Mother of Charlotte Mecklenburg School Student Feels Helpless
By Tonya Rivens
The most recent National Report card released on Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) shows that the schools have the lowest reading and math scores on record. According to the report, less than 20% of Black and Hispanic students in CMS earned reading scores considered strong enough to prepare them for academic success. Maya Cann, a single mom of two school age children, feels helpless about what is happening with her son, who attends Harding University High School.
According to Cann, prior to COVID, her son’s education level was advanced at the start of his middle school year. However, the curriculum changed during his seventh-grade year. Cann says she observed a shift when asking questions about what would be done and how to prepare her child. “Coming out of eighth grade and entering ninth grade revealed changes and a lack of access to programs that would assist my child,” Cann says.
In 1868, the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment mandated that when a state established a public school system, no child living in that state may be denied equal access to schooling. Many minority students are not receiving equal access to schooling. COVID didn’t create the racial achievement gap however it has widened it. State results released in September showed that 50% of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools failed state exams for the 2021-22 academic year. Students of color on average headed back to school following the pandemic-forced shutdown, are six to twelve months behind. Schools in Black neighborhoods are the ones to suffer from the digital divide, have strained resources and have the least most experienced teachers. The report shows that only 36.6 % of Black students in CMS are proficient at their grade level and approximately 20% are college and career ready. In 2015, graduation rates for CMS were at 88%. In September 2022, post COVID, graduation rates for CMS are at 83%. In August 2022, CMS announced that 94 of 181 schools are Title I, which are schools that have a large population of students living at, near or below the poverty line.
Cann feels the teachers are not properly equipped and were not properly trained to navigate the pandemic and academics. “Teachers have families as well and many of them checked out,” Cann says. The most popular and concerning teaching style implemented during COVID and utilized post COVID is the practice of presenting lessons using videos.
She blames the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education for her child’s bad grades. And she’s not alone. Some local faith leaders formed the African American Faith Alliance for Educational Advancement. (AAFAE.org) The mission and vision posted on their website: “to engage, educate and empower African American parents and community in the education process.” In May of 2021, the AAFAE joined Mecklenburg County leadership in support of withholding the funding of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education until a plan to address achievement gaps of Black and Brown students was created. Former School Board Chair Arthur Griffin, says schools haven’t done enough to help the failing children, who are predominantly Black and Brown. (Griffin was recently elected to the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners)
Cann feels helpless. “I have no idea where my son’s skill level is right now and how his GPA is lower than 50,” Cann says. CMS announced a new grading policy that replaced failing scores of zero with a minimum score of 50 in 2013. She says that there has been no effective communication from educators and that there has been no emphasis placed on schoolwork nor work ethics.
“I do feel that students are capable of learning”, Cann said. “Teachers don’t appear to be alarmed if students aren’t performing. Students are not held accountable. And educators blame it all on COVID.”
COVID put a spotlight on injustices in our education system. The pandemic has magnified the disparities in CMS and other school districts in the US. And the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment is not being administered.