Politics & Government

NC lawmakers drop 1-year delay in placing bright students in advanced math classes

‘Counted Out’ explores why low-income children are often left out of gifted classes in NC

In North Carolina public schools, low-income children who score at the top level on end-of-grade math tests aren't getting an equal chance at gifted classes, a News & Observer/Charlotte Observer investigation reveals. In this video, we explain how
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In North Carolina public schools, low-income children who score at the top level on end-of-grade math tests aren't getting an equal chance at gifted classes, a News & Observer/Charlotte Observer investigation reveals. In this video, we explain how

North Carolina legislators have dropped a proposal to give most schools a one-year delay from having to place high-scoring students in advanced math courses.

Last June, state lawmakers overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation to require schools to place in advanced math classes any students who scored a Level 5 — the highest level on state math exams. On Wednesday, the state House unanimously passed revisions to the law but did not include changes that would have exempted many schools from the placement requirements.

“This deals with a piece of legislation that we passed last year to ensure that children regardless of race, creed, where they live, etc. are able to get advanced math courses,” said Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican and co-chairman of the House Education Committee. “It passed in a bipartisan way, and we very much support that.”

Senate Bill 500 returns to the Senate, which had unanimously adopted a previous version of the bill.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have credited the 2018 law 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 while lower-scoring students were being placed.

The 2018 law had said that students needed to be placed in these advanced courses “when practicable.” But some school districts, such as Wake County, have complained it was difficult to meet the requirements.

Changes added in the House Education Committee last week said districts didn’t have to carry out the law for the 2019-20 school year. Another change said that high-scoring seventh-grade students didn’t have to be placed in a high school math class in eighth grade.

Counted Out showed how 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.

Elmore introduced an amendment on Wednesday that he said would address the concerns that they were backing away from the 2018 law. The amendment dropped the one-year delay and the wording about not placing students in high school math in eighth grade.

The amendment does exempt around 100 middle schools that don’t currently offer high school math. But the amendment does require them to report to State Superintendent Mark Johnson by Jan. 15 about how they intend to offer the courses and if not, the reasons why.

Elmore said that report will help them determine what resources are needed to make sure all schools are following the 2018 law. He said lawmakers may be able to provide additional support to those schools next year.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.
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