Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Beth Thompson (left), Superintendent Crystal Hill (middle) and Deputy Superintendent Melissa Balknight (right) discussed the district's academic progress and goals following the state test score data report. Photo: Jalon Hill/QCity Metro

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ test scores improved across the board last school year, but the academic achievement gap for Black and Brown Students remains wide.

The state’s Department of Public Instruction released state test score data and school performance grades Wednesday, which are calculated from various data, including how much academic growth students made last school year.

According to state data, 39.2% of Black students in CMS are grade-level proficient across key subjects such as reading and math, and 22.6% are college and career-ready — both percentages increased from the 2022-2023 academic school year. 

Despite improvement, those numbers significantly trail white students in CMS, who are 81.1% proficient across key subjects, according to the data, and 65.7% are college and career-ready.

“This is not good enough. It will take a collective effort to move the needle and raise the bar,” Superintendent Crystal Hill told reporters on Wednesday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is the state’s second-largest school district and saw growth. However, some of its schools, many of which are high poverty and predominantly serve Black and Hispanic students, didn’t meet academic expectations last school year.

Calculating the data

The statewide formula for calculating a school’s performance – commonly known as the school report card – bases 80% of the final grade on student proficiency. The remaining 20% is based on the school’s growth from the previous year.

The state Department of Public Instruction categorizes low-performing schools as those that score a grade of D or F and fail to meet growth targets.

The state has seen a 77% increase in the number of low-performing schools since last school year, compared to a 19% increase for CMS, district officials said.

According to state data, 82% of schools –172 out of 184 – met or exceeded growth. This falls short of the district’s 86% goal by just one school. 

Approximately 58.2% of schools received a grade of A, B or C.

Though some schools received D-letter grades, many still met the growth requirement goal for the school year.

Data showed 40 schools improved their performance grades from the year prior, and the number of F-graded schools decreased by 4% from the previous school year.

“Exceeding growth matters hugely,” Beth Thompson, Chief Of Strategy and Innovation at CMS, said.

Data showed that 16 schools were removed from the low-performing list.

Seven schools ranked in the state for overall academic growth.

Celebrating improvements

Across the district, all reading and math composite scores increased, including improvements in third-grade literacy and high school Math I.

The percentage of students in grades 3-8 who are college- and career-ready in reading increased from 2% to just over 30%.

CMS also exceeded the state average in English ll. 

The district also exceeded state proficiency in Math and has gained as high as a 23 percentage point increase. 

CMS says that state data shows the district saw the largest increase in English learner progress – at 21.4 percent.

“It’s no small feat across an entire district, the 17th largest in the country,” Beth Thompson said.

Things to improve on

Data shows – despite the 16 schools removed – 25 other schools were added to the state’s low-performing list, resulting in  59 CMS schools.

The bottom 10 schools in the district all made an F for the 2022-23 school year. The below list ranks them from highest score to lowest:

  1. Cochrane Collegiate Academy
  2. University Meadows Elementary School
  3. University Park Creative Arts
  4. Devonshire Elementary School
  5. James Martin Middle School
  6. Ashley Park PreK-8 School
  7. Bruns Avenue Elementary School
  8. Druid Hills Academy
  9. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School
  10. Ranson Middle School

Across all subjects, including reading, math and science, Black and Hispanic students are performing worse than white and Asian students.

The gaps, district officials said, are impacted by a number of factors such as income, disability and English proficiency.

Absences also remain a big issue since the pandemic. More than 23% of students were chronically absent in 2022-23, missing 10% or more of days.

The district’s high school graduation rate is 82.6%, a 0.7% decline in graduation rate during 2022-2023. 

What’s next?

The district plans to intensify progress monitoring for each school to ensure that goals are being met each quarter.

Staff will also be monitored. As vacancies loom, the district will target professional development for its principals, teachers and staff to ensure each school is providing the best possible quality of instruction.

Low-performing schools will get hands-on support from district officials, including an experienced principal coach.

There will also be quarterly data-sharing sessions among principals to share practices on improvement amongst each other.

Every school will monitor attendance more carefully.

School officials, like school social workers and school counselors, will increase home visits and family contact to locate students when they are not at school.

There will be a more concerted effort to provide additional support to English Language Learners (ELL).

“We know that if you are struggling with English, it’s going to be harder for you to walk in a Biology course,” Thompson said. 

Two years ago, district leaders established goals to enhance test scores for Black and Latino students. 

The school board adopted a plan with grade-level benchmarks to address achievement disparities, aiming for 50% of Black and Hispanic third-grade students to be college and career-ready in English Language Arts by October 2024.

District officials met with local organizations, including the African American Faith Alliance and the local NAACP chapter—- to discuss the issue and how they can partner in the future to support the district.

Hill didn’t disclose what details were discussed, but talks will continue to happen in the near future.

Hill said she is happy with the progress, but said she isn’t satisfied with the results.

“All of this happened with the instability that our district has experienced over the last couple of years,” she said. “If we can do this in unstable conditions, now that we are stabilized, we’re going to blow it out of the park next year.”

Jalon is a general assignment reporter for QCity Metro. He is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and an avid sports fan. (

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