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Wake County's 2012 Principal of the Year retiring

Ken Branch is retiring as principal of Brentwood Elementary School in North Ralegh just a few months after being named the Wake County School System's 2012 Principal of the Year.

Tonight, the school board appointed Teresa Abron, a retired principal, to be Brentwood's interim principal starting Dec. 3 and running through May 31. Board members said they were surprised by Branch's retirement.

In other principal appointments:

SEE UPDATE AT END OF POST FOR BIO SHEETS

Wake County school system announces 2012 Principal of the Year winner

Congratulations tonight to Ken Branch of Brentwood Elementary School being named the Wake County school system's 2012 Principal of the Year and Ruth Ann Freeman of Bugg Elementary School being named Assistant Principal of the Year.

An interesting note here is that Brentwood is one of Wake's Renaissance schools, which have come under fire lately from members of the school board's Democratic majority.

Before his firing, Superintendent Tony Tata had repeatedly touted the academic gains at the Renaissance schools. A sore point, for the majority members, is the use of merit pay at the Renaissance schools.

Wake County school system announces 2012-13 Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year finalists

The Wake County school system has announced the finalists for the 2012-13 Principal of the Year and Assistant Principal of the Year awards.

The finalists for Principal of the Year are Kevin Biles of Pleasant Union Elementary in Raleigh, Kenneth Branch of Brentwood Elementary in Raleigh, Paula Trantham of Millbrook Elementary in Raleigh,  Brian Pittman of Holly Ridge Middle in Holly Springs and Ericka Lucas of East Wake School of Arts, Education and Global Studies in Wendell.

The finalists for Assistant Principal of the Year are Teresa Caswell of Lead Mine Elementary in Raleigh, Ruth Ann Freeman of Bugg Elementary in Raleigh, Travis Shillings of Brassfield Elementary in Raleigh, Wynette Martin of East Cary Middle and Matthew Rice of Enloe High in Raleigh.

The finalists were nominated by their peers. The winners will be announced at a celebration on Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh.

1345647635 Wake County school system announces 2012-13 Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year finalists The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Implementing the Renaissance Model

Eyes around Wake County are focused on how the four Renaissance Model  schools will do this year.

As noted in today's article, the four Renaissance schools got additional resources, such as the money that was used to have a quartet from the N.C. Symphony work with students at Barwell Road Elementary School on Monday.

“We want to focus on everything we can to bring enrichment to their lives," said Barwell Road Principal Sandy Barefoot. “It certainly opens up the world to them.”

New principals at Southeast Raleigh High and Renaissance Schools

The Wake County school board announced tonight they had replaced three principals who are part of a new program to help struggling schools and had also chosen a new leader for Southeast Raleigh High.

New principals were chosen for Barwell Road, Brentwood and Wilburn elementary schools while the principal of Creech Road Elementary was allowed to keep her job. They’re all part of the Renaissance Schools program, a new effort targeting additional resources at Wake’s four lowest-performing elementary schools.

The principals and teachers at the four Renaissance schools had to reapply if they wanted to keep their jobs, which comes with a hiring bonus and merit pay. Those who aren’t hired back or don’t want to stay are transferred to other schools.

SEE END OF POST FOR BIO SHEETS FOR THE PRINCIPALS

Implementing the middle school math placement guidelines in 2011-12

The placement guidelines are staying the same but the training and explanation of the role of teacher judgment is changing for advanced middle school math classes in Wake County in the 2011-12 school year.

Ken Branch, senior director of middle school programs, explained today to the school board's economically disadvantaged student performance task force that they don't have the data yet to make changes to the placement guidelines. But they are putting more details into the placement guidelines to make it clearer to teachers, parents and students.

But Branch also said that they're making it clear to teachers that professional judgment will only be used to place students into the courses who might not be considered ready by EVAAS. That could address concerns that some teachers have used their judgment even under the new guidelines to keep kids out who are considered by EVAAS to be ready.

UPDATE

Click here to view the 2011-12 placement guidelines. You'll see how much more detailed they are than the 2010-11 guidelines.

Benefits, challenges and surprises from higher Algebra I enrollment

The one figure that people kept repeating out of Thursday's Wake County school board economically disadvantaged student performance task force meeting was 35 percent.

As noted in today's article, 35 percent is this year's gain in Algebra I enrollment under the new EVAAS placement guidelines compared to last year's total. There was a 26 percent increase in pre-Algebra enrollment. Overall, the gain for both courses was 30 percent.

"I know this is new for a lot of principals, but I want to really thank all of you for taking on the challenges," said school board member John Tedesco, chairman of the task force at Thursday's meeting. "Because of that we saw measurable gains. You can’t dispute that. A 35 percent increase is impressive."

UPDATE

SEE END OF POST FOR THURSDAY'S POWERPOINT PRESENTATION ON MATH PLACEMENT UPDATE

Sharp gains in pre-algebra and Algebra I enrollment

Here's a quick recap of the Wake County middle school math placement update with more details to come tomorrow.

There's been a 30 percent increase this school year in enrollment in pre-algebra and Algebra I. Data presented today shows that 10,313 middle school students are taking pre-algebra  or Algebra I, an increase of 2,351 students  from last year.

School administrators credited the gains in large part on the use of the SAS EVAAS program.

Increasing placement in advanced math classes in middle school

I'll go into more detail later, but here's a quick update on Wake County's efforts to increase participation in advanced math classes in middle school.

Ken Branch, senior director for middle school programs, said there's been an increase in seventh-graders taking Pre-Algebra and eighth-graders taking Algebra I since this set of revised middle school math placement criteria was implemented in the spring. The new criteria came after last year's SAS EVAAS report indicated many Algebra I ready kids in Wake, particularly minorities, weren't being placed.

But several questions were asked at Thursday's economically disadvantaged student performance task force meeting about why teachers are still not letting some students into these advanced courses.

Not bringing in the Grade Doctor

The "Grade Doctor" won't be making any house calls to Wake County.

As noted in today's article, school administrators have broken off contract negotiations with education consultant Ken O'Connor, who calls himself "The Grade Doctor." Administrators had been hoping to hire him to speak with teachers as part of the district's review of middle school and high school grading practices.

At a cost of as much as $6,000 a day for up to eight days, the contract negotiations had become controversial.

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