CMS Unveils Complex Magnet School Plan

Phase One of the district's student assignment plan would open more seats to students from low-performing schools, but what impact will that have is still not clear.

CHARLOTTE, NC — Show us the seats! That’s what education activists are asking the CMS Board to do when it comes to student assignment and magnet schools. Phase One of the district’s student assignment plan would open more seats to students from low-performing schools, but what impact will that have is still not clear.

Phase One of the CMS student assignment plan is all about opening up more seats in magnet schools, and making those seats available to students from consistently low-performing schools in the district.

“Last year we had over 38,000 students in this district attending D or F schools, and that’s unacceptable, and we need to make changes in the district,” says Charlotte education consultant Jessica Miller.

“We want all of our schools to be able to do better,” says CMS Board member Elyse Dashew. “It’s a balancing act. We also want students to have an opportunity to go to schools that better match their talents and the ways that they learn.”

Staff detailed a complex, computerized formula for how a student’s socioeconomic status will lead to priority guarantees in the magnet school lottery at Tuesday night’s board meeting. CMS says that process will be made simple for parents and students down the line.

Phase one does not lay out a specific number of available magnet school seats, but does promise a rolling four-year plan to increase options.

What the impact of losing top performing students could mean for low-performing schools, and what increased student populations will do to the current magnet schools, is not clear.

“The next step is going to be increasing the number of seats in these great magnets that we have, so that we can really increase opportunity,” says Dashew. “And that’s part of the capital plan.”

“It’s really going to be about how many of these seats are available that they’re talking about,” says Miller. “So we want to provide access to seats to students who need that access the most. But right now I don’t see a scope that’s really going to make a transformative impact on the district.”

The school board will hold the first public hearing on the magnet school plan October 25th. A second public hearing, and a vote on any changes, will take place November 9th.