WakeEd

The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. How will the new student assignment plan balance diversity, stability, proximity and stability? How will Jim Merrill replace Tony Tata as the new superintendent of the state's largest district? How will voters react to a $810 million school construction bond referendum on Oct. 8 ballot? How will this fall's school board elections impact the future of the district?

WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui. While Keung posts information and analysis on the issues, keep us posted on your suggestions, questions, tips and what you're doing to cope with the changes in Wake's schools.

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Complaining about the new board majority's actions

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Critics of the new Wake County school board majority are in an uproar over Tuesday's meeting

In a Wednesday column, Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of the liberal N.C. Policy Watch, says Tuesday's meeting shows the new majority is "committed to resegregating the schools as fast as possible."

In another Wednesday column, Bob Geary of the liberal Independent weekly says the new majority acted like "bullies." What's also interesting is he includes a conversation he had with new board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman, former board member Carol Parker and former board candidate Curt Stangler.

Geary says that Goldman told the group that her intention had been to get the eight agenda items on "the table" and not to ram them through.

Geary said Goldman also told them she was chagrined about the walkout by teachers during the meeting.

Goldman gets ripped less than the other new board members because supporters of the old board have hopes of flipping her to their side.

Both Geary and Fitzsimon took shots at new board chairman Ron Margiotta, who has become the boogeyman for many on the left.

Geary says Margiotta set the tone Tuesday for pushing the items through and the other members "followed him off the cliff."

Fitzsimon took harsher swipes at Margiotta, saying his election as chairman is "the most compelling evidence of the new majority's ties to (the John Locke Foundation) and other right-wing groups that want to dismantle public education."

"(Margiotta) is clearly an ideologue, not a friend of public education, and he now chairs the board of the largest school system in North Carolina," Fitzsimon writes.

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Committee meetings

Keung,

I see that all 5 BOE committee meetings on the calendar for next week have been cancelled. Were these meetings cancelled prior to Tuesday's meeting or has Ron made these changes?

I don't know if they were

I don't know if they were cancelled by Hill before Tuesday's meeting. But after the changes they weren't going to take place anyway because Margiotta hasn't appointed committee chairs yet.

This school

The Harlem school provides medical and nutritional assistance to the kids. I agree it's a great model for poverty-stricken areas, but pricey to maintain and not something that can really be discussed in a time when $20 million cutbacks are on the table.

What about having a free

What about having a free clinic associated with a school?  There are lots of docs and nurses who volunteer at free clinics.  I think it would be an interesting model and a way for local people to really make a difference.

I agree.  I've often

I agree.  I've often thought that putting a free clinic associated with a school would be a good incentive for lower income families to go to a school a longer bus ride away.  (Note the difference from the current procedure is being given an incentive, rather than just being forced.)

 

Another magnet-type that I wish they would consider is an increased physical activity middle school.  The additional costs would be minimal; it would be based on scheduling things so that kids got two breaks for physical activity during the day, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon.  One would be the state mandated health PE, and the other could be a PE elective --- team sports, aerobics, badminton, walking, etc.  This could be beneficial for lots of kids --- those needing to combat childhood obesity, those kids who are having trouble focusing on academics all day and would benefit by having another break to "get the wiggles out" rather than facing discipline because they have trouble sitting still, and those who love athletics, and would find school a more positive place for them if given more of an opportunity to do something they love.

 

[edited to add:  This didn't post where I expected.  I made this statement in response to jenman's comment that she'd like to see a free clinic associated with a school.)

This is what I worry about,

Having an in-school free clinic and in-school nutrition are great  ideas.  Kids need to be relatively well and well fed in order to hope to learn and progress. But the idea is immediately dismissed.

I am skeptical that this new board is interested in the well being all of kids. I sincerely hope I'm wrong about this.  So short a time in power and how quickly the knee jerks.

there a great 10 minute

there a great 10 minute video clip of John's ideas on community schools on the WRAL website...I tried to post the link but it won't let me....

look for an article with this title

Plan would give Wake parents more choices

and the link to the video is under John's picture.

bwnelson,  John Tedesco ran

bwnelson,  John Tedesco ran on a platform of community schools that offer those kinds of services.  He's really got some great ideas and I think he's got the energy to follow through.

