Knightdale schools work group begins drafting recommendations

mhankerson@newsobserver.comNovember 15, 2013 

— The Knightdale Area Education Work Group began discussing reccomendations for the Wake County Board of Education at its second meeting last week.

Armed with student achievement and assignment data, the 30-person group of community members, parents and school staff members made several recommendations about addressing the needs of student subgroups, like economically disadvantaged and advanced or intellectually gifted (AIG) students.

An equal distribution of resources was a repeated concern, but the group also questioned if Knightdale was offering anything special to keep students in the town’s schools.

The group has five meetings scheduled and wants to identify problems within Knightdale schools and create recommendations to present to the Board of Education in early 2014. The meetings are set up to provide the group with relevant data and facilitate discussion to start examining concerns.

Magnet options for older students

At the first meeting, Wake County Senior Director of Student Assignment Laura Evans presented data that seemed to suggest that, as students aged, they opted to attend schools outside of Knightdale.

At the request of the group, Evans presented more data that showed there is no pattern to when students choose to leave Knightdale schools, but there is a slight increase in students choosing to go to magnet schools as they get older.

The percentage of students choosing magnet schools outside eastern Wake spikes in 10th grade, when 28.6 percent of students pursue a magnet option.

“This confirms something some of you have been thinking all along,” Evans said.

Members of several small working groups said their biggest concern was that there are no magnet choices for high school students in Knightdale. They suggested developing some sort of program for Knightdale High School and possibly extending it to lower grades to create a feeder pattern to retain those students.

District 1 school board representative Tom Benton told his group he wasn’t neccesarily suggesting a magnet program, but some type of program that would encourage students to remain in Knightdale throughout their education.

“If Knightdale High School had an attractive magnet that you had to stay at East Wake Middle School for,” students might stay, he told his small group.

Another group said they were also concerned about magnet options in the town, but said it could be solved by marketing Knightdale High better to parents. Their recommendation did not include creating a magnet option but instead focused on stregthening programs currently offered at Knightdale High School.

Addressing the gap in growth

Even though most groups saw the same need with student assignment data, there was a laundry list of concerns about student achievement.

Groups expressed concern over the success of limited English profiency (LEP) students, economically and non-economically disadvantaged students and AIG students.

Senior Director for Data and Accountability Brad McMillen presented data about proficiency and growth at the first meeting. Proficiency measures whether a student is perfoming at grade level. Growth data shows if a student is improving but does not reflect proficiency levels.

In eastern Wake County, economically disadvantaged students tend to hit their growth targets more often than non-economically disadvantaged students.

And while AIG students may be proficient, data shows they are stagnating in Knightdale’s schools.

Most groups made recommendations to create a more equitable distribution of resources to keep traditionally lower-perfoming students doing well but also meet the needs of higher performing students.

“(Higher-performing students) are just as exceptonal as the students on the low end,” Nancy Allen, principal of East Wake Middle, said in her small group.

One group suggested providing more extracurricular opportunities for high-performing students. Another suggested creating more programs to encourage career and college choices.

Benton told his group the county should be assessing program needs to allocate money, not relying on a formula. That would mean schools would receive resources that could help address the needs of a specific school.

The next meeting on Nov. 26 will focus on AIG students.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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