Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have often been hailed as diverse and embracing communities that foster growth and education. However, an anonymous Twitter account has recently been disputing this narrative and highlighting some of the hard truths of the district. Take Back CHCCS Schools’s Twitter bio introduces themselves as “a scared administrator” who is urging students and parents to “rise up or lose the next decade of school leaders.” Although the account can be increasingly negative at times and has questionable credibility, a closer look suggests that they are an extremely concerned member of the community who is focused on drawing awareness to certain topics, specifically the achievement gap.
For Carrboro (CHS), the achievement gap has been a longstanding fault line. According to U.S. News, Carrboro is one of the top rated schools in the state, 42 percent of students are minorities, and 84 percent of students took at least one AP exam in 2019. From the surface, our school appears to be of the most diverse and nurturing environments to learn in. However, when the statistics are broken down, the achievement gap becomes clear. For example, only 40.9 percent of underserved students are proficient on state exams, compared to 87.4 percent of non-underserved students (U.S. News). When asked about what Carrboro is doing to close the achievement gap CHS Vice Principal Ed Pegues explained administration’s plan.
“One of the biggest things we are trying to do is … a blended model,” he said.
He’s referring to classes that have students enrolled in both Honors and Standard curriculums, a practice that has been phased in over the past few years and aims to help underserved students feel more comfortable in higher levels of classes and, as a result, enroll in those classes in the future.
The Academy of International Studies (AIS) at CHS is another example of the prevalence of the achievement gap. Up until last school year, it was an elective group that students enrolled in during their last year of middle school. AIS’s lack of diversity is something that Director Jamie Schendt has tried to change.
“Racial demographics are always a struggle that has been an ongoing issue that we’ve tried to address,” he explained.
Last year, all freshmen were enrolled in courses that satisfied AIS requirements, one of the first steps in increasing diversity. Schendt reported that this has been successful.
“We went from having 25 students in AIS as sophomores last year to now having 76 students. So, by way of increasing enrollment, we certainly are now encompassing more groups of students,” he said.
Efforts from Schendt and Pegues, among other administrators, provide a starting point for closing the achievement gap. But, CHS isn’t the only school with achievement gap problems, it’s something that’s been reflected across the district. In the pictured table, released by the Take Back CHCCS Account, reading proficiency levels are shown for various demographic groups at Ephesus Church Elementary School. The percentage of economically disadvantaged students dropped by 6.1 percent from the 2017-2018 school year to the 2018-2019 school year. In comparison, the percentage of proficiency for white students only dropped by 1.5 percent. Though some CHS staff see the account as negative and unreliable, Senior Charlotte Ellis described one of the beneficial aspects of the account.
“It goes about outlining these problems in a much more blunt way than how other administrators do and how people kind of tiptoe around the topic while the twitter account says it very point blank,” she explained.
Her stance poses the question of whether a checks and balances system, such as the Take Back CHCCS account, is necessary when it comes to dealing with issues such as the achievement gap.