I don't remember the website offhand but there is one for the community schools movement.  Arne Duncan (ed secr'y) is a proponent.

I'll check those out

And I am going into this with an open mind.  I've seen where John was advocating a vocational magnet, which is a great idea.  

The thing is, there is a lot of good in the current school system.  We have three high schools in Raleigh that are in the top 200 in the nation, which includes private schools.  Broughton, Enloe, and Raleigh Charter.  All public schools.  Two magnet one charter.  We have a region that is an intellectual powerhouse.   High quality education for our children is a top priority to a great many of us.  And a majority of voters here are willing to pay more in taxes if it means we have a first rate educational system, as evidenced by the last millage election.

This new board is enthusiastic, yes, but they also need to be able to sit back and take in information so they can make truly good decisions, and make them with an open mind.  Pulling a sweeping 8 point agenda out of their pockets on their first meeting doesn't inspire my confidence.  It was pretty shocking to witness, actually.  And very disrespectful to everyone there.

 

 

 

Why only 3?

"We have three high schools in Raleigh that are in the top 200 in the
nation, which includes private schools.  Broughton, Enloe, and Raleigh
Charter. "

 

I think that we should have more.  If non-magnet schools were not specifically limited in their offerings, I wouldn't be surprised if we had more top-rated schools.  Enloe offers ~160 electives, and the IB program, while traditional schools offer perhaps 30 - 40 electives?

 

I look forward to a system where we try to make each school the best it can be, rather than holding some back due to the concerns over the "health" of a non-living entity.

 

Doing what you were elected

Doing what you were elected to do is disrespceful? That's an odd statement.

You want to know what is really disrespectful?

54% graduation rates for low income students

< 50% graduation rates for black males

Wonderful magnet programs...that are only available to a lucky few

5:30am 22-mile hour-plus-long bus rides

Mandatory year round schedules forced on families

Siblings forced to attend different tracks...or even different schools

 Wacky Wednesday's with no buy-in from parents

The source I was quoting on

The source I was quoting on the High Schools was, I'm pretty sure, either Forbes or U.S. News and World Report, where they rank high schools, just like they rank universities and colleges.  This was a few months ago.  I was quite surprised that so many high schools in Raleigh ranked so high. 

I'd like to see some

I'd like to see some non-magnet schools on that list.  Enloe and Broughton siphon off many of the best students from other schools and get lots of extra money to offer the programs they do.  Enloe and Broughton also have that level of academic excellence because the rest of our schools are not allowed to.

The best that WCPSS has to offer is available to very few students.

You will see plenty of

You will see plenty of non-magnet schools on the list, don't worry! "siphon off"? How about provide opportunities to kids and families willing to sacrifice time for the good of the whole district that could not otherwise be afforded except at high wealth schools??

How will Enloe change given this? don't fret, you'll get your wish, it's just unfortunate who will have to pay for you to get your way.

I'm very interested to hear you and Woodstock's plans to increase the 54% graduation rate! And your volunteer plans to help out the downtown high poverty schools when the parents there who work 2 jobs are unable to do so due to more pressing concerns.

Newsweek

 Raleigh charter ranked 34th, Enloe 83rd and Broughton 410.

Hard to credit WCPSS with Raleigh Charter's success.

 

You are sooooo right about

You are sooooo right about that Bob!

 That is what you get when you have a school that has nothing but kids that want to be there and want to learn and get an education.  It's the truth, and of course liberals and all the PC people, will agrue and deny that till they are blue in the face!

Public school

There are ED and minority students who "want to be there and want to learn and get an education."  If RCHS does not want to take them (see the statistics below), then it should not be a public school in my opinion. 

It is an application process

It is an application process open to anyone who wants to apply. It supposedly involves a lottery process after meeting certain qualifications. Also, there is not transportation provided and significant parental involvement is required ...that is a very good thing, but it probably prevents many families from being able to commit to that.

