Submitted by Jeremy Stephenson, on behalf of CMS Families United for Public Education:
CMS Families United for Public Education is committed to maximizing the academic achievement of all Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students, in accordance with the CMS mission. The proposed elementary school pairings create a risk of reducing overall academic achievement, and no student’s academic success should ever be compromised so that another student can succeed. With such a high stakes plan, the community deserves additional time to discuss and evaluate the proposed elementary school pairings in order to make an informed decision.
Cotswold and Dilworth Elementary Schools have been heralded as models of diversity, inclusion, and engagement. Student achievement has significantly improved in recent years through increased neighborhood engagement, which has served to also unite the communities that surround them. Dilworth and Cotswold should be replicated, not consolidated. We cannot support a new student assignment philosophy that is not supported by sound data, and that risks lowering academic achievement and dividing communities.
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We ask CMS to be open to alternative proposals to reduce concentrations of poverty. First and foremost, all proposed changes must be carefully scrutinized through the lens of academic performance. As a group that values strong neighborhoods and communities, we do not believe that paired elementary schools are a sound solution. Huge schoolhouses with 14 classrooms per grade level do not foster a sense of community. Data do not support the success of this large-scale model. Research demonstrates that additional transition during the elementary school years can cause transactional lag, resulting in lower test scores. Finally, without strong community buy-in, CMS risks significant flight from the system, which further jeopardizes the viability of any plan to reduce concentrations of poverty.
In order to succeed, CMS must extend the timeline, openly engage families, provide additional data that support their strategy, and show a willingness to entertain alternate proposals. That is why we ask the CMS Board to delay its scheduled vote on May 24.
Stephenson is a Charlotte lawyer and school board candidate who volunteers for CMS Families United for Public Education.