October 10, 2013
Most students won’t meet
new state standards
Most North Carolina students won’t meet tough new academic standards set for release in November, prompting state leaders to warn that passing rates could drop as much as 40 percentage points in a single year.
The decline in some schools could be so dramatic that the State Board of Education debated last week whether the new standards were too high. They ultimately decided to stick with the higher benchmarks despite concerns about a public backlash.
“North Carolina students didn’t lose ground in their learning last year, but they are being measured against a higher standard with more rigorous expectations for applying knowledge and skills to real-world problems,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson. “In order for our students to be competitive upon graduation, we have an obligation to expect more from them.”
But expecting more is probably going to hurt at first. Schools and parents used to seeing proficiency rates of 85 to 95 percent could find that a third to a half of their students’ are no longer meeting new definitions of grade level work.
Also In This Issue
Group to focus on Knightdale area schools
School bond wins easily; Two incumbents return to board
Wake SAT scores increase
Adults are students, too — so pay attention
Hall of Fame inductees honored as part of 30th anniversary
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Other individual schools, including some in Wake County, could drop further with only a third of students or less meeting the new standards of proficiency. Individual school rates won’t be known until the state’s scheduled release of all results Nov. 7.
The prediction by state school officials is part of a press release distributed with little fanfare after the last State Board of Education meeting. A chart contained in the release predicts less than half of all students in elementary and middle school will meet new reading standards. About 35 to 40 percent of students are expected to meet new middle school math standards.
The results are from exams taken at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. They will not affect a student’s grades from last year or their grade level. But the new standards and lower proficiency rates are an excellent guide to what lies ahead now that the new Common Core State Standards Initiative is being used in North Carolina.
Forty-five states agreed to participate in the Common Core initiative in 2012-2013 and eventually the students in all those states will be held to the same proficiency standards. But those standards aren’t final yet, which meant states could effectively set their passing rates wherever they wanted this year.
After a bit of hesitation, North Carolina leaders decided schools here might as well get used to the Common Core’s higher set of expectations – even if passing rates dropped dramatically at first.
The move toward new Common Core national standards began more than five years ago, led by the nation’s governors and top state school officials. It was later endorsed and encouraged by federal officials. The initiative will make it possible to accurately compare academic progress throughout the states using international standards designed to keep U.S. graduates globally competitive.
Local schools are expected to decide for themselves how to meet the new standards, meaning there is no national Common Core curriculum. Instead, it uses exams that emphasize a student’s ability to apply knowledge instead of simply memorizing content.
Those goals are being widely applauded by business groups, including local business leaders who gathered less than a month ago at the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce to release a report about the growing “skills gap” in the workplace. Without high classroom standards, the group said, students will be unable to compete effectively in the workplace.
As Knightdale goes….
The schools in eastern Wake County have always enjoyed a strong sense of identity through the years. Much of it could be traced to the fact that US 64 was the only obvious way to cross the Neuse River on the way to Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon.
That helped make the schools an integral part of their communities. It also buffered them at times from issues of student reassignment and growth. And it helped create an academic downside that school district leaders can no longer ignore.
Third-grade reading scores in some east Wake schools now lag the district average by as much as 15 percentage points. The long decline in test scores pushed families to enroll in magnet programs inside the Beltline. A charter school in Zebulon that enrolls 1,000 children has further weakened school-community ties.
“We have an entire small town on the verge of losing confidence in the public schools,” said school board member Tom Benton, who represents the schools of east Wake.
Superintendent Jim Merrill recently met with mayors from east Wake to discuss the needs of their schools. He also made it clear the district does not have the money to address the needs of every town east of the Neuse River. The group agreed to focus on Knightdale.
The town of less than 15,000 is hardly large compared to Raleigh or Cary, but it is the biggest town in east Wake. And as board Chair Keith Sutton explained. “As goes Knightdale, so goes the area.”
The first formal step will be a series of five meetings with community leaders, educators, business groups, parents and others. The group will be asked to establish priorities for the elementary, middle and high school programs. Some of those recommendations will be incorporated into the district’s budget for next year.
It’s too early to know what those suggestions might include, but the discussion will begin with the recent findings of an audit done at four area schools. The audit suggested academic expectations are not consistently high enough in the Knightdale area schools and the district’s resources are not spent equitably considering the schools’ needs.
