Education

CMS on track for student growth, still seeking 80 teachers

Students at Bain Elementary demonstrated a science activity during the second week of school.
Students at Bain Elementary demonstrated a science activity during the second week of school. ahelms@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has almost 148,000 students enrolled, on track for the growth expected in 2015-16, Superintendent Ann Clark said Tuesday.

The official enrollment count is taken on the 20th day of school, coming later this month. But Clark said that in the first two weeks, CMS is within 100 students of the projected increase of 2,400 K-12 students.

The district does not yet have tallies for Mecklenburg students enrolled in charter schools, which are alternative public schools run by independent boards. Projections call for 15,179 charter students from Mecklenburg, up 2,040 over last year.

Two weeks into the school year, CMS still has 80 teacher vacancies, down from 89 on opening day but higher than the 62 at the same time last year.

CMS Board of Education chair Mary McCray, a retired teacher and former head of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, asked about lingering vacancies in elementary schools, which are traditionally among the easiest teaching jobs to fill. Large numbers of elementary vacancies are “unheard of,” McCray said.

Clark speculated that proposed cuts to K-2 teacher assistants could be a deterrent to teachers coming to North Carolina. She said new qualification exams for elementary teachers could also be a factor. The math section is more difficult and the test is more expensive, she said.

Also Tuesday, Chief Academic Officer Frank Barnes told the board that CMS dominated state ratings for academic growth on 2015 exams.

Barnes reported on results released last week, but said he had delved into more comparisons. On proficiency, CMS generally outscored most large districts in North Carolina but fell below Wake County.

Board member Rhonda Lennon said the Wake comparison is “like comparing a pineapple with a mango” because Wake’s student poverty level is about 37 percent, compared with 61 percent in CMS. Students from low-income families consistently log lower average scores.

Poverty levels for Guilford, Durham and Forsyth counties, the other districts Barnes used for comparison, were not mentioned.

The state also calculates a growth rating for each school, based on how individual students’ 2015 scores compared with prior years’ performance. Independence High had the highest growth rating in the state, Barnes said, with CMS accounting for four of the top five. Community House Middle school was third, South Mecklenburg High fourth and Ardrey Kell High fifth.

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

Coming Thursday

The CMS board’s policy committee meets at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Room 528 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St., to discuss guiding principles for student assignment. The meeting is open to the public.

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