The Office of Accountability
Breaking The Link

You can help create next steps for K-12 education in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is building a new strategic plan to shape the future of public schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and help create access to opportunity for students across CMS.

A major focus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg School's new plan will be breaking the link between poverty and academic achievement to close gaps and reach educational equity in our community.

To give everyone in the community shared access to information about where we are today, CMS has released "Breaking the Link" a district-wide analysis of connections between poverty and school outcomes. Breaking the Link provides a basis for action by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, students, parents, teachers, staff, community partners and YOU!

Breaking the Link

Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is an area rich in opportunity for many of the people who live here. The area is a diversified regional economic powerhouse with six Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the county and 14 Fortune 1000 companies in the larger metropolitan area.

But it is not equally rich in opportunity for everyone. A 2013 study conducted by Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, examined economic mobility in the largest 50 cities in the United States. Charlotte was 50th, a finding that confirmed what many have observed anecdotally: If you are born poor in Charlotte, you are likely to stay that way.

The economic-mobility study's findings sparked alarm and resulted in the formation of an Opportunity Task Force which issued a report in March 2017. That report included a set of broad findings and recommendations. The Opportunity Task Force emphasized that it is the community's collective responsibility to create paths to prosperity. Schools and school districts have an important role to play in building pathways to prosperity but they cannot do this work alone.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is committed to playing a significant role in the community-wide conversation begun by the Opportunity Task Force. We want to increase equity and excellence in our schools and in our community.

It is our goal in this inaugural Breaking the Link report to provide a fresh, current analysis of how our schools and our students performed on a set of indicators – a careful examination of whether school poverty and race continue to be a predictive link to student performance.

Any challenging effort for meaningful change must begin with acknowledgement of hard truths. Thus, this report purposely does not offer proposals or policies for reform, but instead seeks to provide a solid, data-based picture of our schools with the most recent data available. These data will help the district, and the community, make wise and informed decisions on reform and advance our understanding of how to break the link between poverty, race, and academic performance.

Breaking the Link does not include recommendations for policies or programs that should be initiated or eliminated based on these analyses. CMS leadership will work with schools and community stakeholders to determine how we can use this analysis to improve performance and enhance educational opportunities for all students.

The team of authors who worked on this report approached the assignment with three broad questions:

• What are the racial and income demographics of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools?

We wanted to examine the differences in the income and racial demographics of our schools.

• What are CMS school outcomes?

We wanted to examine how students have performed academically on a set of measures, disaggregated by school poverty and race.

• How do key levers linked to outcomes vary across Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools?

We wanted to examine the differences in resource allocation or access among groups of schools
on a selected set of key levers that can influence educational outcomes for students.