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.
Branch explained that data wasn't stressed as much in the past for placement decisions so teacher professional judgement was often used. Professional judgement is still a factor but use of data, particularly EVAAS, is stressed now.
Branch said that teachers must now document in writing why they're not recommending that a student be placed in Pre-Algebra or Algebra I if EVAAS indicates they're ready.
Branch said there are compelling reasons why teachers might not recommend placement even though the EVAAS data says otherwise.
School board member John Tedesco, chairman of the task force, said he was concerned about professional judgement bypassing the EVAAS data. He was joined in by committee members complaining that students are still being denied the chance to take these advanced classes.
It's a bid deal as Branch said that getting students successfully through Algebra I in eight-grade puts them on a path for success through high school, college and life.
Marvin Connelly, assistant superintendent for student support services, said that professional judgement was left in the criteria as a way to encourage teachers to send kids in to these math classes that the data indicated might not be ready. But he said the reality is that kids are being excluded based on allowing professional judgement.
Tedesco asked staff to provide detailed information by school on how many students are in Pre-Algebra and Algebra I and how many were not placed despite the EVAAS data. He said they'll continue to ride staff hard on this issue.