Wake Ed

Apex High’s AOIT program draws high marks but needs more diversity

At PC MedEvac in Cary, Rob Clive, left, works with Apex High School seniors Oz Profesorsky, center, and Josh Watson in this 2010 file photo. Behind them is Apex High junior Tommy Genduso. All three students were members of Apex High School’s Academy of Information Technology.
At PC MedEvac in Cary, Rob Clive, left, works with Apex High School seniors Oz Profesorsky, center, and Josh Watson in this 2010 file photo. Behind them is Apex High junior Tommy Genduso. All three students were members of Apex High School’s Academy of Information Technology. ehyman@newsobserver.com

A Wake County school board committee will discuss Monday school technology, school crime, selection of classroom materials and an evaluation of Apex High School’s Academy of Information Technology (AOIT).

Apex High’s AOIT program helps students learn programming and computer applications. Technology is integrated into regular courses, such as biology, by creating websites, video and PowerPoint presentations.

The program started in 2001 and is so popular that a lottery is used to fill seats.

The evaluation found that Apex’s AOIT program caused a one-third decrease in absences and significant seven-to-eight percent increases in on-time graduation and college enrollment.

But the report found that even with the lottery there was an over concentration of students from certain groups. Evaluators are recommending increasing outreach to underrepresented groups, such as black, Hispanic/Latino and female students, as well as students in the middle of the achievement distribution.

The report also recommends that career academies at other schools that have more applicants than seats also use a lottery system.

Staff will also update the school board’s student achievement committee on the progress of distributing 52,000 new laptop computers and tablets to schools. Wake is trying to reach a ratio of one device for every three students.

Wake has finished distributing the devices in high schools and the 12 elementary schools in the Elementary Support Model (ESM) program, which get additional support because of their low test scores and high student poverty rate.

Distribution is underway in the middle schools. The other elementary schools will get their new computers last.

The new computers supplement Wake’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program used in many schools. In those schools, students are encouraged to bring personal laptops, tablets and smartphones for use in class.

The committee will then review the results of the 2015-16 school crime and violence report. Fewer school crimes were committed last school year than the prior school year. Possession of a controlled substance and possession of a weapon other than a firearm accounted for 85 percent of the reported school crimes in Wake County.

The rate of Wake school crime and violence has dropped from 7.531 acts per 1,000 students in the 2011-12 school year to 5.293 acts last school year. Wake’s crime rate is lower than the state average and the average in the state’s other large school districts.

Next, the committee will hear about the process that staff is using to recommend new core curriculum materials. Wake asked parents to attend community forums in February and March to give their feedback on products being considered for math in high school and in language arts in grades three through eight.

Wake is weighing whether to use a traditional textbook publisher or an open education resource (OER) provider.

If Wake goes the traditional route, the publisher would provide a textbook in book and digital form, other online resources and support that these large companies can offer.

If Wake goes with an OER provider, it would be using material that’s in the public domain or is allowed to be used for free by the provider. Wake would pay for things such as teacher answer keys and professional development for teachers.

A recommendation on which vendors to use could go before the school board in May.

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