Wake Ed

Wake County school board to discuss math placement guidelines

Will the Wake County school system back away from prior efforts to increase access in advanced math classes in middle school?

One of the agenda topics at today’s Wake County school board student achievement committee meeting is an update on math placement guidelines. Those guidelines will get a lot of scrutiny from parents.

Math placement in Wake in the past five years has been a contentious issue.

The former school board majority, citing the 2009 SAS EVAAS report, argued that too many qualified minority students were being placed in lower-level courses instead of Algebra I in middle school. They made a push that sharply increased overall Algebra I enrollment.

The talk was about how this access would increase the likelihood of these students to attend college.

The new board majority has raised concerns that the placement standards, which used EVAAS, meant too many students were being placed in classes that they were not ready to take.

Combine that with the move to Common Core last school year, which saw complaints from some parents of gifted students that their children weren’t being given the chance to be placed in a rigorous enough math class.

On Feb. 7 during the school board retreat, board members heard a presentation from researchers from the "Strategic Data Project" at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and SDP Data Fellows program. Two researchers are looking into Wake’s college-going trends.

One of the findings from Wake schools was that “a strong relationship exists between high school graduation and 8th grade math performance.” The report also found that a missing math credit was the largest reason, at 21 percent, for why ninth-grade students fall off track for graduating in four years.

After the presentation, board members broke up into small groups to discuss the findings. One of the groups said that the research showed that have a sound math background is important and questioned whether pushing more students into advanced math classes was causing students to trip up.