No one disputes that more should be done to help the low-performing students at Enloe High School but the problem seems to be finding the right solution.
As noted in today's article, the rejection of the block schedule has left Enloe's leadership looking for alternatives. The challenge is finding something that will help the low-performing students without causing too many changes that would draw complaints from magnet students and their parents.
And with one current Enloe parent and two former Enloe parents now elected as school board members, what else is in store for the magnet school? Enloe has the dubious distinction of having the lowest passing rates on state tests among Wake's high schools for black and low-income students.
“We certainly need to be concerned if the minority and the economically deprived students at Enloe are not performing well,” said new school board member Susan Evans, the mother of two Enloe graduates.
“We have to realize there’s a huge concentration of those students there.”
At Enloe, 2010-2011 scores show that 54.5 percent of African-American students and 51.2 percent of low-income students passed state exams.
The high schools where students from these groups scored highest were Green Hope, with 83.1 percent of African-American students passing, and Panther Creek, with 84.6 of low-income students passing.
As Evans noted, those groups made up much smaller segments at the Western Wake schools than at Enloe. At the school, about 40 percent of those taking the tests were African-American, who posted a 62 percent passing rate on ninth grade English. At Green Hope, only about 6 percent of those taking the test were African-American, of whom 84 percent passed the night grade English tests.
New board member Jim Martin said a numbers of factors — such as functional illiteracy among some students — means it’s unwise to put too much weight on a single statistic like the low passing rate among black students at Enloe.
“We need to make sure a kid can read before a kid takes biology,” said Martin, who has a daughter at Enloe.
New board member Christine Kushner, whose son attended Enloe, agrees that the school must address the achievement gap, citing efforts that are already under way. The tutoring program CONCERT, for Communities Organizing to Nurture and Celebrate East Raleigh Talent, is one step Enloe parents have taken toward getting under-achieving students up to speed.
“We use teachers at Enloe who know the students,” Kushner said of the grant-funded program. “They know the course of study, they know the students, they know the parents. The point is that we a reaching kids who need academic support, and we’re using teachers to provide it.”
School board vice chairman John Tedesco says that the block schedule proposal for Enloe was not mandated by the board or Superintendent Tony Tata's office. But he said now that it's been dropped, Enloe needs to come up with something else to address the problem.
"How can we challenge our most gifted students while also raising our most vulnerable students?” Tedesco said. “That’s the crux of the challenge at Enloe. But that’s not only a problem at Enloe. This is something we need to address at all our schools.”
Jennifer Mansfield, a longtime critic of Wake’s magnet program, questioned the fairness of leaving the decision up to Enloe when the block schedule is required at the other Wake high schools. She said the Enloe community is acting as if they’re so much better than everyone else that they should be entitled to not have to use the block schedule.
“People don’t want to see kids left behind,” said Mansfield, who ran for school board this year. “But the moment you think of taking away something they feel they deserve, it all goes out the window."
Click here for a prior blog post with more background on the block schedule discussion at Enloe.