Task force told Knightdale schools’ problems are not unique

mhankerson@newsobserver.comNovember 27, 2013 

— Problems experienced in Knightdale schools are the same as any school in the Wake County system, a community task force was told Tuesday.

Members of the Knightdale Area Education Work Group met Tuesday evening to address how the town and county handle academically and intellectually gifted students.

It was the third in a series of meetings in which community members expressed concern about losing advanced students to schools outside of Knightdale because the town’s schools don’t offer magnet programs.

“There’s nothing that stands out in Knightdale that isn’t a concern for us as a district,” said Ruth Steidinger, Wake County’s senior director of academic programs and support.

Data presented at the group’s Nov. 12 meeting show older students are leaving Knightdale schools for magnet schools in other parts of the county.

“A common theme seems to be that parents of students who are performing well have the perception that their students will have more choices and better opportunity at other schools,” said District 1 school board representative Tom Benton.

Even though the data do not indicate only high-performing students are moving out of Knightdale schools, academic data do show academically gifted students in the Knightdale area usually fell below the county average for meeting their growth targets.

Achievement data presented at the work group’s first meeting showed advanced and gifted students weren’t improving on par with their peers at Knightdale High School, but students not considered academically gifted were meeting their growth targets.

Across the county, 74 percent of gifted and advanced students were meeting their growth targets in the 2011-2012 school year. At Knightdale High, only 67 percent of advanced and gifted students were meeting their designated growth targets.

Growth targets do not measure proficiency. Brad McMillan, senior director of data and accountability, presented the data and told the work group that students can improve and meet growth targets and still not meet proficiency standards, just like advanced and gifted students can exceed profiency standards but not meet their growth targets.

Steidinger told the work group that her office is working to increase academic rigor across the board.

“That’s imperative, that’s got to happen,” said Nancy Allen, principal at East Wake Middle School. “You want every kid to have to reach” for academic success.

The Wake County school board is scheduled to vote next week on a plan to revise programming from academically gifted students. The new plan of attack comes in the wake of a July independent audit that identified poorly organized programs and outdated policies in the county school system’s curriculum for academically gifted students.

The group has five meetings scheduled and wants to identify problems within Knightdale schools and create recommendations to present to the Board of Education in early 2014. The meetings are set up to provide the group with relevant data and facilitate discussion to start examining concerns.

The next meeting will be held Dec. 12.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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