Project LIFT

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. 

Lisa Miller

Students at nine schools in west Charlotte got special escorts to their classrooms today.  Fathers, grandfathers and uncles dropped children off at school as part of a national effort called the Million Father March to get fathers and other male mentors involved in the lives of students. 

Dontay Kilgo brought his son to his first day of pre-k at Druid Hills Academy.  About 25 other men dropped their children off at the school too. 

Lisa Miller

Summer school brings to mind kids hunched over desks in humid classrooms, trying to make up classes they failed.  It’s not the place to be.  But across the country summer school is undergoing some big changes.  It’s not just for kids who can’t make the grade and it’s supposed to be fun. 

Several CMS schools in the Project LIFT zone have begun to offer a summer program that takes this new approach so that the summer slide doesn’t put at-risk kids further behind. 


Lisa Miller

Some new kinds of teaching jobs with four CMS schools in west Charlotte have attracted a lot of interest.  The jobs are a blend of mentoring and teaching and they come with a big salary bump. 


Lisa Miller

This week about 2,200 elementary school kids will be getting free laptops.  It’s part of the Project LIFT effort to boost learning at nine schools on Charlotte’s west side. 

These laptops are made for kids.  They’re white and green and sturdy. 

“It has the handles so it wouldn’t fall when I’m holding it because I really drop stuff without handles,” said Maya Dunbar, a third grader at Allenbrook Elementary. 

Four CMS schools that serve pre-k through 8th graders could move to a year-round calendar next year in an effort to boost learning.  The CMS school board plans to vote on the proposal tonight.
 

All kids have experienced the “summer slide.”  When students get back to school in the fall, they spend time re-learning what they forgot over the summer.  But for low-income kids, that backsliding can be even bigger since camp and other enriching activities are harder to come by.