Education

Bright, low-income NC students will now get a chance to take advanced classes

Hundreds, if not thousands, of bright, low-income North Carolina students will now get access to advanced math courses that were denied to them in the past by their school systems.

The state House voted 93-12 on Thursday to back a bill that requires traditional public schools to place in advanced math classes any students who scored a Level 5 — the highest level on state end-of-grade or end-of-course math exams. The bill, which was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Senate, goes to Gov. Roy Cooper for his approval.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have credited the bill to the 2017 News & Observer and Charlotte Observer "Counted Out" series that showed that thousands of bright, low-income students were being excluded from advanced classes.

"As we learned from a series of newspaper articles, there were a number of low-income children that were left out of the opportunity to take advanced math classes, and this bill remedies that," Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Raleigh Democrat, said before Wednesday's vote.

"Counted Out" showed that as bright children from low-income families start fourth grade, they are much more likely to be excluded from the more rigorous classes than their peers from families with higher incomes.

The unequal treatment during the six years ending in 2015 resulted in 9,000 low-income children in North Carolina being kept out of classes that could have opened a new academic world to them.

These high-potential, low-income students are less likely to take high school math in middle school, an important step toward the type of transcript that will open college doors. Only 1 of every 2 low-income third-graders who scored above grade level in 2010 took high school math in middle school, compared with 3 of 4 more-affluent students with the same scores.

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