Twenty percent of juniors in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools earned ACT scores last spring that show they’re ready to succeed in key college courses – a step up from the previous year and better than North Carolina’s average.
Providence High in southeast Charlotte was the only Mecklenburg school with more than half the students – 58 percent – earning college-level marks in math, science, reading and English, according to a state report posted this month.
The ACT report, which is part of North Carolina’s accountability program, highlights a challenge: Even as graduation rates rise for all types of students, the national exam shows that most fall short of the skills they need to succeed in a four-year university.
Districtwide, just over 20 percent of CMS 11th-graders hit all four marks on the ACT, compared with about 15 percent statewide. The CMS college-ready rate rose from 18 percent in 2015, while the state level stayed flat.
99,100 N.C. juniors took the ACT
15.4 percent had college-ready scores
8,460 CMS juniors took the ACT
20.2 percent had college-ready scores
In CMS, the chances of being ready for college are linked to school demographics. The district is scrutinizing student assignment in hopes of providing all students with a better shot at success, regardless of family advantage or disadvantage.
The 2016 scores show that at nine CMS high schools with high poverty levels – or, in the new student assignment language, low socioeconomic status – fewer than 5 percent of 11th-graders hit the college-ready mark in all four subjects. The state does not report specifics below 5 percent or above 95 percent.
Four small charter high schools in Mecklenburg County fell below 5 percent. The state forced two of them to close this year based on low academic performance.
On the other end, two more suburban CMS neighborhood schools with high socioeconomic status, Ardrey Kell and Myers Park, topped 40 percent. So did two charter schools, Lake Norman and Pine Lake Prep, which serve mostly suburban students in Mecklenburg and nearby counties.
The gaps reflect longstanding trends. Superintendent Ann Clark has acknowledged the need to make sure diplomas are meaningful; she’s pushing for all students to either pass a college-level class, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, or earn an industry credential. She and the CMS board are scrutinizing advanced programs to make sure strong students at lower-performing schools have a real opportunity for college preparation.
Student assignment is viewed as one piece of the puzzle. A new plan that will be up for a board vote Nov. 9 will label all schools by socioeconomic status – a composite of average family income, adult education level, English proficiency, single-parent families and home ownership – and use those new labels in the magnet lottery to create balance. In the coming months, the board will also review possible changes to neighborhood schools.
ACT: How schools fared
All North Carolina 11th-graders take the ACT college readiness exam. They’re scored on a 36-point scale in math, science, reading and English, with a benchmark in each area that indicates a high probability of success in college courses. Listed is the percent of test-takers who hit the benchmark in all four areas. CMS magnet and option schools may have admission requirements.
Met all benchmarks
Pine Lake Prep
Community School of Davidson
Cato Middle College
Levine Middle College
Performance Learning Center
Olympic advanced mfg.
Crossroads Charter High
Charlotte Learning Academy
Source: N.C. Department of Public Instruction