Mar 24, 2016 - News

#caLive: Three experts weigh in on what education means for Charlotte

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Education is a topic that you cannot avoid in Charlotte. Those of you who have children have undoubtedly had myriad conversations and maybe even home moves with your kid’s education in mind.

As Charlotte continues to grow, our education standards will be a direct reflection of how we progress as a city. James Ford will be delving into this topic on Thursday at the second Axios Charlotte Live event. If you have children, are going to have children or are simply proud to call Charlotte home, this talk is meant for you. Click here for tickets.

To start the discussion, we have asked three champions in the education realm for their take:

Education as a quality of life issue for Charlotte

James Ford, education activist and program director at The Public School Forum of North Carolina

james-ford

Education is one of the driving forces of a person’s quality of life. No matter what index you use to measure it — health, public safety, strength of economy, etc. — implied underneath all the numbers is the ability to guarantee access to a quality education. It is perhaps the bedrock of every other sector.

Never has this been more apparent in Charlotte than now. With the national embarrassment of being ranked dead last in social mobility out of the country’s 50 largest cities, it’s no small wonder the schools were identified as a major factor. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has also garnering national press with the recent revelation of schools being resegregated along socioeconomic and racial lines, creating pockets of extreme disadvantage.

As this vibrant New South city charts the course for the future, it is clear we are at an impasse. The decisions we make regarding these issues and more will no doubt bear influence on our quality of life as Charlotteans. It will position us to compete globally and ensure a legacy as a world class city, or force us to attempt to manage a community where there are definitive “winners and losers” and mitigate the negative impact of these policies. It will impact those with and without children in the system, those who work in the private and public sectors, those from inner city enclaves of poverty as well as corners of affluence. In the end, the externalities will touch us all. None are exempt.

The “Homework Gap”

Lauren R. Schultz, MLIS media coordinator at Independence High School

Lauren-R.-Schultz

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is attempting to close the digital divide through a 1:1 initiative in all schools.  Thus far all 5th – 10th grade students have a Chromebook, and the goal is for all students to have a Chromebook to use at school within the next few years.

While this directly addresses equality of resources in our schools and is an overall positive move by CMS, some unsettling trends remain. Although our students have access to technology during the school day, estimates say that between one-third and one-half of CMS students do not have wireless broadband Internet access or access to a computer at home.

While this trend disproportionately affects students in west Charlotte, a recent study conducted by secondary media coordinators in CMS found that this issue exists at every school; even schools that are generally classified as upper income have between 5 percent and 10 percent of students without access to Internet or a computer at home.

As a result, a segment of our student population is falling through the cracks. A lack of digital access at home creates a “homework gap,” meaning students cannot complete technology-related homework and projects outside of school, and the lack of continued exposure to technology in comparison to peers creates a distinct difference in students’ technological skill sets, which could drastically affect their college and career prospects.

Education is a reflection of the community

Mollie Lyman, academic facilitator, Whitewater Middle School

Mollie-Lyman

Some of the most important work that is taking place in our community is happening within the walls of a classroom, in a school down the street from you. It’s that building that you’ve passed by every day on your way to work, the school bus you’ve gotten stuck behind when you were in rush, the teachers you know who can’t hang out on the weekends because they’re busy lesson planning.

We’re here. Students, teachers, leaders, administrators, living amongst you, quietly doing the work that will drastically impact the future of our city. We plan, prepare, execute, facilitate, organize, engage, and hopefully inspire others to challenge the stigma that quality education is only gifted to those with a winning ZIP code. In the lives of our students we are the consistency to their unpredictability, steadfast in an often unending battle between what is easy and what is right. Despite the significant hardships we face, we keep showing up.

As the educational landscape in Charlotte begins to shift and opinions and assumptions are challenged I encourage you to take a role in this work. Educate yourself on upcoming district initiatives, mentor a student at your local middle school, be an advocate for change and equal opportunity. Our schools are a direct reflection of what we value. Let’s recommit to what’s most important.

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