state and becomes more like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which is the best school district," said Terry Stoops, an education policy analyst for the conservative John Locke Foundation. "If we look at student achievement, we have to look at how Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools outperforms Wake."
Stoops says CMS is the state's top district when you look at how well it's helping its challenged students while also educating its other students. He said Wake has a lot to learn from Charlotte, both on neighborhood schools and on helping low-income and minority students.
Charlotte's gains in recent years to catch up to Wake is a source of pride for the district, as highlighted by the comparison that CMS officials made at a Thursday press conference.
CMS superintendent Peter Gorman acknowledged that high-poverty schools create difficult situations for teacher and students, but said they are not insurmountable.
“What school we assign students to doesn’t change their outlook for the future,” Gorman said, comparing Charlotte’s assignment method to Wake’s long-term emphasis on diversity. “If it did that, we wouldn’t be on the road to looking at Wake in our rearview mirror.”
Supporters of Wake's diversity policy argue that CMS has gotten its gains through higher spending. They also point to the large number of high poverty schools in Charlotte since the district switched to neighborhood schools in Wake.
Overall, Wake is far more balanced than Charlotte.
David Holdzkom, Wake’s assistant superintendent for evaluation and research, noted that about 65 percent of the Wake’s district’s schools had passing rates of more than 75 percent on the past school year’s state tests. Charlotte’s equivalent figure was about 46 percent.
No Wake non-alternative schools had a passing rate below 50 percent. There were nine in Charlotte.
Charlotte also had 29 schools with passing rates of at least 90 percent. Wake had 14 such schools.