Charlotte-Mecklenburg Takes the Prize
Every year since 2002, the Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation, one of the largest and most active education funders in the country, awards a prize to the urban district (among the country's 75 largest) that has the best record of narrowing achievement gaps and raising student achievement across the board. This year, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina was the winner. Between 2007 and 2010, the gap between African American and white students narrowed by 11 percentage points in high school reading and last year 62 percent of the district's seniors took the SAT exam, the highest participation rate among the 75 eligible districts. The prize consists of $550,000 that will be used to fund college scholarships for graduating seniors from the district. Scholarships will range from $5,000 to $20,000.
Other than being happy to celebrate success in education whenever we can, what catches our eye about this particular district winning this prestigious award is their recent commitment to providing more learning time. Just this year, the school district has added 45 minutes to the school day for almost every elementary school in the district. Now, all of their schools from elementary through high school are on a 7-hours per day schedule. And teachers are welcoming the extra instructional minutes. As one teacher told a local television station, “It gives us extra time to work. With students in small groups and one on one.”
The recent change to the elementary schools' schedule has a benefit outside of the classroom - the district expects to save up to $4 million dollars with the longer schools day because the district was able to reroute buses to save in transportation costs.
What remains to be seen, of course, is how this added time might affect achievement in the year (and years) to come, but the example that this North Carolina district provides is one others might heed, as well: it is actually possible to save money by redesigning one’s school calendar. And for that reason, Charlotte-Meckelenburg does, indeed, deserve a prize.