About half to two-thirds of the students in Knightdale area schools come from low-income families, a much higher percentage than the estimated income levels of area residents. Those students deserve a good education – as do all families in the community, said board member Jim Martin.
“We need to find a way to connect with all the families in the community…and find out what it would take to get them back,” Martin said.
School bond request wins easily;
Two incumbents returned to board
Strong support Tuesday among voters in Garner, Raleigh, Cary and western Wake will allow the county to issue $810 million in school construction bonds during the next four years to keep up with enrollment growth and needed renovations.
The support from the more populated parts of Wake allowed bond supporters to claim 58 percent of the vote. The money will be used to build 16 new schools, overhaul six existing schools, make repairs at more than half of Wake’s schools and spend $64 million to upgrade wiring, servers and other school technology needs.
Wake Education Partnership was among numerous business and community groups that supported the bond request. The Wake County Public School System currently enrolls 153,000 students and expects 20,000 more by 2018. Many repairs have been delayed the past few years after bond money approved by voters in 2006 was spent.
Yes (green) 58% No (blue) 42%
As shown in the Wake Board of Elections map to the right, support for the request was weakest in precincts along the northern, eastern and southern edges of the county – including Rolesville where a new high school just opened this year. Exceptions to that pattern were the southeastern precincts near the Garner area.
Garner High School will be gutted and overhauled as part of the construction program because it relies on 40 classroom trailers and numerous retrofits to accommodate hundreds of students beyond its original capacity. A separate new high school will also be built to the southeast.
The vote allows the county commissioners to increase taxes up to 5.5 cents per $100 of property value. The increase translates into roughly $145 per year on homes with the average county tax value of $263,500.
The races for four school board seats generated significantly less attention and controversy than the 2009 elections. Two of the four board members elected in 2009 left before their terms ended. John Tedesco of Garner chose not to run again and Deborah Prickett of northwest Wake was defeated Tuesday. Bill Fletcher and Tom Benton, both recently appointed, were elected.
The four maps below offer a quick overview of the races and where the candidates drew support within their districts. All maps are from the Wake County Board of Elections website.
District 1 (East Wake)
Tom Benton (green) 52%
Don McIntyre (blue) 48%
District 2 (Southwest Wake)
Monika Johnson-Hostler (green) 54%
Matt Scruggs (46%)
District 7 (Northwest Wake)
Zora Felton (green) 58%
Deborah Prickett (blue) 42%
District 9 (Cary area)
Bill Fletcher (blue) 51%
Nancy Caggia (green) 49%
…The average SAT score for Wake County high school seniors who took the exam in the 2012-13 school year went up seven points from the previous year, according to results released in late September by the College Board. Wake seniors earned an average of 1572 on the college entrance exam, surpassing the state average by 93 points and exceeding the national average by 74 points. Wake County test takers also continued to outperform students in the state’s other large urban districts. Full results from the district can be found here.
…Adults are students, too – and the math, reading and problem-solving skills of U.S. adults fare poorly when compared to adults of other countries. That’s according to a new international study released this week looking at the links between educated adults and economic development. In a global economy where using technology to solve problems has become a crucial skill, those without that skill could find their earning potential decline as they get older. Moreover, countries with the strongest economies also tend to be the ones that emphasize continuous retraining and education for adults.
…The Partnership would like to offer a special thank you to those who attended its 30th anniversary celebration Oct. 3 and once again congratulate the first inductees into the Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame.
Dr. Bill McNeal, former WCPSS superintendent
Ann Goodnight, on behalf of SAS
Sherry Worth, lifelong community leader
Zach Clayton, president and CEO Three Ships Media
David West, Indiana Pacers
Dr. Elizabeth Grimes-Droessler, WCPSS senior administrator for the arts
Former schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Bridges and and G. Smedes York, chairman of the board of York Properties, were also selected to receive special Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Wake Education Partnership is a 501(c)(3) non-profit created in 1983 to support public schools, in part by educating the community on current school issues and serving as a strong advocate for student achievement and world-class academic standards. Most of its financial support comes from individuals and local businesses. Please send comments or questions to Tim Simmons, VP of Communications,or visit our website .