Education

Exam: Only 1 CMS high school has a majority ready for college

Students move in to UNC Charlotte in August.
Students move in to UNC Charlotte in August. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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 percenthad 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.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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.

School

Type

Students tested

Met all benchmarks

Providence

CMS

440

58.2 percent

Ardrey Kell

CMS

616

49.4 percent

Myers Park

CMS

602

44.3 percent

Lake Norman

Charter

191

42.4 percent

Pine Lake Prep

Charter

135

42.2 percent

Community School of Davidson

Charter

118

34.7 percent

Hough

CMS

550

34.4 percent

Cato Middle College

CMS option

94

34.0 percent

Levine Middle College

CMS option

94

30.9 percent

Lincoln

Charter

155

22.6 percent

Northwest Arts

CMS magnet

138

22.5 percent

Olympic math/science

CMS

142

22.5 percent

East Mecklenburg

CMS

337

22.1 percent

South Mecklenburg

CMS

603

21.7 percent

Mountain Island

Charter

86

20.9 percent

Butler

CMS

463

19.9 percent

Charlotte Secondary

Charter

49

18.4 percent

Performance Learning Center

CMS option

48

15.6 percent

North Mecklenburg

CMS

349

13.8 percent

Olympic advanced mfg.

CMS

39

12.8 percent

Mallard Creek

CMS

536

11.2 percent

Hawthorne

CMS magnet

19

10.5 percent

Independence

CMS

498

9.7 percent

Olympic biotech

CMS

118

8.7 percent

Queen’s Grant

Charter

115

8.7 percent

Berry Technology

CMS magnet

336

6.8 percent

Hopewell

CMS

336

6.5 percent

Olympic Renaissance

CMS

129

6.3 percent

Cochrane

CMS magnet

24

<5 percent

Davis Military/Leadership

CMS magnet

33

<5 percent

Garinger

CMS

272

<5 percent

Harding

CMS

269

<5 percent

Rocky River

CMS

328

<5 percent

West Charlotte

CMS

276

<5 percent

West Mecklenburg

CMS

347

<5 percent

Vance

CMS

307

<5 percent

Olympic leadership

CMS

107

<5 percent

Carolina International

Charter

25

<5 percent

Kennedy

Charter (closed)

11

<5 percent

Crossroads Charter High

Charter (closed)

31

<5 percent

Charlotte Learning Academy

Charter

18

<5 percent

Source: N.C. Department of Public Instruction

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