CMS tally: More Hispanic and Asian students, fewer black and white

Students at Montclaire Elementary, shown celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday with Superintendent Ann Clark, reflect the international face of CMS.
Students at Montclaire Elementary, shown celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday with Superintendent Ann Clark, reflect the international face of CMS.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools became a bit more international this year, with Hispanic and Asian enrollment growing slightly while black and white numbers inched down.

Newly posted racial data on all CMS schools show no dramatic changes over the previous year. But it’s the best available snapshot of a district grappling with diversity and resegregation.

It shows a school system that is becoming an increasingly even mix of black, white and Hispanic students, with the latter continuing the growth that has emerged in recent years.

39 percent of students in CMS are black

29 percent are white

23 percent are Hispanic

6 percent are Asian

But that doesn’t mean all schools are racially diverse. About half of black and Hispanic students in CMS attend schools that are less than 10 percent white, located in a wide band that runs from southwest to northeast Charlotte.

And 59 percent of white students attend majority white schools, even though whites are only 29 percent of all enrollment. Those schools, often among the district’s biggest, are located in the north and south suburbs and some close-in neighborhoods such as Myers Park and Eastover.

+1759 change in Hispanic enrollment

+329 change in Asian enrollment

-550 change in black enrollment

-838 change in white enrollment

CMS added just over 1,000 students this year, reaching a total of 147,157. The race breakdowns show that was driven by Hispanic enrollment, which grew by almost 6 percent, and Asian enrollment, which is up about 4 percent.

African-Americans are still the largest group in CMS, accounting for 39 percent of students, but this year brought a 1 percent decrease in total numbers. White enrollment dropped 2 percent.

CMS serves about three-quarters of all students in Mecklenburg County, but faces growing competition from charter schools, which are independent public schools that charge no tuition, and private schools, which have recently become eligible for public vouchers for low-income students.

Race is no longer used officially to measure school integration or diversity. School poverty levels, which haven’t been reported since 2013, are about to be replaced by a new CMS system of tracking socioeconomic status, using neighborhood data on income, adults’ education status, single-parent households, home ownership and English proficiency.

Starting with the 2017 magnet lottery in January, the new calculation will be used to try to break up the concentrations of disadvantage that characterize a broad swath of Charlotte schools.

The race numbers provide the best current snapshot of that situation – and of the challenges CMS will face in trying to create greater balance.

Maps of racial breakdowns look a lot like the socioeconomic mapping CMS unveiled this fall. And race tends to track poverty: In the 76 schools where poverty is so high that everyone automatically gets free lunch and breakfast, almost 87 percent of students are black and Hispanic. Only 6 percent are white.

Here’s a breakdown on some of the details:

Black students

Percentages range from 4 percent at Providence Springs Elementary in the south suburbs to 89 percent at Walter G. Byers School, a preK-8 school near uptown Charlotte.

African-American students, who account for 39 percent of total enrollment, account for more than 75 percent of students at eight schools, including West Charlotte High. Seventeen schools, including Providence High, have black enrollment lower than 10 percent.

White students

Druid Hills Academy, a preK-8 school north of uptown Charlotte, had no white students as of the official tally in September. The highest concentration is 79 percent white at Davidson and Selwyn elementaries.

White students make up 29 percent of total enrollment, but 66 schools have white enrollment below 10 percent. Four schools, including Hough High in Cornelius, are at least 75 percent white.

Hispanic students

CMS enrollment reached 23 percent Hispanic, an all-time high after years of steady growth.

Percentages range from 3 percent Hispanic at Eastover Elementary to 83 percent at Montclaire Elementary, schools that are only about 5 miles apart. Eastover is in one of Charlotte’s most affluent neighborhoods, while Montclaire is part of a strip of south Charlotte schools near Interstate 77 with high Hispanic population.

Eighteen schools are more than 50 percent Hispanic this year.

Asian students

While Asian students account for only 6 percent of overall enrollment, they have a stronger presence in the south suburbs. Four schools have Asian enrollment of at least 20 percent: Three south suburban elementary schools and Barringer Academic Center, a west Charlotte elementary school with a magnet program for gifted students.

Data reporter Gavin Off contributed.

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