Project LIFT

Project LIFT includes West Charlotte High School and all the elementary, middle, and k-8 schools that feed into it.
Lisa Worf / WFAE

Project LIFT, a public-private partnership aimed at improving Charlotte schools, has received extra money to continue its work with West Charlotte High School and the schools that feed into it for a seventh year.

Project LIFT Superintendent Denise Watts speaks with WFAE's Marshall Terry.
Lisa Worf / WFAE

This school year marks the sixth year for CMS’s Project LIFT. A total of $55 million dollars in private donations have gone into the effort to turnaround ten schools on the city’s west side. The money came with the expectation that within five years graduation rates at West Charlotte High School would reach 90 percent and 90 percent of students would be proficient. West Charlotte’s graduation rates are close to that, but test scores remain far below expectations. 

Gwendolyn Glenn

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said the district has not seen the achievement gains it had hoped for at Project LIFT schools. 

Ashley Park Elementary is among the schools getting extra resources through the foundation's Project LIFT.
Lisa Worf / WFAE

Thirteen Charlotte elementary schools are hoping to get some of the same flexibility as charter schools. It could be granted under the state’s Restart initiative, an effort to turn around academically struggling schools. CMS board members signed off on the applications but are divided on its merits.

David T. Foster, III / The Charlotte Observer

Two Project LIFT schools tried something of an experiment a few years ago. They added extra days to the school calendar to help students learn, but those will likely be cut next year. 

Gwendolyn Glenn

Some ambitious goals were set five years ago to help nine struggling schools in west Charlotte. An initiative called Project LIFT was launched. Project LIFT received $55 million in private money to improve the struggling West Charlotte High School and its eight ailing elementary and middle feeder schools.

Lisa Worf / WFAE

Project LIFT plans to continue working with West Charlotte High School and the schools that feed into it for at least a sixth year. 

The schools have seen only slight improvements in test scores since Project LIFT started nearly four years ago. But the group of philanthropists and community members say they’ve seen enough positive results to believe giving the strategies more time to develop will lead to strong outcomes.

Strategy Of CMS' Project LIFT Turned On Head

Jan 14, 2016
Lisa Worf / WFAE

Project LIFT leaders heard a lot of numbers Wednesday about the nine, struggling CMS schools in west Charlotte they’re trying to improve. Test scores are nowhere near the goal they set for this time three years ago. But another number came up too, and it turned the whole strategy of Project LIFT on its head.  

Lisa Worf / WFAE

Teachers are learning a new way to teach students in the nine Project LIFT schools in CMS. Directions are often scripted and praise is kept to a minimum in an effort to manage classroom behavior. It’s called No Nonsense Nurturing. 


Several Project LIFT schools on Charlotte’s west side are trying to fill about twenty highly-paid teaching jobs. Those teachers won’t have their own classes but will rotate between classrooms, coach beginning teachers, and work in small groups with students. The jobs come with as much as a $23,000 salary boost. 

Ranson IB Middle School has used the staffing model for the past two years. The school’s principal Allison Harris says it allows all students to benefit from the knowledge of veteran teachers. She says beginning teachers especially appreciate the help. 

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