Education

Teach For America Charlotte: We support school success, not segregation

Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Walter G. Byers School, where 89 percent of students are black and most come from low-income homes, is an example of a hypersegregated school.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Walter G. Byers School, where 89 percent of students are black and most come from low-income homes, is an example of a hypersegregated school. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

After the Observer ran an article about an upcoming forum on creating successful “hypersegregated” schools, Teach For America’s Charlotte office says it has been peppered with queries about whether the group supports segregation.

The answer: No.

“We don’t believe hypersegregation benefits students in poverty. It does not benefit any student,” Executive Director Tim Hurley said Tuesday. TFA Charlotte supports Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ ongoing efforts to break up concentrations of disadvantaged students through student assignment changes, he said.

But the Dec. 15 forum on strategies for success in segregated schools reflects reality, he said: The demographics of CMS won’t change quickly, even as a diversity-based magnet lottery takes effect in 2017 and the board continues its review of neighborhood schools.

CMS currently has 76 schools where poverty is so high that everyone automatically gets free lunch and breakfast. More than 57,000 students attend those schools; almost 87 percent of them are black and Hispanic, while only 6 percent are white.

Until those conditions change, Hurley said, it’s important to also talk about strategies for success in such schools.

“We want to have a conversation with the community about this reality,” he said. “While we are not proponents of students learning in economic or cultural isolation, we know this will be true for thousands of them even with the work the district has begun.”

The Dec. 15 forum is part of TFA Charlotte’s “New Reality Speaker Series,” focusing on poverty and academic success in CMS. The Observer article, like the TFA Charlotte news release announcing the event, emphasized creating success in segregated schools without citing the group’s stance on student assignment.

Panelists are David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, and Terrell Hill, an administrator with Windsor Public Schools in Connecticut. The free session is is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at UNC Center City, 320 E. Ninth St. To register: newreality2.eventbrite.com

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

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