Regardless of extreme budget cuts, public school systems continue to embraced diversity with enthusiasm, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is no exception. CMS continues to demonstrate a strong stance on diversity as demonstrated by its initiation of Assignment Plans stemming back to 1974, and its subsequent annual evaluations to ensure that CMS remains committed to school desegregation, and ways to ensure all children regardless of differences are treated fairly and given the opportunity to succeed.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was the first school system in the nation to operate a court-ordered busing plan approved by the United States Supreme Court (Swann vs. the Board of Education, 1971) as a way to desegregate its schools. Shortly after, the busing plan was implemented CMS strategically developed the student Assignment Plan of 1974 to promote diversity in the classroom by incorporating geographic zoning, satellite assignments, pairing elementary schools (K-3 and 4-6) and by developing five optional schools, better known today as magnet schools (CMS, 2011).
From 1991 through February 1992, different community groups collaborated to develop a new approach to diversifying CMS. “Eighty-six percent (no difference by race) wanted more choice in selecting the schools their children attended, and 65% of Whites and 80% of African Americans said they would bus their children to a magnet school in a safe neighborhood (CMS, 2011).”
Building upon surveys, public testimony and the experiences of other school systems, in March 1992 CMS developed a new student Assignment Plan that included three major components, Stand-alone schools, Mid-point schools, and Magnet schools (CMS, 2011).
Although, even with the implementation of magnet schools, CMS soon discovered that by just reassigning students to different schools did not ensure students’ academic success. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools realized that its top priority should be to “prepare students to be competitive in a complex, global and information-driven society (CMS, 2011).” CMS addressed this priority by exploring, designing and implementing innovative programs that could be used as a part of systematic reforms in the school district (CMS, 2011).
After the kinks were removed, CMS magnet schools have been highly successful in implementing quality academic programs as indicated by its high achievement results that have exceeded the district averages and lowered the achievement gap. As a result, the CMS community has given the magnet program “thumbs-up” as indicated by CMS placing 19, 542 students into magnet schools in the 2010-2011 school year with a waiting list of 3,438 students (CMS, 2011).
Although the 2011-2012 school year may prove to be challenging due to budget constraints, one can assume that CMS will continue to encourage open and equitable access to magnet programs and critical needs programs based on its rich history of providing all students the opportunity to become academically successful.
Magnet Schools in CMS:Brief history. Retrieved July 27, 2011 from www.cms.k12.nc.us.