As the East Wake Education Work Group continues to meet, some productive brainstorming is beginning to emerge from two-hour long, monthly sessions involving educators, administrators and community members.
While the 11 East Wake schools – counting the four high schools, two middle and five elementary schools – are not always topping the charts for achievement, community members are determined to change that.
The sessions are interactive and designed to generate discussion and feedback. Regarding achievement, participants listed strengths of area schools, including:
▪ Maintaining a graduation rate consistent with the county. In 2014, East Wake hit the county average, graduating 82.9 percent of its students.
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▪ Schools setting their own individual goals.
▪ Advanced placement exams consistent with other schools. While Wake County has an average of 18 AP classes per school, East Wake offered 12 total. However, 24 percent of students took a course compared to the county average of 23 percent.
▪ Average elementary school results compared to Wake County.
▪ Growth consistent with Wake County schools.
Concerns the groups listed included:
▪ Embarrassing ACT scores. According to countywide data, last year 34 percent of East Wake students met the college-ready benchmark in English, 22 percent in math, 20 percent in reading and 16 percent in science, compared to county averages of 56 percent, 25 percent, 42 percent and 39 percent respectively. East Wake schools fell 14 percent below the district average.
▪ Socioeconomic factors
▪ Lack of parent involvement
▪ There is disparity between white and minority student proficiency within East Wake, and a similar disparity between white students in East Wake and white students district-wide proficiency.
One comment simply read: “Overall picture is troubling.”
Brad McMillen, Assistant Superintendent for Data, Research, and Accountability at Wake County Public School System, answered questions from parents including topics of the impact of socioeconomic status on academic achievement.
“In the eastern area, performance of students from lower-income backgrounds is right around the district level overall,” he said in a written response via email to the group.
“So in a sense, it is not the case that other schools around the district are helping those students perform better than schools in Eastern Wake; it’s just that there are a lot more of them in that part of the county.”
In the same document, he noted that the school system doesn’t track reasons students drop out “terribly well” – saying that with 40 percent of dropouts due to lack of attendance, a cause has not been named.
“Knowing why a student stops attending in the run-up to actually dropping out would be much more informative, but can sometimes be hard for a school to determine,” he said. Around 15 percent of students finish at community college and another 8 percent leave for “unknown reasons.”
Several work sessions have dealt with issues like how to tackle subjects like engaging the community, how to improve achievement, how to boost resources, improving the academic environment and teaching or learning styles.
The work group meets again Thursday at East Wake High School to start mapping out recommendations in some of those key areas. Those recommendations will be sent to the school board for action.