How Should Parents Evaluate the Charlotte Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

School choice isn’t always an easy thing to have. I sometimes wish that my kids were born and raised in one district where we had never had to make the tough decisions about where to live, whether to use the magnet systems, if private schools are worth the money…But one thing I’ve noticed about the Charlotte Mecklenburg schools system is that there are a lot of northern transplants- like myself.  And being a newcomer to the Charlotte Schools, or any other district can be overwhelming. Especially when choosing your home has an impact on your child’s education. I’m an advocate of the school listings that different web sites put out for that reason. But even with a list of public school rankings in hand, I recommend that parents look for these specific traits when visiting the Charlotte Schools.
Attitude in the Charlotte Schools
When I talk about observing the attitude in the Charlotte Schools, I’m not talking about the students. I’m talking about the office staff, the faculty, the janitors, and the principal- everyone. I can tell you from years of experience that a poorly run school is obvious in the stress level and demeanor of everyone. School offices will always be busy places- don’t get me wrong. All Charlotte Schools should have a certain amount of controlled noise and chaos. But a principal who is in charge and highly effective will show in a friendly, effective, and organized staff. I’ve had experiences where the secretary has welcomed me with a smile before the door swung shut and others where I was clearly little more than a problem to be tolerated. If you have a choice of Charlotte Schools, definitely pick one where the general attitude is helpful and pleasant.
Now here’s an uncomfortable truth of the Charlotte Schools. Money matters. I know everyone likes to think that magnet schools and desegregation have somehow equalized education. But the better Charlotte Schools still tend to be in the most affluent parts of town. It’s not just the money. It’s better educated parents, moms who can afford to stay at homes, and parents who aren’t so stressed out working minimum wage jobs that they don’t have the time and energy to help their kids with homework. Does this mean if you’re not well off that you are going to be stuck with substandard Charlotte Schools? No, but it does mean that you need to know what a good school looks like.
Teacher Retention in the Charlotte Schools
One important criterion to look at when evaluating Charlotte Schools are the teacher retention rates. Good schools keep good teachers for the long haul. In fact, I read a parent review from a woman whose child attended J.H. Gunn and one of her chief complaints was that a change in school leadership had led to teacher turnover. Now a new principal may intentionally weed out some teachers when he or she takes over in a new school. But look at the long range records of the Charlotte Schools you’re considering. If it’s a school with a lot of teachers leaving in less than five years- something is amiss. Overall, your best bet is to listen to what other parents say and get your own feeling for Charlotte Schools.

Articles