Like Charlotte, Omaha, Neb., has a large, urban school district with a new superintendent. It has tried a battery of programs to solve academic failure among its low-income and minority students. A team of reporters at the Omaha World-Herald set out to find districts that seem to have answers, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is one of seven they're highlighting in a series running this week.
"Leaders of the Omaha Public Schools have tried everything from shrinking class sizes to busing kids between schools to waging political fights for more funding — only to see many of its most disadvantaged students scrape bottom on the latest Nebraska state achievement tests," Joe Dejka, Jeffrey Robb and Paul Goodsell write. "Yet, elsewhere in America, some school districts battling similar, entrenched poverty produce significantly better results. A select few districts outscore their urban peers on state and national tests, win national prizes and attract researchers and educators eager for a glimpse inside their playbooks."
The Broad Prize and CMS' performance on the "nation's report card" exams played a role in the decision to highlight CMS as a success story. The findings won't be much of a surprise to those who follow CMS, and the reporters acknowledge the district has hit snags, such as a backlash to increased testing. But it's always interesting to see the district through others' eyes -- in this case, a "virtual field trip" to glean the best lessons from across the country.