 

Actually, I agree that the process needs to be audited. It is much like the inherent unfairness of the current magnet schools process. I understand that charters can set certain standards (like having to be prepared to take Algebra 1 in 9th grade), but I suspect that some -- maybe many -- students are given preference.

Admissions

I agree that someone should audit the application process for this school.  If I remember correctly, they have previously gotten into trouble for their admission criteria.  I can't imagine that a fair process would result in no ED students and only 24 minority students out of 520.  Their requirement for a teacher recommendation for math sounds like the kind of process described by the SAS report and confirmed by KLanders where qualified students are kept out.  I also agree that it sounds like the magnet school unfairness.  Maybe the criteria that are published do not match the actual criteria used in the selection process.  To me, admission to any public school or program should be transparent.

then this should warm the

then this should warm the cockles of your heart...

The State Board of Education has new guidelines for charter schools, setting clear performance standards and emphasizing innovation as a focus for new schools.

Charters will be revoked if, in two of three years, students do not learn as much as expected and if fewer than 60 percent score at or above grade level on standardized tests.

If these rules had been in effect for the past three years, seven schools would have lost their charters, according to Jack Moyer, head of the state charter school office.

A charter school operator in Kinston determined that a dozen charters would be revoked under these rules if they had been in place since 2004. Charter school operators said the new policy was unfair to schools whose students are below grade level but improving.

"We have to allow more time, I think, for schools to develop," said Don McQueen, executive director of Torchlight Academy in Raleigh. The school came close to having its charter revoked this year but was granted an extension after agreeing to meet certain academic goals and audit guidelines.

Gov. Bev Perdue asked the State Board of Education to rework its policies on charter schools, which have taken on significant political implications.

The state is under constant pressure to lift the current limit of 100 charters, something Perdue does not want.

McQueen said Torchlight, whose students demonstrated high growth based on end-of-grade tests last year, is an example of good results that can be achieved when charters are given a chance to improve.

"I think that if a school is making progress, that some reasonable examination of a school's overall progress should be taken into account," McQueen said.

Torchlight is also an example of a school that successfully lobbied legislators and waged a public relations campaign this year to combat the state Department of Public Instruction's recommendation that its charter be revoked.

Torchlight won a conditional renewal about the same time that another charter, PreEminent Charter School in Raleigh, was also spared. Shortly after it decided to give PreEminent more time, the school board was asked again to consider revoking PreEminent's charter because students scored poorly on end-of-grade tests.

Charter schools receive public funding but aren't bound by many of the rules that apply at traditional public schools. They are independent schools typically run by private boards, and they have the freedom to set their own curriculum.

State legislators of both parties routinely try to add more charters. Perdue and other education officials recently had to push back against the Obama administration's preference for charter schools as crucibles for innovation, expressed in its early guidelines for states seeking millions in competitive federal education grants.

Bill Harrison, chairman of the state board, has said that some applicants have better ideas than existing charters, and that the state Department of Public Instruction wanted to put renewed emphasis on charters as incubators for new ideas.

Under the new policy, the board will give priority to applicants "who demonstrate potential for significant, meaningful innovation in education."

Hm...

I've been paying attention and have not heard about them getting in trouble, although I've seen people complaining on this blog.  The admission process had to have been approved by the state in order for RCHS to get its charter.

Apart from the lottery, the sole requirement is that they be at least ready for Algebra I in 9th grade.  Considering that the typical track for Wake students is to take pre-algebra in 8th grade, I don't think this is much of an issue.  If you passed pre-algebra, then you're ready for Algebra I.  That's unlike the issue identified in the SAS -- that the placement formula automatically assumed that poor students weren't ready for higher math, even though their grades said they were.

Charter schools are generally more niche schools than the public school system.  As a result, they are not appropriate for all students.  Quest Academy, for example, is targetted for students who are "pursuing high intensity training outside the classroom."

News and Observer, July 26, 2001

I found this from 2001 in the News and Observer archives:

"Responding to complaints that its secretive and selective admissions practices were more appropriate for a private school, Raleigh Charter High School told a state education committee Wednesday that it would make its policies more open and equitable.

