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?

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Dealing with the reading drop

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There's a lot of work ahead for raising reading scores in Wake and statewide.

As noted in today's article, Wake's performance on the ABCs of Public Education was hammered by the new reading EOG exams. Wake's reading EOG passing rate was 66 percent in 2007-08, down from 91 percent the previous year.

But Wake is stressing that it's still better than the statewide reading EOG average of 57 percent.

In its press release, Wake is also touting how it continues to outperform other urban districts.

"The 63.8 percent of WCPSS students achieving proficiency on the third grade reading End-of-Grade test compared with 56.8 percent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg students, 54.2 percent of Guilford County students, 52.9 percent of Forsyth County students and 41.6 percent of Durham County students," according to the press release.

Looking at individual schools, there's a lot of room for improvement.

Nearly every Wake elementary and middle school saw a double-digit drop in its percentage of students passing the reading EOG.

The smallest decline was for Davis Drive Elementary School, which fell from 98.6 percent passing reading to 91.3 percent. It was the only school who didn't see a double-digit decline.

The biggest dip was at Barwell Road Elementary School, which saw its passing rate for reading fall by more than half. It's at 36.2 percent now. It had been at 84.8 percent.

Click here for a school district handout listing school-by-school reading results.

You can click here to look it up yourself on DPI's Web site. Pick the year you want to view. You'll get even more detail, such as performance by individual student groups.

(If you notice any apparent discrepancy between your results and Wake's, keep in mind that the district is mentioning the passing percentage on the multiple-choice test used by most students. They're not including the severely learning-disabled students who have to take alternative tests.)


Corrected blog post to show that Davis Drive Elementary had the smallest reading decline in Wake.


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Ok that means that last year

Ok that means that last year 25% of the kids who got a 3 or better got only 43% correct.. Add the 9% who failed the test last year and that means 34% would not of gotten a passing grade by nationals standards last year. About 1/3 of Wake is not meeting National standards. Maybe Wake might actual want to start following Fed guidelines for special ed or consider what VA is doing to raise its poor performing schools. IE lower teacher student ratio more reading specialist at each school ect… Less bus drivers,computors and more teachers

Yes, there is work.....

Yes, there certainly a lot of work ahead. However, the current BoE(eR) and WCPSS senior management does NOT have the cognitive ability (intelligence) to 1) process the information; 2) develop a strategy based on the data; 3) set a appropriate goal; 4) implement a plan that actually works with certain budget constraints.

In the past 15 years, watching WCPSS/BoE(eR) make serious decisions was very similar to watching the "man-apes" dancing around the "obelisk" in "2001: A Space Odyssey." Once they were done "dancing" their solution was always the same; "mo money, mo money, mo money" and "trust us, we are educators and we know what we are doing." They FAILED every time, never forget that, THEY FAILED!

As pointed out below, there is a economic storm coming, and the "honey pot" (taxpayers money) will soon be empty.


Let's be careful -- "mo money" for education can be a good thing and, in some cases, is probably necessary.   But, whether it does any good depends on whether it is well-spent.  I would be willing to pay more property taxes (even in today's economic climate) if doing so would help create high-quality schools.  But, the school district shows an amazing inability to effectively spend money to improve education.

A large part of the problem, I think, is that the district and the State don't face the right incentives.  Like all bureacracies, they're motivated by empire-building and the approval of their peers (influenced largely by the flavor-of-the-day education theory).  Unfortunately, neither of these hinge on student success.


Dump ABCs, Use ITBS

One more reason to dump NC's unique tests, considered the weakest in the nation by the US Department of Education, and adopt an accepted norm like the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, ITBS.  Until this happens, NCDPI and WCPSS will game the system, tweaking it every few years to provide an excuse not to cut bonuses to teachers. The coming economic collapse under Mr. Obama will however nullify bonuses for the next four years, though. The money simply won't be there. Boom times though will continue for non-government schools with higher standards demnanded by the free market.


If some other state is doing it better than we are in North Carolina, why not do what they do?  One of the beauties of the federal system is that every state gets to experiment on its own to see what works.  But, the implication is that when something does work, other states will pick it up.

Wake County will never be a high-quality school system if it continues to compare itself with other NC districts and with other "large" districts, most of which are generally terrible.  Instead, it ought to pick a basket of high-quality districts (including both large and small districts, both in and outside the State) and measure how will it performs to those districts.

Unfortunately, the State's mandating of curriculum and testing doesn't help. 

More finger pointing......

Bob -- I point the finger directly at the bureacrates at Department of Public Instruction.    Cut their budget by 50%, tell them to stop meddling in the County's school systems (micro-managing), and go back to their base mission.   Another great idea would be to move the entire Department out of Raleigh and into a "bligted" rural country, where the jobs would be appreciate.  Keep a small staff in Raleigh, but move the troops.  

I believe that many of the decisions coming out of DPI over the years are nothing more than attempts to grow in size/power/bigger budgets.   They have to justify their existence to the NCGA and this is how. 

How many bureacrates from DPI live inside the Raleigh beltline?  


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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.