Charlotte, being the second largest school district in North Carolina, has its ups and downs. Some of the challenges include zoning and student assignment. Student school assignments are directly related to the location where a student lives. So your zip code can determine whether you go to an A+ school or a failing one. This is a major concern for many Charlotteans, and there have been many talks on how to improve this issue. I think about two pressing questions:
Is there a way to bridge the gap between poor low-performing schools and wealthy high-performing schools?
Also how does rezoning impact outstanding school programs like athletics and band?
Being a band director in a zone where most students come from low income families, I know all too well the extra mile our schools face to give our students the best opportunities. On paper one may see the location of my school and think I have many feeder schools to fuel my program. However, that is not really the case. Due to zoning, many students that are invested in my program in middle school don’t get the option to join my program because of where they live.
My feeder school is located just next door. However, I may only receive a handful of students to come to my school. Some students live closer to the school I work for than the school they are actually assigned to but there is a clear difference between the students assigned to my school and the other students who are assigned to the other nearby high schools. The main difference is wealth. If the district could figure out a way to bring both low income and wealthier students together it may create more successful schools in the district.
I often time find students that would love to join my band but it is hard to get the parents on board because they see us as a “Title I” school and perceive us as only low-performing. However, I believe this is due solely on the fact that we have a high concentration of at-risk students. The neighborhoods mostly zoned to my particular school are left pretty segregated due to income restraints. What I would like for my school is to be a competitive contender with those located in more wealthier neighborhoods because our students deserve equal and diverse opportunities.
The school board has been contemplating rezoning the district. This is an excellent option if the goal is to make sure each school is equally diverse as much as possible. However, I know that rezoning could take many students that make my band program the success it is away. This would be a complete travesty, and I am sure other teachers, coaches, and directors may feel the same. Thankfully the current conversations about the changing of the school assignment plan includes options like the “stay put option” to keep upperclassmen in their current schools. So what options have Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools board considered so far?
The option I believe would have the best outcome would be “choice zones.” This would provide every student with the opportunity to attend a choice school within the proximity to where the student lives. This would include a cluster of magnet and non-magnet schools to choose from. There is also an option I have also not seen considered is implementing some sort of magnet program in all the high schools which would give each school the equal opportunity to have high performing students.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education has a lot to consider when they are coming up with the best comprehensive plan to give the best options for students to get a diverse and equal education. The proposed changes can either be a cure to the schools with continuous low performance rates but could also be a demise to schools who have some excellent students participating in our thriving extra curricular groups.