Your Schools

CMS, please 'choice out' of this dreadful phrase

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employee prepares “choice plan” posters for mailing in 2003.
A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employee prepares “choice plan” posters for mailing in 2003.

If you’re new to student assignment in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, you may be perplexed to hear people talk about “choicing in” or “choicing out” of schools.

In most of America, “choice” is a noun. Choicing into a school sounds about as natural as choicing the No. 5 combo at Chick-fil-A.

The clunky construction goes back 15 years, to a time when The CMS Choice Plan emerged from the court battle that ended race-based assignment. Drama and angst over The Choice Plan dominated local news the way strife over House Bill 2 does today. In August of 2002 tens of thousands of students switched schools.

The Choice Plan lasted only three years, and during that time many of us tracked the mass migration of students that left some schools splitting their seams and others sitting half empty. Somehow the “choice in/choice out” language emerged to describe the shuffle.

I won’t lie: Even I sometimes let the phrase slip into my coverage.

As the plan faded into history, holdover use sounded ever more awkward. I thought perhaps “choicing” had died a natural death ... until last week’s school board discussion of student assignment policy changes.

Not only did school board members speak the words, but CMS staff included them in written comments.

I’ve often said there are no easy answers when it comes to student assignment.

I take that back. Here’s one: Vow to replace “choice out” and “choice in” with “opt out” and “opt in.”

It costs nothing, literally or figuratively, and it makes us sound like we could pass an English test.

You’re welcome, CMS. The rest is up to you.

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

  Comments