Students stuck in persistently low-scoring schools will likely be able to use the 2017 assignment lottery to seek seats in higher-performing schools, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board agreed Tuesday.
Members and staff wrangled with complex questions about how to make school choice work to provide better options for all kinds of students – hopefully without creating an unduly complex system or making changes that backfire. They voiced preferences but made no decisions Tuesday.
“What we’re putting together here is a jigsaw puzzle,” said board member Paul Bailey. “Every piece is imperative.”
CMS currently has 13 elementary and middle schools (plus an alternative school for students with serious discipline issues) that have been labeled low-performing three years in a row. Those schools serve more than 10,000 students. That list could change next week, when the state releases 2016 results.
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A revised “magnet lottery” could be used to let students choose alternatives, including higher-performing neighborhood schools, CMS staff told the board. Such a strategy would be reminiscent of previous versions of CMS student assignment policies, including several years ago when the federal No Child Left Behind Act let students opt out of low-scoring, high-poverty schools.
At most, 2,000 to 3,000 students a year took that option, while most did not, said Scott McCully, the CMS administrator in charge of student placement.
The district is also looking at ways to use U.S. Census data to create lottery priorities that could increase socioeconomic diversity.
Earlier this month, board members and staff heard from hundreds of people at 12 public forums held across the county. The board will get a summary of what people said at a Sept. 6 work session to continue discussing magnet changes.
The board plans to unveil a first draft of proposed magnet policy changes at a Sept. 19 policy committee meeting. The full board will discuss the plan and hold a public hearing in October, with a November vote on changes to take effect in 2017-18.
A second phase of the student assignment review, focused on neighborhood schools and boundaries, is scheduled to start this fall and conclude next year, with changes taking effect in 2018-19.