Thomas Humble, the school's principal, also told the state Charter School Advisory Committee that he would end his practice of removing from the school any student who fails a single course." 

There were other articles as well around that time.  It was longer ago than I'd thought. 

By the way, I don't have a problem with niche schools.  If RCHS wanted to say that it was only for AG kids, for example, I'd be fine with that.  But I'd expect them to accept a random selection of AG kids, including minority and ED kids, who apply.   And I don't think charter schools can get around taking ED kids because they don't serve lunch.  There are a lot of charter schools with many ED kids and they must be handling it somehow. 

So

I have no reason to believe that RCHS' enrollment doesn't reflect its applicant pool; do you?

There are charter schools that specifically target low-performing ED kids.  And, those schools presumably serve lunch.  But, in general, there's no requirement that charter schools serve lunch. Cafeterias are generally money-losers unless students are forced to buy food, so I suspect that a charter school would rather use that money in other ways.

 

Bob, a couple of thoughts

Bob, a couple of thoughts ...

If the pool includes +40% of one group and you keep randomly selecting only 5% something is unusual.

Assuming that they are doing nothing wrong let's move back to he applicant pool.   What would discourage minorities from applying: lack of information, unfriendly environment, class they do not have, cultural bias against going to a White Prep school, no lunch, not transportation, etc.  It could be anyone of many things and it could be that RCHS administrators know their applicant pool is skewed and thankful.  They don't have to educate all students like public schools and want only the students that will produce the most results for the least money and effort to remain financially viable.  That is why I have never thought much of charter schools.  I would prefer to see them get the same mix of students given the public schools and see better results.  That would be something to cheer about.  As it is RCHS has the same 5% minority base as Green Hope and produces the same results from what can see. Both schools get all kinds of attention for their scores but the secret to success is just minimizing minorities.

So.

As the columns get narrower, my responses get shorter.

(1)  I meant pool of those who choose to apply.

(2)  I think we disagree as to purpose of Charters.   To me, charters offer alternative educational options.  They are a win-win: students get to go to schools they prefer to tradtional public schools, public schools don't have to pay to educate those students or to build schools to house them.  I see no reason why a charter school's curriculum, activities and setup should be equally attractive to every student in the county.

(3)  RCHS does better than Green Hope, both in terms of rating and cost.   GHHS was, what, $60M to build?  RCHS -- $0.

I am ok with charters ...

I am ok with charters ... but since some like RCHS skims off the top someone is going to be stuck educating the rest.  We don't have a real problem educating the top ... it is the other 60% that need attention.  I have not looked in a while but I think RCHS and GHHS had similar score.  Finally, you are right about the immediate cost for a building but GHHS's building will still be serving kids 50 years from now.

So...

Somebody's already "stuck" educating the rest, whether RCHS and GHHS are there or not.  At worst, charter schools make some people better off while leaving nobody worse off.  That sounds like something worth pursuing.

But Bob, why can't public

But Bob, why can't public school compete on an equal footing by selecting their students, erecting higher entry standards, eliminating lunch / transportation to mimimze minority students?  I think any public schools could do well, though not as well, as RCHS if they could select the top students instead of just getting the neighborhood children.  We need schools that take below top students and do unexpectedly great things with them not ones that skim the top and produce predictable good scores.

Because

Because that's not their mission.

Three thoughts

1) My bet is the RCHS are a combination of factors as you suggest (however, saying and thankful or unfriendly environment is you putting your bias into the factors). Two large factors would be the achievement gap and the correlation between race and SE class here. Essentially, RCHS appliant pool is Level IV students and as very few ED students are Level IV and a disproportionate percent of minorities are ED, you have a skewed pool on that basis alone. Threw in some of the other factors you mentioned and viola.  

2) Don't think much of charters - don't forget KIPP and Capital Prep which are 80% minority and kicking you know what are charters

3) My undergrad liberal liberal arts college wanted to be more racially diverse but struggled to attract qualified minority candidates (those that qualified were often more interested in places like Morehouse), so don't assume RCHS is thankful of the situation unless you know that is the case.

Response to below

Posting here for better format.

