Wake County school board member Keith Sutton took some heat Thursday night on his position on the math placement policy from a person who's normally one of his supporters.
During the District 4 candidate forum, Bridgette Burge of the YWCA of the Greater Triangle criticized Sutton for wanting to use a higher that 70 percent EVAAS probability of success for placing students in Algebra I in eighth-grade. This came after Cash Michaels of The Carolinian asked Sutton "to give clarity" on why board majority was being "political" in trying to pass the new math policy and saying teachers systemwide excluded qualified minority students.
"You know I love you both," Burge said to Sutton and Michaels. "I'm on a different side around this on placement. We're gong to bicker about 5 percent here and there when kids of color and low-income kids have been pushed out and not given the chance to go into the high-achieving classes just because they're kids of color and because they're low-income kids?
We're going to bicker about 5 percent here and here when so many of these kids are scoring threes and fours on their end-of-grade test? It should be policy that they're put into those courses and they're given the chance and they're challenged to do their best.
If the parents feel like the kids are freaking out and can't do it, the parents can say, 'Alright, he's going to go back to regular Algebra.' But because that's such a gateway, it's such as huge gateway to all kinds of honors classes.
What I think is happening is because Mr. John Tedesco supports it and some really smart women (on the ED task force) who support him support it, people distrust it and it's become a partisan issue. And that's a damn shame because who gets hurt is those kids who've already been hurt, pushed behind, left behind, not challenged because they got brown skin and black skin or because they're just learning English. That's a damn shame.
So we need to think outside the box. Five percent, my goodness. Give these kids a chance. Write it into policy that these kids get a chance to show how smart they are. And if they can't, they'll decide and their parents will decide if they need to go into a different course that's not as rigorous."
Burge, who has attended several of the ED task force meetings where the Algebra I issue has been discussed, received an ovation from the crowd.
Burge's words caught Sutton off guard. Sutton drew laughs when after a pause he said, 'um." Burge quickly tossed back from the crowd "you know I love you, right?"
"Yeah, Bridgette, I know you love me," Sutton said to more laughter from the crowd. "I think Cash knows you love him too, I guess. I think your anger or passion and I'll say your profanity is probably misplaced.
I said at the beginning of that vote last week that I support the policy. I think all nine members of the board support the policy. I don't think it's bickering over five percent. I see it as, and I think the same way you do, is to make sure we give as many kids the chance and the opportunity to be able to succeed.
I'm not against the policy and it's intent. But I think that 5 percent does make a huge difference, number one in terms of, let's get as many students across the line as we can and if we move it up another five percent and it helps another two or three percent of students, which in a system of 143,000 students, two percent is a lot of students, three percent is a lot of students. So let's get as many students that we can across the line, and not only those students, but again let's not set these others up to fail. Because if we simply just put them in the class, that's no guarantee that they're going to be successful."
"There's never a guarantee, right?" Burge said from the audience.
"There's no guarantees so we are talking ...." Sutton said as he was interrupted again by Burge, who said they're not talking about failing students but those who were doing great in math.
"We are talking with Mr. Tedesco," Sutton continued. "With some of the women that you spoke of to try to see if we can come to some sort or compromise. I think you were at that meeting last week so you may have heard me ask the board chair if there's a way we can do that and get all nine members to support that,. Then what's wrong with moving it up two or three percent so we can have a consensus of the board and not be divided on this issue?
Let me say on the record I support the intent of the policy but again I want to make sure we have as many kids succeed and that the support is there for those kids who need it."