North Carolina’s largest school system wants to start a new program to help more “missing” high school students enroll in advanced courses, particularly those who are from low-income and/or minority groups.
Wake County school administrators on Monday presented a plan to hire Equal Opportunity Schools, a Seattle-based nonprofit, to work with seven high schools to identify, recruit and support more students to take upper-level courses.
The effort comes as Wake, like many school systems, has disproportionately low percentages of some student groups taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Honors courses.
Wake County refers to those who could benefit from these programs, but don’t enroll, as “missing students.”
The contract would cost $188,000 over two years. The seven high schools haven’t been chosen yet.
Although the vote on the contract isn’t until Aug. 18, school board members praised the program Monday.
“This is a great direction and a modest investment,” said school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner. “The data shows we’re not doing enough.”
The new program is one of the strategies school administrators want to use to help reach the goal of having 95 percent of students graduating by 2020.
Wake would work with Equal Opportunity Schools to “achieve equitable enrollments” in advanced courses and improve overall success in those courses for all students. The nonprofit launched a $100 million national initiative in April to identify and enroll 100,000 low-income students and “students of color” in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureat courses.
Students take AP classes to try to boost their grade-point-averages and to get college credit.
In the 2013-14 school year, black students accounted for 26 percent of Wake’s high school enrollment but only 8 percent of enrollment in AP courses. A similar gap occurred with Hispanic students, who accounted for 13 percent of the high school enrollment but only 6 percent of the AP enrollment.
Rodney Trice, Wake’s assistant superintendent for equity affairs, said the program would target students which the data suggests have the capacity to do well in higher-level courses.
“We’re not just necessarily throwing students into AP courses if something about their history doesn’t suggest that they would do well in those courses,” Trice said.