User - so it may not the concept of charter that is the issue, it may be the methodogies here. Asking the students - certainly couldn't hurt.

lferreri - my comment was based on a discussion I had on the issue with a student that was at my college via an "exchange" type program with Morehouse. To your point though that was some years ago, so perhaps that tendency has changed some although to user's point I think some people have a certain "comfort zone" with being in environments where one is not such a small minority.

I agree

I agree.  I used to teach accounting and the same thing happens to women in that field.  It takes some work to convince female students to go outside their "comfort zone" and major in accounting but it's getting better.

TP .. a few comments ... it

TP .. a few comments ... it seems like running a charter school for high performers white students is less risky than taking on the challenge of ED and minorities.  The state seems to value moving White students from 96% to 97% more than minorities from 30% to 50%.  I am remembering Guiding Light Charter?? for at risk kids that made substantial improvement but had not gotten them all to pass in their brief history  (which the public schools don't need to do and still stay in business).   Maybe that is why there is not a lot of KIPP/CP in the state since state metrics are skewed against taking risks. 

Second, a friendly enviroment for Blacks would be some place like Morehouse compared to being the only black in an all White school.   Many organizations could ignore that fact intentionally or unintentionally and continue to exclude minorities while appearing to be working otherwise.  By simple asking the high performing minority students around RCHS why they chose Enloe or SE we could probably quickly discover the answer on why RCHS has few minorities.

Number three

I'm not sure about number three.  While qualified minority candidates have a lot of choices, I don't think it's true that they are more often interested in HBCU.  Some are but many are not.  The percentage of minority students at selective colleges has increased tremendously over the past thirty five years since I was in college.  It takes some effort to get these students, (I used to serve on our university's interviewing committee so I saw the effort.) but it can be done if that's your goal.

Remember that RCHS got into trouble because they used to throw out any kid who failed one class.  The applicant pool may or may not be under their control but giving up on a student after one failure was something totally controlled by the school.  I think it sent a message, and I suspect that it was a message they wanted to send.

Kicking out a student after

Kicking out a student after one failure isn't a bad thing. The institution should be allowed to choose the standards it wants to maintain. Demanding standards extract the best from motivated students. For everyone else, there are the public schools.

I disagree

I disagree.  Even Ivy League schools don't kick someone out for failing one class and their students are obviously motivated.  I don't care if an institution wants to set its own standards, but charter schools are taking taxpayer money.  So, in my opinion, they have some responsibility to set reasonable standards.  If they want the freedom to do whatever they want, they should convert to being a private school. 

If a case is made for

If a case is made for diluting standards, why does one need to stop at a step lower and not go the whole nine yards? The same argument can be made for public university standards. Schools should be allowed to cater to students of different caliber. If students are taught that failure is not an option, that is not a bad thing at all for professions that have zero tolerance for mistakes.

Admissions

According to the post below, the math qualification process at RCHS involves a "math placement form indicating that the student is prepared for Algebra I or higher level math course and signed by the current math teacher".  The reason I said that it is similiar to the Algebra I decision described by SAS is that a high score on the EOG is not enough.  The student must also have a teacher recommendation.  (For the Algebra I decision, the student needs either a teacher recommendation or a high grade.)  The SAS report indicates that students with high EOG scores are not being placed in Algebra.  That leads me to believe that something beyond achievement is affecting this placement and could be affecting ED/minority applications to RCHS as well.  (The SAS report only deals with minority placement since they did not have ED data.)

That said, there could be other reasons why few ED/minority students are attending RCHS.   That's why I think an audit might be in order.

I will try to find the article about RCHS and the problem with their admission process.  If I remember correctly, it was several years ago.

Enloe? Neat. Nothing like

Enloe? Neat. Nothing like being a gang member from a top rated school.

What do they base this top in the nation on?

District: ED pass rate - 58.5%, NED - 85.8%

State: ED - 58.0%, NED - 79.1%

Broughton ED - 55.8%, NED - 88.6%

Enloe - ED - 38.4%, NED - 84.0%

RCHS has NO economically disadvantaged students.

