Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Your Schools blog has a new home

The Charlotte Observer has a new website, and that means Your Schools has a new location and a new look. You can check it out here.

I've loved how involved the comments have been on this blog. Hope to see you over at the new site. And you can always send me an email at

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CMS to try out early-release days next year

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will try out four early-release days next year as a way to give teachers more time to develop their skills.

The school board approved the tweak to next year's calendar at the same as they allowed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to become a holiday.

Other districts, including Wake County, have incorporated early-release days into their calendars for years.

The scheduling is still being worked out, but most schools would let out about two hours early. There will be one per quarter. Next year's early release dates will be Oct. 7, Jan. 20, March 1 and April 20.

Superintendent Ann Clark said the time would be used for professional development for teachers.

These are the most educated neighborhoods in Charlotte

If you live close to Freedom Park, there's a one-in-three chance you have a graduate degree.

The folks at research firm FindTheBest crunched some federal data to determine the areas of Charlotte with the highest percentage of people with graduate degrees. Here's what they found.

Charlotte, North Carolina


The area of south Charlotte just north of Pineville-Matthews Road has a strong showing in the numbers. The trendy Plaza Midwood and Chantilly areas are also up there.

Overall (and unsurprisingly, given it's a metro area) Mecklenburg County has a larger percentage of people with a graduate degree than the state and country as a whole. Meck clocks in at 12.9 percent, compared with 9.3 percent for North Carolina and 10.8 for the U.S.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

CMS to tweak next year's academic calendar

Good news, teachers: You're now likely going to have the day before Thanksgiving off of work. But you'll also have to report for duty a day earlier in the fall.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is planning to ask the school board at next week's meeting to approve a few changes to the academic calendar for the 2015-16 school year. It took me a few moments to figure out the changes, but here they are in a nutshell:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 25 (the day before Thanksgiving) goes from a teacher workday to a holiday.
  • Monday, Aug. 17 becomes a teacher workday. It previously hadn't been on the calendar. That Tuesday through Friday has been workdays before the start of school Monday, Aug. 24.
  • June 13, 2016 comes off the calendar. It had been a teacher workday. The last day of school is June 9.

Take a look at the calendar first approved in May here. Here's the proposed revised calendar.

Monday, February 16, 2015

State rep: Charter schools need more financial oversight

Charlotte Talks on WFAE had a strong lineup on the panel this morning for a discussion of education in North Carolina.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark was there, as was Gov. Pat McCrory's senior education adviser (Eric Guckian) and state Board of Education chairman Bill Cobey.

But I what most caught my ear were some comments from N.C. Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican from Weddington.

In response to questions about several Charlotte-area charter schools that had failed this year, Horn said that North Carolina needs to do a better job of making sure a proposed charter has its financial house in order.

"Charters need to be held to a higher level of accountability on the finance and governance side," he said.

He said that lawmakers had focused a lot on making sure charter school academics were up to snuff, but now needed to shift.

Here are a few more things that stood out:

  • Clark said CMS would be hosting five to six "teacher voice sessions" over the coming months for teachers to talk about what would create a better working environment for them.
  • Cobey said that the state will require virtual charter schools to provide children they accept with a computer and Internet access if the student doesn't have access.
  • Cobey also said charter schools have struggled in Mecklenburg County because CMS has done a good job offering choices to families.
  • Guckian said McCrory's goal is to move toward one electronic device per student in every N.C. school.
Listen to the conversation yourself at this link. It will also replay on the radio at 9 p.m.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Charter schools got letter grades, too. Did they outperform CMS?

Even though all the attention was on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools when letter grades were handed out to each campus in North Carolina last week, charter schools got letter grades, too.

The results? It's very close (and probably debatable), but CMS appears to have done better than the county's charters.

(Go ahead and scroll to the bottom of this post if you want to look up your Mecklenburg County charter school's grade. Look up any school in the state here.)

Here's the grade distribution for Mecklenburg County charter schools:

  • Four schools earned an A (27 percent)
  • Two schools earned a B (13 percent)
  • Three schools earned a C (20 percent)
  • Four schools earned a D (27 percent)
  • Two schools earned an F (13 percent)
CMS had 41 percent of its schools earn grades of A or B. That's one percentage point higher than the county's charter schools. A larger percentage of the county's charters also earned failing grades (7 percent in CMS).

Of course, there's a much larger percentage of "A" charter schools in the county than in CMS (27 percent versus 11 percent). Another caveat: Since there are a lot fewer charter schools in the county, that also can throw off the percentages.

Here's the grade distribution for charter schools statewide:
  • 13 schools earned an A (10 percent)
  • 37 schools earned a B (30 percent)
  • 35 schools earned a C (28 percent)
  • 22 schools earned a D (18 percent)
  • 17 schools earned an F (14 percent)
Charter schools did much better than the state as a whole. Statewide, only 29 percent earned an A or a B.

I haven't heard much about this yet, but these figures are sure to reinflame debate on whether this charter school boom in the state is serving students well.

Here's the grade for every Mecklenburg County charter school. New schools don't have grades because they're based on last year's end-of-grade test scores.

School NameOverall gradeOverall scoreReading gradeMath gradeGrowth targets
Aristotle Preparatory AcademyD50CFMet
Charlotte Choice CharterF34FFMet
Charlotte SecondaryC63CCMet
Community School of DavidsonA87BBExceeded
Corvian Community SchoolB78BBMet
Crossroads Charter HighF35NotMet
Invest CollegiateC63BDMet
Kennedy CharterD45DFExceeded
KIPP CharlotteD54DDExceeded
Lake Norman CharterA88BBExceeded
Metrolina Reg Scholars AcademyA94AAMet
Queen's Grant Community SchoolB75BBExceeded
Socrates AcademyA85BBMet
Sugar Creek CharterC60CCExceeded
The Community Charter SchoolD40DFNotMet

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Superintendent job requires Ann Clark to move to Mecklenburg County

Even though Ann Clark has been with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for decades, her new job as superintendent is requiring her to move.

Clark has long lived on the shore of Lake Norman in Mooresville. That's in Iredell County. State law, however, requires school superintendents to live in the district that they lead.

I just got a hold of Clark's contract, and it states that she is to move to Mecklenburg County "as soon as possible." The CMS communications staff hasn't gotten back to me on whether she's moved yet. Her contract does not mention the district covering any relocation expenses that new superintendents typically get when they come in from out of town.

See Clark's contract here.

The contract also mentions that Clark won't be considered for the superintendent's position "long-term." If she is in the job on June 1, 2016, she'll be eligible for a bonus.