A new report, published by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, has found significant improvements in teacher effectiveness and student performance in Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) school district middle schools, after the implementation of a performance-driven education initiative.
CMS is like many other districts in the country – public schools in wealthier areas are able to attract the better teachers and provide more resources while lower socioeconomic schools could not afford such advantages. However, the report demonstrates how CMS is helping to improve education and making significant progress in closing this "achievement gap".
The metrics-based, performance-driven strategy called the "freedom and flexibility with accountability," evaluates classrooms on data and metrics to and reward high-performing schools and staff. Successful schools became more autonomous under the system, while less successful schools remained subject to continued oversight and control.
Kevin Byrne, Director, US Education at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, said:
"We've all heard the heart-breaking numbers that demonstrate the disparities in education outcomes between higher-income and low-income students and between white students and students of color.
"But when you see the difference that data can make in empowering teachers and administrators to not only understand where the disparities lie, but to also take action to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement, the negative statistics start to lose their power. We can help these schools and students if we create a culture of accountability and academic excellence."
The "freedom with flexibility and accountability" management model saw individual school leaders tasked with using data to improve school performance. This required them to specifically build a professional educational culture in which data fostered collaboration, informed teaching and enabled more strategic, personalized instruction for each student.
"In essence, school leaders began systematically using data to improve school performance."
And the report outlines how, under the system, the district saw substantial improvement in key areas – while minority and low-income students often found themselves lagging behind their peers, they now begun outperforming similar students across the state.
And the district also recorded substantial improvements on almost every measure of academic scorekeeping from standardized testing to Advanced Placement enrollment and performance to vocational testing.
This comes after the district was awarded the national Broad Prize for Urban Education for demonstrating substantial academic gains in a large, urban school district.