 

Good point

I wonder how they decide that these are top schools.  And how can RCHS have no ED students?

well it's a Charter

well it's a Charter school.... (not governed by WCPSS)

Raleigh Charter High School is a public, college-preparatory school that serves students from North Carolina. Admission to the school is by public lottery.

Prospective students complete an application for admission to Raleigh Charter High School. Applicants must be ready for Algebra I or a higher mathematics course in the ninth grade. A math placement form indicating that the student is prepared for Algebra I or higher level math course and signed by the current math teacher, completes the application. During high school, students must take at least four courses in math and at least two consecutive years of a foreign language in order to graduate from Raleigh Charter High School. We offer math courses from Algebra I to Calculus III. Many courses are offered only at the honors (advanced) level.

Qualified siblings of current students and qualified children of the principal, teachers, and teacher assistants have preferences for admission.

We hold Information Sessions to give prospective students and parents a chance to view the school campus, to visit staff members, to pick up an application and information packet, and to hear programs about our school.

Demographic Data

Enrollment 520
Minority Enrollment (% of total) 4.6%
Disadvantaged Student Enrollment (% of total) 0.0%

Is my math correct?

Is my math correct that RCHS has only 24 minority students out of 520? 

I think on average the

I think on average the number of minority and poor kids you have determines the school's aggregate score.  Ditto county performance.  Therefore, a school that is 100% minority / poor will score say 30% pass and a school that is 100% wealth White will score 100% pass.  Depending on how many minority / poor kids are mixed in determines the aggregate school score.  Last I looked RCHS performance with 5% minority was similar to Green Hope HS with 5% minority. So, that is on average.  The real success is bucking the odds.  We need to look for schools that are say 100% minority and poor and should have 30% pass yet have 80% pass.  There is something unique about that school that needs to be replicated.    For me, having a school with 95% wealth white like some of the schools of excellence and having 97% pass is a given not an accomplishment and would have happened with or without teachers by simply giving the kids work books each day.  Personally, the great accomplishment will be moving low wealth schools from 30% to 60% not high wealth school from 96% to 97%.  

It seems unusual that RCHS would be in surrounds by 40% minority and randomly only end up with 5% minority.  I am guessing there is some factor that makes them inaccessible to minorities – information, prerequisite, legacy, etc. – and conspires to keep them out.  Note RCHS’s students come from seven?  counties not just Wake.  Again, taking the top students and moving them from 95% to 98% is interesting but not the problem we are facing which is taking the 40-50% minority / low wealth students and moving them from 30% to some average like 80% since they will soon make up the new majority in 20 years.

So....

Inaccessible, or just unattractive?  There's no requirement that each charter school should be equally attractive to every student in the surrounding area.

One possible reason for low F&R participation in charter schools is that most charter schools don't provide lunch--it's just not economically feasible.

"I am guessing there is some

"I am
guessing there is some factor that makes them inaccessible to
minorities – information, prerequisite, legacy, etc. – and conspires to
keep them out."

While we're guessing, I'll throw in mine.  I would think that the primary factor would be the requirement for the parents to provide their own transportation.   This is also a factor that has caused many parents to be unable to have their children participate in the magnet program.  Though my family is not NED, the inability to provide transportation (plus a deep seated hate of long bus rides, based on witnessing abuse by fellow students when I had long bus rides myself as a child) have made magnet schools inaccessible to my kids. 

 

I don't think it's a conspiracy.

 

Transportation

I think transportation could have some impact but that wouldn't hold for charter schools like RCHS.  There are plenty of minority and ED kids who could easily walk there.  I live near Endeavor Charter School which used to house the Magellan Charter School.  Again, there are plenty of minority kids who could walk there.  In fact, Lead Mine School is less than a mile away and has lots of minority and ED students.  I'm sure some are bussed there but I see plenty of minority kids walking there when I drive by.  From what I have seen, charter schools in Raleigh are generally almost all white or almost all minority.  I think Keung had a blog about this a while back.

Amen, I second all this

Amen, I second all this (except I never rode the bus, I walked-over a mile to HS)

Uphill, both ways?

Uphill, both ways?Wink

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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