Is the Wake County school system the best in the state of North Carolina and one of the best in the nation?
Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill made both assertions during his speech at last Wednesday’s town hall meeting. Merrill pumped up the crowd of more than 700 people who went on to vote on the top priorities that they want the district to focus on in the new five-year strategic plan.
“We’re a very good school system,” Merrill said to applause from the crowd. “Clearly, we’re the best in the state of North Carolina. We’re one of the best in the nation. I say it again, we’re one of the best in the nation also. And we stay one of the best because of efforts like this that say we’re not satisfied with where we are and we’ve got to get better.”
Merrill said he wanted to share some “positive” information with the audience.
Merrill produced slides showing how Wake’s passing rates on the state’s language arts and math exams are higher than the state average. The data is through the 2012-13 school year as the 2013-14 data isn’t public yet.
The next slides showed how nearly all of Wake’s schools are meeting EVAAS growth expectations on state exams.
Merrill then showed slides of how Wake’s enrollment on Advanced Placement courses and exams has gone up since the 1996-97 school year. He also pointed to how Wake’s passing rate on the AP exams is higher than the state and national averages.
Merrill pointed to how Wake’s average SAT score is also above the state and national averages while still having a high participation rate on the college admissions exam.
For the ACT exam, Merrill showed how Wake’s percentage of students scoring as college ready is above the state average.
“I told you that we were best in the state, didn’t I,” Merrill said.
Merrill then pointed to how Wake’s dropout rate has been consistently going downward and is at an all-time low.
Merrill did briefly acknowledge that there are academic issues that Wake faces.
“There’s data I’m not showing,” Merrill said. “There’s data behind all these tables that shows gap differences that are meaningful and significant. It would have lengthened this presentation, but I’m not discounting the fact that we’ve got issues of gap closure that we need to address as well.”
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system and possibly some others in the state may dispute the idea of Wake being North Carolina’s best school system.