Margaret Marshall explained during the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education meeting on June 4 the challenges of closing the achievement gap even as society seems to have reached a heightened sense of awareness on issues of race.
Marshall represents the south Charlotte region on the school board. Her remarks came two days after Mecklenburg County commissioners discussed the district’s effectiveness with African American students.
Marshall’s remarks were as follows:
We are living in a week where everything changes. I really believe that. I think this is one of the most unique weeks any of us will ever experience. We can’t come out of this the same way. We just can’t.
Folks are going to have different ideas on how we come out of this, what the changes are going to be and what they should look like, but I do believe that probably most people can get behind one common thought and that’s children deserve a great education. That should unite us. I know it does for every person on this board, and as (school board member Rhonda Cheek) said, I wish we could stand together because I think that’s what we feel. That’s what we’re about.
Our focus needs to be on the students – what they need both academically and emotionally. We had a pretty well timed report tonight to emphasize that.
We’re going to also have to take care of the people who educate our students and compensate them and give them a safe and healthy work environment. This is not cheap work.
We will ask for what we need and we will be clear about it. We will talk about the impacts when the funds aren’t there.
Can we do a better job of educating our black and brown children as Dr. (Ruby) Jones just alluded to?
Yes, we can. Absolutely, we can.
The work of closing achievement gaps is front and center for Team CMS. It is talked about all the time and I’m just going to reach out and emphasize a little bit more about that.
Again as a white woman who has learned immense amount from the people that I serve with, the people that I serve with on staff, the things that I see in our schools, I am humbled all the time by the commitment of Team CMS to close achievement gaps.
The sustainable, scalable progress in this effort is long-term. It is systemic change work. It is not overnight and it’s going to take alignment. It’s going to take resources and understanding. We are working harder and smarter to make this happen.
Can we communicate the ways we’re doing this work better?
Yes, we can.
It is data-driven and often culture-changing and sometimes just kind of deep in the weeds to explain, so we’re going to have to ask people to pay attention while we do a better job of letting folks know the plan and what they can expect.
We’re going to need the community to listen and not just rely on old, tired narratives.
One thing that I want to say about our students, too, they are more than just a letter grade on the school that they attend. It is easy to look at our school grading system that we have in North Carolina and say that school over there, that’s a failing school. Only 20%, think about this, 20% of the letter grade given to a school in North Carolina measures what happened in that school during that year. A full 80% frankly tells us the type of student that walked in that door – were they prepared at home or not. That’s pretty much what it tells us.
None of us want our children to go to failing schools. None of us.
But maybe the measuring system is broken and not our kids.
This is a year of disruption and things should not look the same when we come out of this. I don’t want things to look bleaker for a large chunk of our students. It just won’t come easy or cheap to make this happen.
It’s going to take partnership with our county, with our state and our federal partners. And we’re about doing that work.