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CMS Unveils Groundbreaking Initiative to Transform Teaching and Learning in Achievement Zone Schools

Educators to use new data system designed to monitor student progress, improve curriculum, prepare all students to graduate college ready

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Nora Carr
Phone: 980.343.6274

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) unveiled a groundbreaking initiative today that will use high-quality student performance data to strengthen and accelerate improvement and guide classroom instruction. The program, supported by a $1.4 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is targeted to the five high schools in the Achievement Zone, a cluster of low-performing schools that receive additional resources and intensive academic support to improve student achievement.

In partnership with the Data Wise Institute at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, CMS will train teachers and administrators to use test scores and grades to develop effective approaches that ensure all students graduate on time and prepared for the challenges of college, work, and life.

"CMS is committed to supporting classroom teachers with the tools they need to improve instruction and help all students succeed," said CMS superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman. "Now teachers will be able to pinpoint exactly which students are having trouble and quickly make corrections to get them back on track."

In 2006, CMS created the Achievement Zone, the district's only non-geographically based cluster of schools, to provide low-performing schools with the proven teachers and strong principals, additional services, volunteer assistance, support staff, and maintenance they need to succeed. Schools in the zone include Garinger, Midwood, Waddell, West Charlotte, and West Mecklenburg. Students in these high schools are more likely to drop out and score significantly lower on year-end assessments of math and English language arts than the district average. For example, at Waddell High School 48 percent of students tested at or above grade level in English compared to the district-wide average of 71 percent for 2006-2007. The four-year graduation rate at Waddell was 57 percent compared to the district-wide average of 74 percent.

This new initiative will provide teachers with access to real-time student achievement data throughout the school year. It will also assist administrators in targeting and providing professional development opportunities. Each of the five Achievement Zone high schools will have a full-time, on-site data analyst who will closely monitor each school's progress and assist teachers in strengthening their curriculum and instruction. In addition, the grant announced today continues a partnership between CMS and the Parthenon Group, which developed the strategy and business model for the Achievement Zone.

"Like many school districts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg struggles to provide all students with a high quality education," said Steve Seleznow, program director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Through this initiative, teachers and school leaders will show how consistent, high expectations—combined with innovative technology—can make a real difference for students."

The Gates Foundation is also providing support for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg African American Agenda and the Lee Institute to recruit community volunteers in Achievement Zone high schools. This effort is aimed at helping minority students, who drop out at a higher rate than their peers, stay in school and pursue postsecondary educational opportunities.

"It will take all of us—parents, business leaders, and the clergy—to make sure that every child has the opportunity for a brighter future," said Trevor Beauford, a youth pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. "When we invest in our schools and our young people, there's no limit to what they can achieve. That's why we need the support of volunteers, mentors, and the entire community to help all of our students reach their full potential."

Nationally, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its partners are focused on increasing graduation and college readiness rates by supporting the creation of new high-quality high schools and the transformation of existing low-performing high schools into more focused and effective learning environments. To date, the foundation has invested more than $1.9 billion to improve high schools, supporting more than 1,800 schools in 47 states and the District of Columbia. In North Carolina, the foundation has invested over $32 million to turn around low performing schools and support Governor Easley's Learn and Earn early college high schools.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is a nationally recognized, countywide school district serving more than 135,000 students. During the past decade, CMS has won widespread acclaim as one of America's best school districts. Now, CMS and its 17,000 employees are focused on making sure all students are globally competitive.

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